Chronic Stress and How Acupuncture Can Help

A NOTE FROM SHAWNA: When I find a good article I would like to share with you, I will (if the rights of the source allow it), reprint it here for you to enjoy. This does not necessarily indicate a relationship with the source and is not paid content. This post was written by acupuncturist Sai Jurawanichkul, originally posted on Medium, and is reposted here with her permission.

Is stress good or bad? How does it affect our minds and bodies? How can acupuncture and lifestyle / nutritional modifications help?

Good Stress

When we are exposed to an acute, distressful situation, our sympathetic system amps up — what is famously called “fight or flight.” Our adrenal glands release corticosteroids that make our blood vessels constrict and our heart rate increase. Cortisol also increases our blood glucose level. Glucose is the main source of energy that powers our overactive cells during stressful events. This is called “good stress” because it empowers us to handle an acute situation.

Bad Stress

But, more often than not, our stress lasts longer than a few minutes or a few hours. It extends to days, weeks, months, and even years. This has very detrimental physical and emotional effects.

Our modern lifestyle

The modern lifestyle can be very harmful to our emotional and physical health. Our culture praises working and hustling, while ignoring the importance of introversion, resting and relaxation. Clearly, this way of living is not working. Research shows that stress can cause many problems (Figure 1: An interactive infographic to learn more about the symptoms of stress on your body).

Studies show that less stress = success

In fact, research shows that people who are happier and less stressed are also more successful. A long-term study was conducted on high school students [and] found that those who experienced less stress were more likely to achieve their career goals.

Balancing Stress in Life

Figure 2: Tai Ji symbol Yang (white) represents movement, action, stress. Yin (black) represents relaxation, mindfulness, calm. (Credit: Pixabay).

Figure 2: Tai Ji symbol

Yang (white) represents movement, action, stress. Yin (black) represents relaxation, mindfulness, calm.

(Credit: Pixabay).

We cannot live entirely with or without stress, and we cannot live entirely with or without relaxation either, so we must balance the two.

The yin yang / tai ji symbol (Figure 2) illustrates the idea of balance between the yin and yang energies.

How can acupuncture help?

So how can acupuncture help with stress? A study showed that rats receiving acupuncture had lower cortisol levels and less anxiety, depression, and hopelessness through behavioral tests, compared to those who didn’t receive acupuncture. Acupuncture blunts activity in the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, which is in charge of the stress response.

Other studies also show that acupuncture can help treat anxiety and depression in human subjects.

A word of advice

Keep in mind that acupuncture is a spoke in the wheel of the East Asian medical system. This means that when you work with a Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac), he or she may also prescribe herbs / supplements, and offer lifestyle and nutritional counseling.

A good acupuncturist will treat you, not your symptoms. So not only will your stress improve, but all aspects of your life such as sleep, digestion, pain, and energy.

About the Author

Sai Jurawanichkul is a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac) in California and New York, and is currently practicing at the Many Lives Chinese Medicine clinic in Redwood City, California. She helps her patients live a fulfilling life by overcoming obstacles (whether that be pain, physical or emotional disorders) by introducing effective, individualized treatment plans. Learn more about Sai here.

References

About Shawna

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California-licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist with a focus on the treatment of women’s health and fertility, sports medicine, chronic pain management, and the cycles of stress, anxiety, and depression. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients both in her private practice in San Francisco and in a collaborative practice in Temescal, Oakland. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, read her blog A Cuppa Qi and make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com.

Photo by PICSELI on Unsplash

Put a Seed on It: Earseeds and Needle-Free Acupuncture

Many people think acupuncture and immediately think needles, but there are a wide variety of tools at our disposal, many of which stem from Eastern medicine’s herbal traditions. Earseeds, for example, are a popular form of herbal treatment which gently press on acupuncture points versus needle insertion.

