HPA-Axis Stress Reduction Treatment

As an acupuncturist, stress is one of the most common conditions I treat. Today, especially with the stressful effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, is the perfect time to see an acupuncturist for stress reduction! There are so many ways acupuncture can help. I’d like to tell you about a stress reduction treatment that involves auricular (ear) acupuncture. This treatment restores balance to the physiological stress response itself, called the HPA-axis. In my experience, this treatment is tried-and-true. It is my go-to stress reduction treatment for clients.

The acupuncture map of the ear resembles an inverted fetus. The mechanisms of auricular acupuncture are considered to have a close relationship with the autonomic nervous system, the neuroendocrine system, neuroimmunological factors, neuroinflammation, and the neural reflex. Auricular therapy has been applied, for pain relief, for the treatment of epilepsy, anxiety, and obesity, and for improving sleep quality. This acupuncture treatment focuses on the neuroendocrine system or brain-hormone response called the HPA-axis.

The HPA-axis is the communication connection between the brain and stress hormones. This eloquent and intertwined pathway is located between the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, located just above the brainstem, and the adrenal glands, located on top of the kidneys. The HPA axis is what creates the body’s physiological (neuroendocrine/ brain-hormone) stress response. Commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” response. When we feel threatened, whether by a real or perceived threat, a chemical reaction occurs in our body that allows us to act in a way to prevent injury. As if you 're needing to prepare physiologically to fight off a huge mountain lion that is chasing you on a hiking trail!

During the “fight or flight” response, adrenaline will be produced to increase your heart rate, elevate your blood pressure and boost energy supplies helping you to gain more power, and to get increased blood and oxygen to your muscles. Cortisol will also be produced to increase sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhance your brain's use of glucose and increase the availability of substances that repair tissues. This will aid in providing extra brain power to think of ways to outsmart the threat and aid in healing from incurred injuries.

Stress causes physiological changes that are only meant to last for short periods of time. However, persistent surges of adrenaline and cortisol due to chronic stress can damage your blood vessels, increase your blood pressure, and elevate your risk of heart attacks or stroke. It can also result in anxiety, weight gain, headaches, and insomnia.

With repeated exposure to stressors, the body habituates (gets used to) the stressor with repeated and sustained HPA-axis activation causing a constant state of “fight or flight”. Therefore, restoring homeostasis to the HPA-axis is the primary goal of treatment.

Schedule your appointment with me today. Take an hour for yourself and relax in a quiet treatment room with these calming needles in. You will feel reset and relaxed.

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