Up to half a million people in the UK experience work-related stress every year, which often results in illness (Health and Safety Executive 2011).
The signs of stress can vary from one individual to the next (NHS Choices 2011). They may manifest physically as an illness, tiredness or lethargy or as symptoms such as sore, tight muscles or erratic sleep patterns. Mental stress can result in depression, mood swings, anger, frustration, confusion, paranoid behaviour, jealousy or withdrawal.
Treatments include medication such as anti-anxiety drugs, cognitive behavioural therapy, relaxation techniques (NHS Choices 2011), acupuncture and floatation therapy.
How acupuncture can help
Stress is a common complaint cited by acupuncture and these individuals present with a variety of symptoms. Can acupuncture help with stress and anxiety? Let’s look at the research…..
One small randomised controlled trial (RCT) suggested that acupuncture might be successful in treating the symptoms of chronic stress (Huang 2011). Another study which looked at healthy individuals subjected to stress testing found acupuncture at an acupuncture point used for stress was more effective than a ‘control’ point (Fassoulaki 2003). A study by Pavao (2011) found acupuncture might be effective in attenuating psychological distress, as well as increasing cellular immunity. In a small pilot study, the use of one particular acupuncture point led to marked reductions in stress (Chan 2002).
Acupuncture is proposed to have many effects, including stimulating the nervous system and causing the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic (state of equilibrium) mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.
In addition to acupuncture, another alternative treatment for stress and anxiety is floatation therapy. During a floatation session you effortlessly float in an Epsom-salt solution. The solution is heated and maintained at skin temperature (37°C) and the environment in the tank is controlled so that the air is also skin temperature.
This creates an environment similar to that of the Dead Sea (but nearer to home!) which lets you float effortlessly on the surface of the solution, enjoying a feeling of total freedom & complete weightlessness!
Preliminary research has shown that floatation therapy may lower stress, anxiety and even depression by reducing how much sensory input the brain and nervous system receive (Feinstein, 2018).