Vaccaria seeds (Latin name: Semen Vaccariae; Chinese name: wang bu liu xing) can be prescribed for internal use to reduce breast and testicular swelling and move blood to promote lactation or menstruation. They are also handy little round seeds that can gently stimulate acupuncture points on the ear or body to provide treatment that lasts several hours to days. This treatment is safe for all patients and, like most acupuncture treatment, has only a low risk of minor side effects.

Vaccaria seeds are commonly referred to as “earseeds” since we often use the microcosm of the ear to treat conditions throughout the body. The seeds, gently pressed against the skin by a very small bandage adhesive, stay particularly well on the ear, but earseeds can be applied to any acupuncture point. Magnets or other metals are sometimes used instead of the seed. This makes them a versatile and minimally visible way of extending treatment beyond a visit to your acupuncturist. I prefer to use the gentlest possible form of effective treatment, a hallmark of Japanese medicine, and to make sure my patients are empowered to treat themselves with the knowledge they glean from our sessions. I love giving out earseeds so symptoms like insomnia, nausea, headaches, jetlag, neck and shoulder pain, and anxiety are continually improving or being prevented between sessions. That way we don’t lose ground, patients have a new appreciation for what their body is capable of doing with little assistance, and they have more freedom to travel.

Free Earseed Treatments Sunday July 16

I will be giving free earseed treatments at the Herbal Medicine (and then some!) Fair on July 16, sharing a booth with my San Francisco officemates Back to Life Physical Therapy. There are many other ways to treat without needle insertion in an acupuncture session as well, including moxibustion, contact needles, and a variety of diagnostic massage techniques including cupping. Come feel how earseeds can treat a wide variety of symptoms and conditions and ask any questions in person!

5th Annual Herbal Medicine (and Then Some!) Fair
Sunday July 16 10am – 5pm
Temescal Alley (486 49th St in Oakland)

Practitioner bio

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California-licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist who specializes in the treatment of women’s health and fertility, sports medicine, chronic pain management, and the cycles of stress, anxiety, and depression. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients both in her private practice in San Francisco and in a collaborative practice in Temescal. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, read her blog A Cuppa Qi and make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com.

This write-up was originally written for Homestead Apothecary's July newsletter.

July 16, 2017: Herbal Medicine (And Then Some!) Fair

Come join me at the Herbal Medicine (and Then Some!) Fair on Sunday, July 16 from 10am – 5pm. I'll be applying and educating on earseeds, the fantastic way to extend your acupuncture sessions' effectiveness at home, in addition to answering questions about Japanese medicine, how acupuncture can treat a variety of conditions, and my practice in San Francisco and Oakland. If we haven't met yet please come by to say hello!

I'll be sharing a booth with Back to Life Physical Therapy, my officemates in SF who also have a community-oriented treatment and classroom space just down 49th St from Temescal Alley. They'll be doing movement analysis at the fair so come sign up for an assessment of your gait or posture along with your earseed treatment.

5th Annual Herbal Medicine (and Then Some!) Fair
Temescal Alley (486 49th St Oakland)
Sun July 16 10am – 5pm
Details: www.HomesteadApothecary.com/herbal-medicine-fair/

Understanding Acupuncture Through Children's Books

Whether you're shopping for a child or looking for a good way into the world of acupuncture yourself, these children's books are worth checking out. Here are my takes on each of the children's books on acupuncture I've encountered so far:

For more info, visit www.acupuncturekidsbook.com

For more info, visit www.acupuncturekidsbook.com

Maya and Friends Visit the Acupuncturist

By Samara White, L.Ac. and illustrated by Troy White

Children's books have to streamline concepts and so are often unexpectedly helpful in explaining complicated ideas simply and clearly. This book has been a big hit in my waiting rooms and at health fairs. In it, a little girl named Maya wakes up with sniffles and sneezes, then listens to the advice of her friends, Ellie the Elephant and Bobby Bear, and goes with them to visit Dr. Meow. I love elephants so Ellie totally won me over (so cute when she gets cupping!). Dr. Meow also sends a very important message for children (and adults!) when she makes it very clear that nothing happens to your body without your consent. And how can you resist a teddy bear marveling at meridians?

