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  • Writer's pictureDr. Hannah Zeleznikar

Acupuncture and Mental Health… How does it Work?

Woman thinking in nature

Chinese Medicine Perspective on Health:

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an ancient healing system with over 4000 years of empirical evidence. From a TCM perspective, dis-ease arises when there is a disruption of the body’s flow of Qi (pronounced “Chee”), or vital energy. When the flow of Qi is disrupted or imbalanced, emotional and physical symptoms arise. Acupuncture - the insertion of thin needles at specific points on the body - is thought to restore balance, allowing the body to heal itself.

TCM was founded on the belief that each patient has a unique pattern of disharmony which makes them susceptible to various illnesses or ailments - and each body has an innate ability to heal itself. During an appointment, the practitioner does a full health history, assesses the tongue and pulse, and performs a thorough intake to develop a diagnosis and treatment plan unique to each patient. When treating a patient with anxiety, a practitioner may use acupuncture, herbal medicine, lifestyle advice, and other hands-on modalities to help restore harmony in the body.

Western Medical Perspective on Acupuncture for Mental Health:

It is no longer a fringe concept that our stressors and traumas reside deep within our physical bodies. Modern research reports strong evidence that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression, even when compared against pharmaceuticals. Acupuncture works by affecting the autonomic nervous system - the system that modulates the body’s response to external stimuli. When the body is under stress, it is operating in the “fight or flight“ (sympathetic) system. When the body is relaxed, it is operating in the “rest and digest” (parasympathetic) system.

Acupuncture stimulation has been shown to improve the body’s response to stress by releasing dopamine, serotonin, and other “feel good” hormones, while simultaneously lowering cortisol. This allows the body to shift into the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows the body to enter a state where it can best heal itself.

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