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Acupuncture for stress and anxiety

acupuncture stress anxiety

Can acupuncture help with stress and anxiety?

Over the past few months, I have received a lot of calls and emails from new patients wondering if acupuncture can help with stress and anxiety. Given the current state of our world, it’s not surprising. COVID-19 continues to have a huge impact on people’s lives. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with these patients and help them start feeling better and find ways to manage their stress and anxiety.

 

An increase in stressors

People are scared for their loved ones and their own safety and well-being. They’re worried about how to take care of their families. And they’re worried about how their kids are coping with these unprecedented times. The way people work has changed dramatically, and some people are re-evaluating their career choices. Then there are the teachers and parents who continue to deal with the stress of remote learning and concerns about having a safe classroom. People want to connect with their families and loved ones but are scared to travel. They feel isolated and alone. These are just a few of the things I hear from patients wanting help managing their stress and anxiety.

 

Making the best treatment choice for you

Sometimes people feel so much stress and anxiety that they don’t feel comfortable leaving their house. Others have challenges wearing a mask. I offer Telemedicine in addition to in-office treatments to address these concerns. Follow this link for more details about Telemedicine options. Through Telemedicine, I can prescribe acupressure points and teach people how to do acupressure on themselves, walk them through how to apply ear seeds, and teach qigong exercises, for example.

 

For patients who want to come into the office for their treatment, I share all of the COVID-19 safety protocols I have in place in the office. Masks are required for everyone. Screening questionnaires are performed and temperatures are checked at every appointment. Appointments are spaced to allow the treatment room to be cleaned thoroughly between patients, with linens changed and surfaces cleaned with an EPA-approved botanical disinfectant. A medical-grade filtration H13 true HEPA system runs continuously in the treatment room.

 

It’s important that people feel comfortable and safe when they come to see me. Someone who is experiencing stress and anxiety does not need another thing to feel stressed and anxious about! I take the time to address any concerns and answer any questions they might have.

 

Stress and anxiety from an acupuncture and Chinese medicine perspective

Every person is unique, and no two people will experience stress and anxiety for the same reason in the exact same way. Each of the primary energetic pathways and acupuncture channels in the body is associated with an organ system and has associated emotions and physical sensations. A disruption to any of these energetic systems can result in stress and anxiety.

 

Possible underlying causes

To start, someone who feels anxious and feels heart palpitations or discomfort in their chest may be someone who has too much nervous energy around their heart. They may need support for their Heart energetic pathways. Someone who has trouble with obsessive thinking or rumination often needs their Spleen energy supported. This person may have trouble sleeping at night because they feel like they can’t turn their thoughts off.

 

Another person may be feeling scared and shaky which is creating stress and anxiety. They might also feel cold, and their low back might even be sore. In this case, it’s likely that their Kidney energy needs support. In other cases, people may be feeling like they have to hold their emotions in and are getting headaches and migraines. Some people may even feel dizzy and experience vertigo. In this instance, supporting the Liver energy can be helpful. Others may feel overwhelmed with grief and the stress of losing a loved one. Here, supporting the Lung energy can make a world of difference.

 

Balancing energy is key

I work on balancing energy most often with acupuncture needles. I love to combine this kind of treatment with ear seeds. Ear seeds are great because they are something tangible that people can take home with them to continue the treatment. It also gives people comfort to have something to do if they feel anxious. By gently giving the ear seeds a squeeze, the body gets a subtle message to relax. I also have Stress and Anxiety-specific ear seed kits for people who want to apply their own treatments at home, and I am happy to customize them as needed.

 

What can you do at home?

In my practice, I tailor treatments to each individual patient. If this kind of treatment is not available to you, there are still things you can do at home that may help. Here are some ideas:

 

Reward yourself!

And now for the “dessert”. This is the metaphorical cherry on top to reward yourself for just being you.  Here it is:

Do one thing EVERY day that brings you joy.

