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Just relax. Have you ever heard this from a family member, friend, coworker or practitioner?
These are easy words to speak, but much more difficult to practice.
Some of us may have tried different tools to help relax, such as breathing techniques, meditation, exercise, or talking with a therapist or friend. There is another tool that often gets overlooked — acupuncture.
A significant part of Chinese medicine, acupuncture uses fine, sterile needles inserted into the skin to stimulate the body’s various systems. Acupuncture has been used most broadly to relieve pain, but we shouldn’t discount its potential as a relaxation tool.
In acupuncture, when the needles are inserted, the body releases a cascade of chemicals. These include serotonin and dopamine which help us to feel calm and reach a state of balance or peace.
Then there is the benefit of lying still for 30-40 minutes. How often do you get a chance in your day to lay completely still and rest? For many people, this part of acupuncture is the greatest gift. Phones are shut off, restful music is on, smells of essential oils waft in the room, and then: stillness.
Often, the experience on the table makes one feel heavy, but light and floating at the same time. Once off the table, people feel a great sense of calm and relaxation. We as acupuncturists call these after-effects of acupuncture “aculand.”
Now researchers are exploring the effect of acupuncture on anxiety, short-term memory and even brain function. One recent study suggests that acupuncture reduced anxiety and improved working memory in healthy individuals.
This research highlights a couple of wonderful things about acupuncture. First, in a world with many distractions, being able to focus and have the highest possible cognitive function can help students prepare for an exam and business professionals function at optimal levels.
Second, an individual does not have to be sick to receive acupuncture. Although preventive treatment with acupuncture is not presently covered by insurance, an acupuncture treatment a few times a year can keep your body working at its optimal level.
As time goes on, we will continue to learn how acupuncture may help to improve a number of other health conditions. For now, it’s an option to consider when all you want to do is relax. Just make sure to find a qualified and licensed acupuncturist.
Getting healthy and staying healthy isn’t only about medical treatments. Integrative Medicine makes use of different therapeutic practices, including acupuncture, to address all aspects of your well-being.
Learn more about the Integrative Medicine Clinic at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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