April 2013

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Stress free

Are you ready for relief from anxiety? Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can help!

General anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common anxiety disorder, affecting 5% of Americans. People with GAD live in a near-constant state of worry and anxiety that is out of proportion to the amount of stress in their lives. This type of anxiety is typically treated with medication or specific modes of psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy, or a combination of the two. For people looking for a natural option to manage or overcome their anxiety, acupuncture is an excellent choice.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has always considered the connection between mind and body and between the body and environment. Disease or imbalance can be caused by environmental factors, like heat and cold, or by internal factors, like emotions. This interconnection means that a deficiency caused by an environmental factor can affect the emotions. Emotions, like excessive worry or stress, can weaken the corresponding organ, causing a deficiency or other imbalance. TCM believes that emotions reside in the cells of the body, specifically in the internal organs. Emotions like anger, fear, and worry were assigned to Yin body organs. The connection between the environment and body and the flow of energy between organs are described in the Five Element Theory. It is an intricate theory, evolved from observation, where each of the elements has correspondences in senses, seasons, foods, emotional states, etc. Since we are discussing anxiety, we’ve made a modified Five Element chart that focuses on the spiritual/emotional qualities of the Yin organs of the Five Elements. Take a look:

Anxiety 5 Elements chart

For an example, you see that the spleen corresponds with the earth element. This element is associated with generating, nurturing, and ripening. It also “digests” thoughts, thereby governing thinking, learning, and analysis. The Spleen absorbs and transforms food and drinks on the physical level to Qi, blood, and other body fluids. If there is an imbalance of this system, thinking may be dulled or on the other end of the scale, there may be over-thinking, brooding, and constant worry. If a person habitually over-thinks or continually nurtures others without caring for themselves, the spleen energy system can weaken, resulting in imbalance that can show up physically in symptoms like digestive disorders.

Anxiety is often found to be an energetic imbalance in the heart and kidney systems. The heart corresponds to the fire element. It is activating, warming, and associated with joy. If this system is too activated, there is excessive fire, or excessive joy, which can lead to insomnia, anxiety, or volatile emotions. The water element of the kidneys balances the fire of the heart system. If the kidneys are deficient, heart fire can rise up leading to the issues just described.

From a more Western view, research is showing that acupuncture works as well as anxiety medication when performed before a stressful event, like a dental procedure or pre-surgery.

Acupuncture can work deeply to restore balance to these systems, breaking the cycle of general anxiety. During treatment and going forward, you can help yourself further by nurturing yourself with mind-body exercises. Yoga, Qi-Gong, and Tai Chi are especially useful as they nourish internal organs with more oxygen and improved blood circulation and they calm the sympathetic nervous system. These exercises also help to keep Qi flowing, helping to prevent stagnation and blockages in the energetic body.

Sources:
http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/generalized-anxiety-disorder/background.html
http://www.altmd.com/Articles/Acupuncture-for-Anxiety-and-Depression
http://www.bodyandabodehealing.com/medical-qigong/five-elements/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17242083

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