Sunday, March 1, 2009

Anxiety & Acupuncture

By Paulette Marin, D.O.M., L.Ac.

While conventional medicine is primarily concerned with a physical reason or cause of symptoms, Acupuncture, as a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, looks for mind-body-spirit links to chronic illness. Even though many of the symptoms are physical, we look for an emotional or spiritual disharmony going on that corresponds to the physical message the body is producing. Acupuncture treats both the physical body and emotional mind at the same time, seeing no separation between the two.

An acupuncturist will do an in-depth health intake that focuses strongly on your lifestyle, as inappropriate lifestyle is seen as the main cause of disease. Specifically, some of the main causes of disease are:

1 Improper diet
2 Too much work
3 Not enough rest/sleep
4 Too much emotional upset
5 Lifestyle not harmonious with external environment

An energetic diagnosis will be made based on the relative strength or weakness of your internal organs from a Chinese Medicine point of view, and the relationship of your internal organs in working harmoniously with each other. An acupuncturist will then use a variety of treatment techniques including things such as very fine needles, herbal formulas, and qigong exercises to re-balance your mind-body-spirit system. Often, lifestyle is addressed to show how changes in some areas will help to alleviate your symptoms.

A basic energetic view of anxiety is a disconnection or lack of communication between Fire (the heart) and Water (the kidneys). Fear is the emotion most associated with the Water element. Usually we can point to something we are afraid of, like heights, or snakes, or the dark. Joy is the emotion associated with the Fire (the heart). Anxiety lives more in that connection between the Fire and Water.

Anxiety can be a bit more free-floating than fear, and is sometimes harder to define. In the ancient Chinese classic text, the Ling Shu, anxiety is described as the feeling of going too far or too fast. We probably have all experienced that feeling at one time or another. If it becomes a chronic state of being however, disharmonies in one’s health can occur.

As the Water energy of the body, located in the pelvic area, is heavy, calm, and acts an anchor for the heart (Fire). The Fire energy of the body, located in the chest, is light and energetic. Imagine a strong anchor holding a balloon on a string. Water energy would be the anchor and Fire energy would be the balloon. The balloon string is the connection between the two. When chronic anxiety symptoms occur, there is an energetic image of the anchor (Water) not being strong enough to hold onto the balloon (Fire). The balloon is shaking or let loose as the anchor struggles to regain control of it. The acupuncturist will re-establish control of the balloon (Fire).

Acupuncture has been shown to be a highly effective treatment for symptoms of anxiety when used alone, and the effectiveness can be increased with the use of Chinese herbal formulas and the practice of special QiGong exercises and Tai Chi.

Paulette Marin is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, and Director of the Acupuncture Program at The Oriental Healing Arts School of Massage Therapy.

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