Acupuncture: More Than Just Physical Medicine

Most of my patients initially seek out acupuncture treatment to alleviate pain or a physical condition like allergies or digestive issues. And many are pleasantly surprised to float out of the session, feeling mentally relaxed with a calm mind and heart. If this sounds familiar, you’e not alone!

While we in the biz call this initial high “Acu-drunk”, we also know that acupuncture creates longer-lasting, serious mental health benefits that may be experienced for days, weeks and months after a treatment or series of treatments. A few of acupuncture’s positive “side effects” include better sleep, less anxiety, stress and depression, and increased self-awareness. Think of it as a happy pill with zero side effects.

Connecting the physical body to subtle (or not so subtle!) emotions makes sense. We all know when we are nervous because we physically feel it. Enter: racing heart, sweaty palms, or even a swirling stomach. It can also work the other way. Our physical health can affect the emotions as well. That’s why regular physical activity can lift your mood and create a burst of life.

In recent years, science has only begun to recognize the powerful connections through which emotional, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect health outcomes. Current research in the field of mind-body medicine is finding that emotions and thought patterns can contribute to imbalances within the body.

This is a concept that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has embraced for thousands of years— and is where acupuncture can be effectively used to reestablish balance and promote health on all levels. This time-tested medical system addresses the whole person and views any symptom, injury or condition as a sign that the body is out of balance. Treatment through acupuncture (and other key modalities like moxibustion, tut na massage, herbal and dietary therapy, and medical qi gong), enables the body to effectively and safely get back to balance, resulting in decreased symptoms, and a lower chance of future conditions and disease from arising. 

The question is, why?

It’s All About Qi

The TCM concept of emotions effecting health dates back to 300 BC (these guys were way ahead of the curve, right?). The Huang Di Nei Jing, aka, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine, a text that serves as the foundation of Taoism and TCM, describes the ways that emotions cause our qi to move through our bodies. You can think of qi as as the 'vital energy' or 'life force' that flows through everything and everyone. It’s literal meaning is ‘breath. Qi’s existence and properties serve as the basis of acupuncture and TCM.

Each of the five main organs is correlated with a specific emotion, which in turn, creates a specific movement of qi. 

Liver – Anger — Rising up 

Kidney – Fear — Descending 

Spleen – Worry — Knotting 

Lung – Sadness — Disappearing

Heart – Joy — Loosening

Not Just A Theory….. It’s Real Life! 

I’m sure you’ve experienced these patterns at some point: 

You freak out with an angry outburst, and notice that your face is flushed with an upward surge of heat, and you get a pounding headache or feel dizzy. You’ve been excessively worried and stuck in circular and obsessive thinking patterns, and notice that your stomach and digestive system is in knots. Or, you’ve been grieving from loss and experience weakness and shortness of breath. I see these patterns in myself — and my patients day in, and day out — with astounding accuracy. While the Huang Di Nei Jing was written 2,000+ years ago, humans are humans, and patterns are patterns. You feel me?

Keep in mind that if emotional imbalances occur for an extended period of time, they can damage the body and create long-standing physical issues and disease. The good news is that we can use acupuncture and TCM to correct these imbalances before they set in for the long term, thus creating a clean slate for both a healthy body and mind.  

Digging Deeper

As you all know, acupuncture is my jam and helping you navigate life without pain, illness or imbalance is what I’m all about. Awareness of our physical, emotional and spiritual selves is a path to becoming our best selves— and I’m always seeking ways to go deeper with supportive modalities. This is why I’m traveling to New Mexico this week for an advanced certification program in Breathwork Meditation. Created by master David Elliott, Breathwork meditation is an active meditation and a powerful form of self healing that can be used on it’s own, or in conjunction with Chinese Medicine. I’m looking forward to sharing this beautiful practice with you in private and group sessions, starting the week of June 5th.