If you can do this, you will at least have that time that is stress and anxiety free. The thing you choose needs to be something that brings you great delight and a smile to your face. What’s important is that it is meaningful to you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It doesn’t have to be anything big or something that takes a lot of time. Here are some ideas to give you food for thought: snuggle with your pet, drink a delicious cup of hot tea, giggle with a friend, move to music in your kitchen, sing your favorite song as loudly as you can, walk outside and crunch through crisp winter leaves on the ground, or take a soothing essential-oil scented bubble bath. Involve the senses – sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. What would FEEL good to you and bring you JOY?

 

Want to talk about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help your stress and anxiety? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine has moved! And other holiday news…

acupuncture

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine has moved!

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is now located at 1133 Military Cutoff Road in the Lifeline Chiropractic office suite #110. We’re right behind the Chicken Salad Chick restaurant in The Forum shopping center across from Mayfaire. Our phone number is still 910-622-6960.

 

Open during the holidays

Needing extra support this holiday season? We’re here for you! We have COVID-19 protocols in place to help you stay safe. Masks are required, screening questionnaires are performed, and temperatures are checked at every appointment. Appointments are spaced to allow the treatment room to be cleaned thoroughly between patients, with linens changed and surfaces cleaned with an EPA-approved botanical disinfectant. We have upgraded our air purifier to a new medical-grade filtration H13 true HEPA system that removes 99.97% of particles down to 0.1 microns. For reference, the average size of the SARS CoV-2 particle which causes COVID-19 is about 0.125 microns.

 

Gift certificates & stocking stuffers available

Looking for a unique gift? We can customize a gift certificate for you. We also have a variety of ear seed kits that start at $24.99. Kits in stock include: Acne, Allergies, Anxiety, Back pain & Sciatica, Depression, Fertility, Headaches & Migraines, Insomnia, Menopause, Motion Sickness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Stress, and Stop Smoking. You can read more about ear seeds in the blog entitled All about ear seeds and auriculotherapy. Another great stocking stuffer is our popular Chinese herbal lip gloss for $6.50.

 

Wishing you and your family all the best!

As this year comes to a close, we hope you are able to take some time for yourself to rest and relax. Sending you and your family best wishes for a safe, healthy, and fun-filled holiday season!

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

Improve your sleep with acupuncture

acupuncture sleep

Acupuncture research on sleep disturbances

An article published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine titled Acupuncture for Treatment of Insomnia: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials discussed the prevalence of sleep issues and insomnia in adults. Estimates show that 40% of adults experience insomnia. Of this total percentage, 10-15% is identified as chronic, and 25 – 35% occurs on an occasional basis. Sleep disturbances generally involve difficulty falling asleep, and / or difficulty staying asleep. In Chinese medicine, we also consider excessive dreaming and the types of dreams that occur. Sleep deprivation can be very detrimental, with consequences ranging from delayed reactions and cognitive responses, distractedness, and headaches, to the development of mental illness.

 

Importance of sleep

An article from Harvard Medical School called In Search of Sleep shares that high-quality sleep is vital to good health. A lack of sufficient sleep has been linked to weight gain, cognitive decline, and an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

 

We do some of our best healing while we sleep. In fact, the Harvard Medical School article shared a scientific discovery of an important brain cleaning function that occurs during sleep. Scientists discovered a waste clearance system called the glymphatic system. The cerebrospinal fluid in the glymphatic system washes away harmful proteins that can build up without proper rest.

 

In Chinese medicine, the optimal time to sleep is from 10pm to 6am. This allows enough time for a person to enter a deep sleep by 11pm when the Gall Bladder is at its peak functioning time from 11pm to 1am collecting and processing bile which helps with digestion and breaks down fats. Then, the Liver reaches its peak between 1am and 3am. This is when the Liver processes and detoxifies the blood. The other two organs that reach their peak on the Chinese organ clock during optimal sleep hours are the Lungs and Large Intestine.

