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Acupuncture for Stress

By on Jan 3, 2012

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Acupuncture for stressResearchers from Georgetown UniversityMedical Centre (GUMC) have found that acupuncture can significantly reduce stress levels (something I most of us have suffered with over the past week or so!). Whilst the study was carried out on animals, the researchers suggest that these results could explain why so many people report a sense of well being from this form of complementary medicine.

If these findings can be replicated on humans then acupuncture for stress could provide an invaluable tool in the treatment of this condition that continues to affect many individuals. Stress is responsible for many illnesses and diseases such as heart disease, heartburn and stomach ulcers.

The study was lead by Ladan Eshkevari, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Georgetown’s School of Nursing & Health Studies, a part of GUMC. Eshkevari is a nurse anaesthetist as well as a certified acupuncturist conducted the study as many of her patients had reported an improvement in overall wellbeing after treatments. Her patients also remarked that they felt less stressed after acupuncture treatment.

The claim that acupuncture can reduce stress levels may sound like breaking news, but these benefits have been known for many years by practitioners. Eshkevari designed the study to test the effectiveness of acupuncture on blood levels of neuropeptide Y (NPY). This is a peptide that is released by the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is involved in the “fight or flight” response to stress. This leads to a cascade of events that result in increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and a sense of panic throughout the body.

Eshkevari selected a single acupuncture point, Zuslani, which is one of the most frequently used points used in this therapy. This point is said to relieve many conditions including stress. The Zuslani point is located on the leg below the knee. She used a form of acupuncture called electroacupuncture, which involves an acupuncture needle that delivers a small harmless electrical charge.

The rats used for the 14 day study were separated into four groups:

1. A control group that was not stressed and received no acupuncture.

2. A group that was stressed for 1 hour a day without receiving acupuncture.

3. A group that was stressed and received a false acupuncture near the tail.

4. A group that was stressed and received acupuncture at the Zuslani point.

Eshkevari found that the levels of NYP in the experimental group (4) nearly came down to the levels in the control group (1). The rats that were stressed but received false acupuncture (group 3) had higher levels of NYP.

A second experiment involved the experimental group (4) being continually stressed for four days without the acupuncture. The results showed that the levels of NYP remained low. Eshkevari said ‘It has long been thought that acupuncture can reduce stress, but this is the first study to show molecular proof of this benefit”.

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