Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Acupuncture and Trauma: Yes, it can help!

It's been only a few short days since Colorado's 1000 year flood and yet many lives will be changed forever. 

Some might ask: I just lost my house, my business, my pets to the flood. How is acupuncture going to help me? My basement flooded. I’m worried about my friends up in the canyon. How is acupuncture going to help me? 

First, it calms the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system governs the fight or flight response. During stressful situations your blood pressure increases, your heart beats faster, adrenaline is released, and your digestion slows down. When we’re in a crisis situation, we need these things to happen so we can move fast and respond to threats. The problem comes in the aftermath. In situations like these it’s easy for us to get stuck in this hyperactive state. Even for those of us not directly affected by the floods it’s easy to slip into this state just by watching the news coverage. 

Acupuncture has been documented to sedate the sympathetic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest). Acupuncture treatments calm anxiety and promote deeper and more restful sleep. Patients often tell me they feel ‘clearer’ and ‘more centered’ after an acupuncture treatment. Unfortunately, I don’t have needles and acupuncture points that make money troubles vanish or ex spouses to stop annoying you, but I can make your response to those things more balanced. I tell folks that “your life is still your life, but after acupuncture it just seems more manageable.”

The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association auricular (ear) acupuncture protocol is used to help people overcome addictions of all kinds. It also happens to be extremely helpful in mitigating all sorts of emotional and psychological stressors. We use the NADA protocol and other ear protocols like it to help folks deal with traumatic events of all kinds. 

Acupuncture also deals with specific emotions themselves. Those directly affected have no doubt experienced fear and panic as they were forced to deal with these extremely frightening circumstances. Fear depletes the adrenal glands and can lead to adrenal fatigue, so it’s important to use acupuncture to boost up the Kidneys and calm fear. 

Grief and sorrow follow after the loses of friends, loved ones, pets and cherished possessions. This is a completely normal emotion when we experience a traumatic event. The goal of the acupuncturist is not to dull the grief that you feel, but to help you experience it in an authentic way and then move on. When we hold onto grief, it impacts the lungs. I can’t tell you how many folks I’ve met who have lost a family member and then gotten chronic cases of pneumonia and bronchitis because of the impact on the lungs. We want to nourish the lungs to make sure they’re ready for the fall and winter months ahead.

Worry is another common emotion. A lot of us have been worried about others and stuck in the over-thinking mode (myself included!). On an organ level, worry prevents proper digestion of our food. On a psychological level, it keeps us up at night.

It’s not an emotion, per se, but having water invade your home, your community and some of our favorite places pushes our boundaries. Acupuncture can also be used to boost those up.

Anger often pops up after the initial feelings of shock and sadness. As bystanders we feel frustrated that we can’t help more. As survivors we feel angry that things we’ve worked very hard for have been destroyed by a random act of the weather. Acupuncture helps the Qi of the body and the emotions to flow more freely. 

Our minds and bodies are intertwined, therefore when our mind is tense, our body becomes tense. How many of us cope with stressful situations by raising our shoulders closer and closer to our ears? Most of us I would say! When our body is tense or in pain, our emotions tend to get stuck in anger or fear or worry. It’s the acupuncturist’s job to get things flowing again. Think of how quickly a toddler flows through emotions: delight at seeing a new toy, frustration when s/he is unable to make it work properly, sadness someone else takes it and starts playing with it. Then back to joy when they see a butterfly. This is the ideal, to fully experience our emotions in the moment and not to get stuck in any one emotion for too long. 

So whether it’s sore muscles from mucking out a neighbor’s basement or stress from dealing with a disaster, acupuncture can and will help!

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1 comment:

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