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  • Writer's pictureClaire Norton MBaCC

The role of acupuncture in emotional support

Over last few weeks I have been witness to incredible transformations in my clinic not just from a perspective of pain, but from a deeper more emotion aspect of health. It’s a vital part of my work as an acupuncturist to understand and address where the patient is at from all aspects of health.

Acupuncturists understand that physical illness can sometimes arise (or become exacerbated) from emotional experiences such as shock, prolong anger, sadness, grief, pensiveness and fear.

Ask anyone who sufferers with a chronic condition, they will share that ‘stress’ can make thier condition ‘worse’ or harder to manage. From a western perspective, it’s clear that prolonged stress creates an inflammatory response and also has a negative impact on the immune system, so I ask, what about the other emotions? Chronically living in a state of fear, what might that do the the adrenal glands and autonomic nervous system? Being in a constant state of anger or anxiety, what might that do to cortisol levels? What might this do to the Hypothalamus adrenal (HPA) axis? What about the shock of losing a loved one? We’ve all heard of shock having the capacity to turn someone’s hair white, or how a person could die from a broken heart. To meet a person where they are and support them entirely is part of the role of a traditional acupuncturist.

Acupuncture is a great way to regulate and modulate multi systems of health such as the nervous system, the immune system and to influence the hormonal landscape just to name a few. Chinese medicine CAN connect the dots from physical manifestation of ill health, to where a person is in their emotional health. Five element acupuncture places even more significance on the the experience of the emotional experience of the patient.

Each and every person I work with has their own unique story, with their own traumas and challenges. It would be doing them a disservice not to consider and address the patients emotional/ psycho- spiritual health and incorporate support into our treatments.

"Following a miscarriage, my body and my mind were all over the place. Claire put me at ease the moment we spoke on the phone. Every session made me wanting more and feeling great. After only 5 sessions, I'm back on track and couldn't be happier with a baby on the way. I cannot speak highly enough of Claire. Acupuncture treats the whole person body, mind and soul. I'm a new woman. I can honestly say I miss my sessions with Claire and I'll definitely be returning to maintain a healthy pregnancy."

Through supporting patients in their fertility journeys, it’s impossible to ignore the difficult path they have travelled before walking through my doors, and with very little support sometimes. Often these patients are recovering from traumatic experiences such as suffering a loss, a difficult diagnosis, a loss of hope, or simply navigating a prolonged period of sadness and heartache in a world with little empathy or understanding. IVF is a rollercoaster, there is no doubt about this, the medication side effects, the hormones and the pressure really can make the process even more challenging. Sometimes the path ahead is equally as challenging, It’s impossible to ignore the state of anxiety many experience even once they have jumped hurdle that follows a positive pregnancy test. It's equally as important to support someone navigating the emotional challenges of pregnancy after a period of fertility challenges.

How does acupuncture help the emotional aspect of health? We hold the space, create a non judgemental supportive place, suggesting 'big impact' lifestyle changes and being the biggest cheerleader we can be for all our wonderful clients, we must not forget that the needles (and moxibustion) have a role too. Through stimulating nerves, there is a biological cascade that happens resulting in a promotion of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which released signals that result in relaxation. Endorphins are then released which are then able to chemically and positively change the way we feel, and this deactivates the analytical brain responsible for stress and anxiety. Acupuncture has also demonstrated to Improve Heart Rate Variability (HRV), a measure of the variation in heart beat interval, and thus the body's ability to cope with stress and anxiety.

When we blend modern research with ancient thinking we can then understand acupuncture’s place in the modern world and support our patients fully.

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