 

Sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene is a term used to refer to sleep habits. “Good sleep hygiene” means that there are good habits around sleep. “Poor sleep hygiene” means that the habits are not conducive to sleep. Developing a set of good habits is key to promoting healthful sleep. Here is a list of positive habits to consider:

 

  • Establish consistent sleep and wake times.

    Go to bed at the same time every night. Wake up at the same time every morning. Try to stick with this schedule even on the weekends. The body craves consistency and a predictable sleep schedule. Most people need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.

 

  • Create a quiet and dark environment.

    Close the shades and turn off all lights. This includes any blue light from electronics, including the TV, tablets, and smart phones. The bedroom should be as dark as possible. From an acupuncture perspective, the first point on the Bladder acupuncture channel is called “Bright eyes”, and it is located in the inner corner of the eyes. When the “Bright eyes” point and the eyes experience light, they send a signal to the body to wake up. This is why a dark room is so important to achieve restful sleep. The room should also be quiet, unless soft music or a sleep guided visualization is being played. The temperature should be comfortable and cool.

 

  • Do not eat before bed.

    Large meals should be avoided before bed. The stomach needs time to digest food after a meal. Ideally, food should not be consumed after 7pm. In Chinese medicine, the peak time of the stomach’s ability to function is between 7am – 9am. Conversely, the low point of the stomach’s energy occurs between 7pm – 9pm. This is the time that the stomach is slowing down and is least able to digest food effectively.

 

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.

    Most people would agree that caffeine should be discontinued several hours before bed. While it may seem like alcohol can help people fall asleep more quickly, it actually results in poorer sleep. When alcohol is consumed before bed, the liver has to deal with processing the alcohol instead of restoring and regenerating itself. This derails the healing that would normally occur during sleep.

 

  • Exercise, though not right before bed. 

    Exercise has many benefits, including improving sleep. An article from Johns Hopkins Medicine called Exercising for Better Sleep details why it may be better to complete exercise several hours before bed. Essentially, exercise causes the body to release endorphins that can increase brain activity and make it hard to fall asleep. Exercise also increases core body temperature which gives the body the message that it is time to be awake.

 

Acupuncture for healthful sleep

There is no one-size fits all acupuncture treatment for sleep.  This is because there are many potential reasons why a person may have trouble sleeping.  Some of these possibilities include excessive thinking or worry, poor digestion, hormone imbalance, hot flashes, and pain. A Chinese medicine diagnosis and treatment is tailored to the individual, and a variety of questions are covered to identify what is going on from a Chinese medicine perspective. For example, if a person wakes up frequently during the night, knowing what time this occurs is extremely helpful to correlate this to the time on the Chinese organ clock.   The Chinese medicine diagnosis and acupuncture treatment focus on the energetic imbalance that the practitioner identifies in the patient. The overall goal is to balance the patient’s energy, which allows the body to heal itself.

 

Ear seeds

Ear seeds are a great option to include with an acupuncture treatment. They can also be used as a standalone treatment for people who are afraid of needles or are not able to see an acupuncturist. The points chosen on the ear depend on the Chinese medicine diagnosis. The practitioner selects the points that most effectively promote healthful sleep for the patient and their specific needs. Read more about ear seeds in the blog entitled All about ear seeds and auriculotherapy.

 

When to see a doctor

It’s a good idea to see a doctor if you are regularly tired upon waking and have trouble staying awake during the day. Additionally, if you have been told that you snore loudly or it sounds like your breathing stops at times, it is recommended to seek medical attention to rule out conditions like sleep apnea.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

Acupuncture for migraines and headaches

acupuncture for migraines and headaches

Acupuncture for migraines and headaches

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be very effective in treating migraines and headaches. Western medicine conventionally treats headaches with pharmaceuticals and achieves varying results. Chinese medicine takes a different approach by identifying the root cause of the headache from an energetic perspective. Each person is unique, and two people can have the same kind of headache for very different reasons. So, rather than relying on headache medication, acupuncture and Chinese medicine prescribe a customized solution tailored to the individual needs of the patient.

