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Natural Awakenings Rhode Island

Acupuncture for Stress

Acupuncture Provides Relief from Residual Holiday Stress and Insomnia

by Charlotte King

For most people, sleep is a sacred and treasured part of life. However, for too many, it can also be a struggle. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whether intermittently or chronically, more than one-third of the population reports difficulty getting enough regular, high-quality sleep.

The holiday season, while hopefully enjoyable, is often a time where many of us take on a great deal of extra responsibility and stress that carries over to the New Year. Even for those lucky enough to enjoy harmonious family relationships, the increase in financial, travel and domestic obligations leave many of us sleepless, stressed and racked with anxiety. Both prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids or anti-anxiety medications can have undesired side effects.

Acupuncture, however, is a great option for both stress management and insomnia (intermittent or chronic). Needles may seem counter-intuitive for stress and anxiety reduction, but patients report acupuncture as a surprisingly painless and relaxing process. Not only does the treatment itself provide an opportunity for peaceful relaxation, but research has shown that acupuncture can result in a measurable reduction in stress, as well as improved quality and quantity of sleep.

The Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale is an extensive survey used by psychologists to evaluate the severity of a patient’s anxiety symptoms. A study out of Brazil’s ABC Foundation School of Medicine showed significant improvement in patient-reported anxiety using the Hamilton Scale after four weeks of acupuncture treatment.

Additionally, a Georgetown University study conducted on rats showed significantly decreased amounts of the stress hormones ACTH and CRH in rats being treated with acupuncture and exposed to stressful environmental factors, than the animals not treated and exposed to the same conditions. The neurological and hormonal indicators of stress between humans and rats are strikingly similar. Upon the study’s conclusion, its author, Ladan Eshkevari, Ph.D., states, “Our growing body of evidence points to acupuncture’s protective effect against the stress response.”

Often related to stress and anxiety, insomnia is another ailment which has proven to respond well to acupuncture treatment. A 2009 Beijing University of Chinese Medicine systematic review of acupuncture studies concluded that acupuncture not only enhances the performance of prescription sleep medications but, on its own, can actually increase the average duration of sleep better than medication, with no adverse side effects.

Furthermore, a Canadian study conducted in 2004 found that after five weeks of acupuncture treatment, patients that experienced symptoms of anxiety and insomnia saw a significant increase in nocturnal melatonin production. This resulted in a decrease in the time it took patients to fall asleep, fewer instances of waking and nighttime arousal, increased total sleep time and an overall decrease in anxiety. These results are promising for those that experience occasional stress-related insomnia, as well as those with more long-standing and stubborn conditions.

Acupuncture is still working its way into mainstream acceptance within our western medical system, as well as our culture. However, it is clinically proven to regulate the endogenous factors that contribute to many disorders and diseases, without the unwanted side effects that come with most medications. It is also a relaxing and enjoyable way to provide respite from a stressful schedule. Anxiety and insomnia are common and can be detrimental to living a healthy, happy life. Luckily, acupuncture provides a great treatment option in conquering these depleting conditions.

Charlotte King, doctor of acupuncture, practices at Holistic Health Rhode Island, Ltd. at 990 Main St., East Greenwich. The center is dedicated to treating the source of the problem to regain one’s health and well-being. For more information, call 401-398-2933 or visit See ad, page ??.