Stressing the Point

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Lying on my back, my muscles sink into the softness underneath me. I’m on the beach with warm sand holding me up, a perfectly blue sky above and the sun melting away my tension. I tune in to the sounds…the water lapping the tiny sand pebbles at the waterline, the waves rolling over each other and the birds singing their lullaby to all who will listen. I have a tall glass of cold, refreshing water in a thermos next to my beach towel. The cool ocean breeze gently tickles the hairs on my arms and face. Drifting in and out of twilight realities, deep relaxation and peacefulness, I feel perfectly at ease. This is the vision I use to help me relax as I recline on the table to receive an acupuncture treatment.

Did you cringe when you read that last sentence? Are you thinking, “How could I possibly relax when needles are being poked into my skin?” Your reaction makes sense. I felt the same way at my first acupuncture treatment. I understand the discomfort associated with the thought of someone sticking needles in my body. However, I have personally found acupuncture to be so effective for the treatment of my stress that it is the only stress reduction or health care tool I use today. Visualization helps me relax enough to drift off to sleep during the treatment.

As a practitioner, I know that the primary barrier for most people when hearing about acupuncture is their nervousness about or fear of needles. Most people’s experience with needles stems from getting blood drawn or having medication injected.

The needles used for these procedures are called hypodermic needles and are quite large when compared to acupuncture needles. Hypodermics are hollow inside and usually hurt when inserted. In contrast, an acupuncture needle is made of solid stainless steel. Although the common belief is that acupuncture needles are as big as hypodermic needles, the fact is that acupuncture needles are as thin as a hair on your head. At most, it may feel like a mosquito bite when inserted. In my office, I use the three thinnest needles for minimal sensation to the skin. However, a person who has not had acupuncture before may feel tense beforehand, which can cause their skin to be tight. They will find that using visualization or slow, deep breathing before receiving treatment can make all the difference in how much they experience the insertion of acupuncture needles. It also increases the amount of relaxation and stress reduction attained with treatment.

In today’s fast-paced world, people are seeking effective ways to treat their stress that do not involve the use of medications or narcotics. High value is placed on sustaining relaxation while maintaining clarity and alertness. Feeling entirely relaxed without an altered state of mind is appealing for anyone needing or wanting to participate in their normal activities or work. Acupuncture treatment is the alternative for meeting this criterion.

Acupuncture is safe and has lasting benefits. Most individuals list the side effects of narcotics and pharmaceuticals as their reason for trying acupuncture to reduce stress and anxiety. When clients use drugs or medications, the most common side effects they note is their lack of ability to function, along with reduced mental clarity. For them, using acupuncture reduces stress and eliminates the likelihood of harmful side effects, while improving their ability to continue activities of daily living in a safe, relaxed manner.

What are the reasons you might seek acupuncture for stress reduction? For starters, everyday life. It’s fast-paced, often impersonal and sometimes confusing. There is drama, adventure, fear, excitement and much decision making. This all contributes to a near constant state of stress. Even wonderful and exciting things in life add stress. It’s important to recognize the things that cause stress in your life so that you can address it effectively. Depending on individual views and beliefs, stress can vary in its overall effect on personal health.

Positive and negative stress affects everyone differently. What may be positive for some could perhaps be a negative experience for others. A good example is a promotion at work with its added responsibilities, better salary but higher taxes, more perks but longer hours. It’s positive and negative.

Some stressors are temporary in length, but others are just plain, unavoidable facts of life. We hope life brings these stressors one at a time spread out over the course of our lifetime. However, when multiple stressors occur in a short time (within one to five years), life gets tough. There are several primary acupuncture points on the body that illicit a very strong and immediate relaxation response that can last for hours and days after treatment. Consistent acupuncture treatments have a cumulative effect that continues reducing stress levels as they build. A typical plan for treatment includes an initial series of 6 to 10 treatments. This plan brings the body into balance, builds the immune system and increases circulation. With each treatment, layers of stress “unfold,” creating a noticeable peacefulness. After the initial series, bimonthly treatments are recommended to maintain the balance achieved with the initial series. There is no reason to live in a constant state of stress. The long-term effects of stress are harmful to your body. It’s 2010…time to do something different! Try acupuncture, it works.

Did You Know?

75 percent of Americans experience at least “some stress” every two weeks (National Health Interview Survey).

77 percent of Americans experience physical symptoms and 73 percent experience psychological symptoms related to stress (American Psycho- logical Association).

Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death – heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.

64 percent of Americans say they are taking steps to reduce stress in their lives.

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