 

Migraines and headaches can be debilitating, making even the simplest tasks feel overwhelming. They can range from a dull ache, a feeling of squeezing or pressure, to a stabbing pain. Headaches can also be so painful that the only option is to rest in a dark, quiet, cool room.  Migraines can be accompanied by visual disturbances, numbness in the body, and even nausea.

 

Underlying causes

During an acupuncture appointment, the practitioner will conduct a thorough intake and work on getting to the root cause of why the headache is occurring. I personally examine a variety of possible contributing factors. For example, these can include: allergies, anger, dehydration, diet, hormones, illness, injuries, jaw tension, posture, sleep issues, stress, weather, and other environmental triggers. It’s important to know how long the headache has been present, how often headaches occur, and how long they typically last. Other things to consider are what the pain feels like, what makes the headache feel worse, and what makes the headache feel better.

 

Location is important

It’s also important to know where on the head the headache is occurring. The main areas are:

  • Occipital and nape of the neck: At the back of the head where the head meets the neck
  • Frontal: On the front of the head, including the forehead, eyes, and cheeks
  • Temporal: At one or both temples and the sides of the head
  • Parietal or Vertex: On the top of the head

 

Chinese medicine diagnosis

Acupuncturists diagnose headaches from an energetic perspective. Headaches most often fall into one of three categories: an excess of energy, a deficiency of energy, or what is called an invasion of pathogenic wind into the body.

 

When the headache is caused by an excess of energy, this means that the energy from the body is rushing up to the head rather than circulating smoothly through the body. A person experiencing this kind of headache will feel irritable, have severe pain on one or both sides of the head, and may have eye pain or blurred vision.

 

A deficiency-type headache is one that can be lingering. This kind of headache usually feels better with warmth and worse with cold.

 

A headache caused by an invasion of pathogenic wind occurs after exposure to wind, usually on the back of the neck. It is typically first felt in the nape of the neck. This can later extend up the back of the head to the forehead. When this external pathogen enters the body, it obstructs the flow of energy in the body, causing pain. After the acupuncturist determines whether the headache is caused by excess, deficiency, or external pathogenic wind, they identify which acupuncture channels are affected based on the symptoms and location of the pain.

 

Treatment

Often a combination of methods will restore the balance of energy in the body and relieve a headache or migraine. Usually, the primary treatment is acupuncture. The acupuncturist inserts fine needles into to acupuncture points in the body to balance the energy based on the diagnosis.

 

I usually include ear seeds to support the treatment. Ear seeds can also serve as a standalone treatment for headaches. Click here to read my blog about ear seeds. When I am treating a patient who has a headache, I will often palpate the areas on the ear that correspond to frontal, temporal, occipital, and vertex headaches. I place ear seeds on any tender areas as well as areas that correspond to the location of the headache. It’s not unusual for parts of the ear to be red, reflecting the energetic congestion experienced in the body.

 

Depending on what was uncovered during the intake, I also counsel patients on nutrition and lifestyle if it appears that anything in those areas may be contributing to the headache. Frequently, increasing hydration, reducing stress, and avoiding certain types of foods can be helpful. I often recommend qigong exercises and guided visualizations to help prevent future headaches.

 

 

When to see a Doctor

It’s important to see a doctor if you are experiencing headaches consistently, if your headaches are increasing in frequency or severity, or if you are unable to perform your usual activities. Doctors will often prescribe acupuncture for migraines and headaches once they have ruled out any serious conditions.

 

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience the worst headache you’ve ever had, vomit uncontrollably, or lose vision or consciousness.

Click this link for advice from WebMD on how to decide when to seek medical attention for your headache.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

Healing yourself with the relaxation response

relaxation response

Relaxation is key to reduce stress and improve immunity

The world is experiencing an unprecedented increase in stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since stress has been shown to weaken immunity, it is important now more than ever to find ways to manage stress. Because of the pandemic, I have temporarily stopped practicing acupuncture in my office as I transition to telemedicine. I am eager and excited to share ways that people can work on managing stress and building immunity from their own homes, like learning to practice the “relaxation response”.