This book offers simple explanations for qi, yin, yang, and herbs and moxa in addition to expectations for the patient experience. And it rhymes so you might find yourself recalling lines here and there.

Pro: The best overall explanation of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, fun to read out loud

Con: Some of the illustrations are a little uncanny

Verdict: If you only get one book, this one's my favorite overall.

My Visit to the Acupuncturist

By Stacey V. Leung and illustrated by Daniel Griffo

This bold and colorful book is so sweet! It focuses on how acupuncture can help kids (and, by extension, any patient) get back to their favorite activities and how sessions work so you don't have to be scared. A little boy injures his ankle playing soccer and just wants to get back to playing ball. He finds that acupuncture isn't scary and it helps him heal over a series of sessions.

"My Visit" is a nice complement to "Maya and Friends" that focuses on the patient experience and in general has nicer illustrations. A big bonus is seeing acupuncture in an integrative context: the doctor who examines the boy's X-ray is the one to tell him Jane (the acupuncturist) will help with "the swelling and pain" and her office is right next door to physical therapy (just like mine!).

Pro: Uncomplicated, a simple introduction to the patient experience of acupuncture, illustrates integrative care

Con: Doesn't talk about how acupuncture works

Verdict: If you (or your little one) are nervous about going to acupuncture, this one is probably the best for allaying fears. Also great focus on sports medicine. 

The Five: A Journey to Find a Home

By Dr. Coleen Smith and illustrated by Alaina Schreiner 

This colored pencil style volume is billed as a children's book, but instead I would recommend it for anyone beginning acupuncture school. I never got into Zoo Cards (a set of flashcards for learning Chinese herbs), but this feels like a similar tool. The book illustrates the five elements and their characteristics in a way that feels less like a story and more like an elaborate mnemonic device.

For example the story has Livgall the green-eyed monkey, Luli the white bird, Kibla the blue fish, Splesto the yellow lion, and Hearsi the red dragon search for the perfect environment to call home. Character names are not smoothed into something a character might be called but just direct combinations of the channel pairs (Livgall is Liver and Gall Bladder, Luli is Lung and Large Intestine, etc). The adjectives that describe the characters and their chosen environments align with the five element sounds, smells, cardinal directions, etc.

I could imagine finding this book useful in the beginning of school when there is so much information to take in and anything sweet and colorful is a helpful respite! Maybe even as a little treat when studying for California Licensing and National Board exams.

Pro: Detailed five element overview equals good study tool (there's even a chart in the back)

Con: More educational than enjoyable

Verdict: Great for first year acupuncture students or for board exam study! Probably not a kid favorite.

Have I missed any acupuncture children's books that you know and love? I love book recommendations so send me your suggestions!

Header image: illustration by Troy White from "Maya and Friends Visit the Acupuncturist"

Blue Shield In Network Provider

I am now an in-network provider for Blue Shield!

Q: But I already have you bill my insurance. What's changing?
A: This is an option I have added to my existing insurance participation: You can still use your out of network acupuncture benefits if you have a PPO plan with a different carrier. The difference is that now most Blue Shield plans will get you affordable coverage you do not need to pay for out of pocket before using your plan benefits in both San Francisco and Oakland.

Q: What about Anthem Blue Cross or Blue Cross Blue Shield?
A: 
In some states Blue Cross and Blue Shield are managed as one company, but in California they are mostly separate. If your coverage is for Anthem Blue Cross, I am not in network, but we can bill for out of network benefits that are often quite comprehensive. If you have Blue Cross Blue Shield, we'll check your benefits and see whether your specific plan is considered in or out of network for me.

Please fill out the form on my Fees and Insurance page to request a benefits check for either your Blue Shield plan or other PPO insurance and we'll start taking advantage of your acupuncture benefits!

If you have any questions, please contact me and I'll be happy to discuss them with you. And because insurance checks are usually completed within 24-48 hours, feel free to make an appointment then send me your insurance information to check right away!