How’s your stress level these days? And have you ever tried acupuncture (or, for that matter, any other form of traditional Chinese medicine)? If the answer is “Not so good” followed by “Nope” or “Yes, but I didn’t like it,” then keep reading. You may be pleasantly surprised and–if you do opt to give this centuries-old medicine a try–you might find that its reputation as a stress reliever is justified. When anxiety, chronic worry, or the effect of life’s obligations begin to wear you down, there are healthy options. One way to feel much, much better can be found via traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and–just in case you are a tough sell–please know that we have more than just needles to offer you.
~~~Acupuncture Needles Do Not Hurt~~~
After four and a half years of study that included over a thousand supervised clinical internship hours, I started to forget that the thought of needles genuinely scares a lot of people. I remember the first time I tried acupuncture and I was a little nervous too. Honestly? The needles are thin and fine and they in no way resemble the kind of needles that are used to give injections. An acupuncture treatment for stress is designed to lower it; it isn’t set up to add to your anxiety. So don’t worry about the needles!
Also, any acupuncturist with a brain is going to go lightly on someone during their first visit. Really. No sense in scaring the horses, right? And we want you to leave the treatment feeling happy, healthy, and (especially if you’ve asking us to treat you for stress), feeling blissed out and relaxed. Sure, some needles are thicker than others. The needles used on large muscles are relatively thicker than the ones used on small muscles (they’re still way thinner than the needles used for injections, though). And yes, it does hurt to get certain areas needled (like fingers…fingers count as sensitive areas). But we’re not going to bring out the relatively thicker needles on the first appointment and if you’re nervous, we certainly don’t choose spots that we know tend to cause pain. That doesn’t mean your treatment is less-than; rather, it means that we want you to be comfortable, to feel safe, and to able to experience all the wonders of acupuncture in the most inviting manner possible.
Once there is trust and you are comfortable, it might be that we opt to needle a more tender area but that is a judgement call and we warn you first. And if you are adamantly opposed to acupuncture but want to try traditional Chinese medicine, please keep in mind that TCM has a lot more going for it than just the one modality. (I’ll talk about that in a minute).
Chinese medicine is holistic and when a patient asks for help with stress, we address the whole person. It’s not a case of giving you a sedative or a referral to a therapist. We will ask you questions about your sleep, your digestion, your lifestyle, and more. We’ll identify your varying symptoms and identify a syndrome pattern that belongs to you and your unique presentation. Are you burned out? Depleted? Or are you wired and crackling with unhealthy energy? Maybe your digestion has gone haywire. Possibly you can’t sleep or your ears are ringing all the time or you are jumpy and teary or angry and overheated and constipated. When you come to see me, I’ll ask a lot of questions and help you to pinpoint just what’s going on so that your treatment addresses you and your unique situation.
If you are incredibly stressed and anxious–especially if this is your first treatment–I will be that much more gentle and kind with the needles. One of the greatest compliments a patient can give me is to fall asleep during treatment and my hope is that you will have a nap or at least some peaceful meditation while on my table.
~~~Treatment Is Individualized Just For You~~~
A licensed acupuncturist is not going to randomly poke you with some needles and give you a generic prescription for calming herbs. You are unique and so is your presentation. You may have incredibly tight muscles. You may not have tight muscles at all but your skin is breaking out and you sneeze like crazy every time you eat. What really stands out might be that you are suffering from chronic and toxic stress and you are simply exhausted. Your personality might be a little on the high strung side, while the next stressed patient is quiet and numb. Everyone is different and that is why TCM is so beneficial: we don’t diagnose you with an illness; instead, we identify syndromes and treat them according to the pattern at hand.
One really neat thing about TCM is the herbal aspect. Generally, I start people out with patent formulas in the form of pills or capsules. But I can also prescribe powders that you would dissolve into hot water or raw herbs that you can steep and make into a tea. Not everyone likes the taste and it does take some effort to get used to preparing and ingesting your herbal formula when it’s delivered via raw herbs or powder, but if you get to the point where you want to try the most authentic version of Chinese medicine, it is really marvelous to take herbs, no matter the format. (Are a Harry Potter fan? Please allow me to persuade you via the blog post I wrote about Chinese herbs, here).
Since I’m a former professor and a health coach, I tend to want to educate my patients about their treatment. Some practitioners really want you to learn and others are a little more reserved. I don’t know any practitioner who doesn’t welcome questions though. If you want to know more about your treatment, then do ask!
~~~Prevention Is The Best Medicine~~~
The very best thing you can do for yourself is to prevent breakdown. Don’t wait until you are sick to find a great practitioner. Don’t wait until you are about to have a complete meltdown or serious issues before you start attending to stress. If you are not convinced that acupuncture is for you? There is a lot more than just needles at your acupuncturist’s office. You might want to try acupressure, or maybe ear seeds. There’s also bodywork therapy in the form of the medical massage known as tui na (pronounced “twee nah”).
While still in my program, I dedicated quite a bit of energy to becoming an AOBTA-CP (that’s a fancy acronym that indicates credentials for practicing Asian bodywork therapy; in my case, that would be Chinese style tui na). I’ve been blogging about traditional Chinese medical massage and practicing it for a good while now and it is one of the so-called Five Pillars of Chinese Medicine. Not everyone practices tui na, but most practitioners offer cupping and other modalities that will help you to stay healthy, calmer, and more centered.
One of the central tenets of Chinese medicine is that prevention is the real goal of a treatment. When you have found a practitioner you trust and one with whom you’ve built a relationship based on good communication and genuine caring and respect, you will find that preventative healthcare is a joy. Me? I go to my TCM physician every two weeks, sick or not. It’s my time to rest and be nurtured. If I have a cold or digestion problems or aches or stress, my practitioner takes care of me. If I’m feeling fine, my treatment keeps me feeling that way. It’s a time for me to rest and to nurture and support my health.
That’s the goal for you, too. If you’re struggling with anxiety and stress, acupuncture and TCM can help you. Once the problems are resolved, acupuncture and TCM can help you to remain at a steady level of wellbeing. Your health is your greatest investment, and TCM is definitely worth a try.
Are you ready to do something about your stress level and sense of wellbeing?
Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. She maintains an active and growing practice at her Austin, TX offices. Dr. Bruno is also available for distance appointments for wellness consultation or coaching.
In her first career, she was a Spanish professor.
Dr. Bruno’s specialties as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner include: • Musculoskeletal health (acute or chronic pain relief; Ehlers Danlos syndrome & hypermobility support) • Digestive support, gut health, and weight loss • Aesthetic treatment, including scar revision • Men’s health • General preventative care and immune support for all persons.
When you are ready to discover what traditional medicine plus a vibrant and engaged approach to holistic health can do for you, either contact Dr. Bruno or book an appointment online.
Note: Material on this web site site is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease, illness, or ailment. A TCM practitioner in Texas identifies syndrome patterns but does not diagnose illness. Material on this web site does not purport to identify syndrome patterns.
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