 

The “relaxation response” is an amazing practice that can be done anywhere. I first heard about this term in a TedX talk given by Dr. Lissa Rankin called “Is there scientific proof we can heal ourselves?”. In her talk, Dr. Rankin gives numerous examples of the power of the mind and its ability to heal the body, including the relaxation response. Dr Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind / body medicine, created the relaxation response term and practice. The relaxation response counters the fight-or-flight stress response that is activated quite frequently in our modern lives.

 

The relaxation response works by slowing down the rate of breathing, reducing blood pressure, and relaxing muscles. And, there is no one right or perfect way to practice this. Rather, there are many possibilities that people can consider based on what works best for them. As I studied the relaxation response, I realized that this is one of the many benefits that an acupuncture treatment can bring to patients.

 

How to practice the relaxation response at home

Dr. Benson has created a simple, nine-minute Youtube video where he guides you through the relaxation response process. Click here to watch “Relaxation Response: Dr. Herbert Benson Teaches you the Basics” on Youtube. Dr. Benson states that only two things are necessary to practice the relaxation response:

  1. A repeated word (like “peace”, “love”, or “calm”), sound, prayer, phrase, or movement
  2. Disregard other thoughts when they enter your mind and come back to the repetition

You can sit or lie down in a comfortable position to practice. Close your eyes and breathe slowly. It’s helpful if you can focus your breathing in your lower abdomen, though this isn’t necessary. Repeatedly say your word, sound, prayer, or phrase on your exhalation. If other thoughts come into your mind, Dr. Benson advises you to tell yourself “oh well”. Then, bring yourself back to the repetition and continue. Dr. Benson recommends daily practice for 10-15 minutes. Finish your practice, and take your time getting up and returning to your day.

 

If you think that this sounds a lot like meditation, you’re right! This is a powerful form of meditation. If the recommended daily 10-15-minute practice feels too long for you, start slowly. Even as little as one minute can be beneficial. Take your time, and gradually build up to a longer practice. Ultimately, having a regular daily practice of at least 10 minutes will be very effective at building immunity and countering daily stress.

 

Additional ways to practice the relaxation response

One great option to practice the relaxation response is through guided visualization. This can bring the same benefits as the meditation described earlier, but it may feel more doable because all you have to do is sit or lie down in a quiet place and listen to someone else speak. One of my favorite creators of guided visualization tools is Belleruth Naparstek. She has made over one hundred recordings available on iTunes as well as in CD format. Topics range from Immunity to Insomnia & Restful Sleep, Stress, Grief, and Anger & Forgiveness as well as number of condition-specific titles like Headaches, Menopause, and Cancer.

 

Another favorite is the 21-day medication experience collections created by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. Many of these collections are offered for free. Each daily audio program starts out with an inspirational message from Oprah. Deepak follows Oprah with his own words of wisdom. Deepak then suggests a meditation phrase and guides the listener in a 10-minute meditation. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oprah and Deepak created a series called “Hope in Uncertain Times” which is available for free until May 15th, 2020. After that, it will be available for purchase. The programs last for 21 days because it has been shown that it can take 21 days to create a new habit. I have followed several of these 21-day meditation experiences, and I have purchased some of them. I will often restart a program from day one to start a new 21-day cycle of meditation.

 

Physical options

While I am a huge proponent of stillness, I also love to experience movement in a meditative form. As mentioned earlier, Dr. Benson states that movement can also elicit the relaxation response. What’s important is having a way to break the train of daily thoughts and stressors. This can be accomplished through repetitive exercise where you become immersed in the movement. Examples include yoga, tai chi, qigong, running, rowing, or even knitting or playing a musical instrument.

 

Overall, what’s most important is that you find what works for you and commit to a regular daily practice. I think you’ll be thrilled with the benefits you experience!

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.