Stress is pervasive in our culture today, and many people accept this as a normal part of life, expected, and not abnormal. It may surprise you to learn that stress and/or poor diet accounts for over 80% of doctor visits and chronic or acute ailments. Some stress is good, and keeps us functioning at our best. Eustress, a type of stress that is fun and exciting, and keeps us vital (e.g. skiing down a slope or racing to meet a deadline). Chronic Stress, the type of stress that seems never-ending and inescapable, like the stress of an extremely taxing job, financial concerns, lack of time, traffic, difficult relationships etc leads to burnout, symptoms or illness.

Our bodies were not intended to deal with chronic, repetitive stress, as this directly impacts our nervous system and eventually all the organ systems. Stress triggers the ‘Fight or Flight’ response in the sympathetic nervous system which results in release of hormones like adrenalin and cortisol. This increases heart rate, diverts blood to the muscles and away from the digestive tract. This response was programmed to help us run or fight in the face of danger. After the stressor has passed, the parasympathetic nervous system should take over to promote relaxation, but in chronic states of stress, this does not occur.

Stress and Health: Implications of Chronic Stress

Prolonged time in sympathetic stress mode will produce physical symptoms eventually. Initial symptoms include headaches, change in appetite, neck and shoulder tightness, increased susceptibility to colds. If not corrected, continued stress can produce more serious conditions like:

Acupuncture is an excellent therapy for treating stress. Acupuncture directly calms the nervous system, increases brain chemicals related to relaxation (like melatonin and endorphins), and resets the autonomic nervous system (the unconscious nervous function that regulates stress and relaxation), decreasing time spent in sympathetic mode. In addition to acupuncture for stress relief, we promote the use of abdominal breathing and exercise to manage stress throughout the day. This combined approach reprograms the body’s stress response, and restores health.

Research on both humans and animals clearly show the benefits of acupuncture for stress. In animal studies, researches can clearly measure changes in brain signaling, hormone release, and animal response to acute stressors.

Acupuncture has been shown to be effective for one of the most severe forms of stress, post traumatic stress disorder, providing benefit matching months of behavioral therapy. Research has found that acupuncture has even effective in reducing stress in mothers preparing their children for surgical procedures.


[2] Xiao Yu Tiana, Zhao Xiang Biana, , Xu Guang Hua, b, Xiao Jun Zhanga, Liang Liua and Hongqi Zhang Electro-acupuncture attenuates stress-induced defecation in rats with chronic visceral hypersensitivity via serotonergic pathway. Brain Research Volume 1088, Issue 1, 9 May 2006, Pages 101-108

[3] Acupuncture for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease. 195(6):504-513, June 2007