Stress

Up to half a million people in the UK experience work-related stress every year, which often results in illness. (Health and Safety Executive 2011) Other factors that affect stress levels include alcohol, smoking, exams, pregnancy, divorce, moving, death in family, lifestyle, drugs, poor nutrition and unemployment.

In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.

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Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically benefit anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety by:

  • Acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry;

  • Improving stress induced memory impairment and an increasing AchE reactivity in the hippocampus;

  • Reducing serum levels of corticosterone and the number of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive cells

  • Regulating levels of neurotransmitters (or their modulators) and hormones such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA, neuropeptide Y and ACTH; hence altering the brain’s mood chemistry to help to combat negative affective states

  • Stimulating production of endogenous opioids that affect the autonomic nervous system . Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, while acupuncture can activate the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response;

  • Reversing pathological changes in levels of inflammatory cytokines that are associated with stress reactions

  • Reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors 

  • Reversing stress-induced changes in behaviour and biochemistry.