Taking eleven classes a semester (yep! eleven!) in naturopathic medical school leads to a bit of stress no matter how good you are at organizing and color coding all of your notes. It’s just a lot of classes at once and a ton of information to fit into your brain. One amazing service we are offered at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic to keep us balanced emotionally, mentally and physically, is stress-relieving acupuncture. Now I know you may be thinking, how can you feel relaxed with multiple needles stuck in your skin? Well, you can! And it does work!
How Does it Work?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a 5,000 year old system of medicine based on the concept of qi (pronounced chee), which is energy that flows throughout the body in a system of meridians or energy lines. When the energy is flowing smoothly throughout the body, like flowing water, the person is healthy. When there is an imbalance or the energy is stuck, disease can occur. It’s interesting to note that Chinese acupuncturists did not dissect human cadavers because it was considered sacrilege to cut into a human body. We know now, through the use of cadavers in Western medicine, that the Chinese energy lines, or meridians, run parallel to the major nerves throughout the body.
When the acupuncture needles are placed in certain points on the body, it helps to regulate the qi, like placing or removing a rock in a stream, re-channeling the water. When the energy is in balance, the patient will feel calm, re-centered, and the body will be in alignment, removing dis-ease.
What Do You Feel?
Everyone’s experience with acupuncture is completely different. I personally experience a sharp or dull pain at first when the needles are placed into my skin, other times, I feel nothing. Once the needles are in for a few minutes, I don’t even notice them. I usually drift into a restful sleep for the next 15 to 30 minutes while the needles are in. After the session I feel incredibly relaxed and peaceful.
How Does Acupuncture Help With Stress?
The spleen in Chinese acupuncture is NOT the same thing as the Western organ known as the spleen. It is the “organ” that houses the intellect. Think of the Chinese spleen more as an energetic organ with similar functions of the Western pancreas.) Therefore, when we overthink, worry, over-memorize, over-study, and multi-task, it drains the spleen’s energy. Our poor spleens! We are left feeling tired, bloated, have digestive issues, and can have issues with our lungs. Sounds like every stressed out, overworked person out there. Well, acupuncture can help!
When the acupuncture needles are placed into certain energy points, it helps balance the energy going to the spleen and to the other organs it interacts with, such as the lungs. Once the spleen is balanced, we will have:
- Better digestion
- More energy
- Clear thinking
- No water retention
This unbalanced energy of the spleen is known as spleen qi deficiency. It can be helped not only by acupuncture, but also by what we eat. In TCM, it is said that the spleen’s energy is drained by cold, raw foods and cold drinks. (I love this post that outlines a spleen qi deficiency meal plan and do’s and don’ts.) So what do we eat? The idea is to eat warm foods, such as cooked veggies, meats and grains, and use warming spices, such as ginger, so not as to further drain the spleen’s energy.
Overall, I am thankful that my intern at the clinic suggested I come in weekly for stress-relieving acupuncture. It has helped me with streamlining my diet as a student, helped me to focus, not feel so tired, and to realize that I need to take special care of my health while in school. Since acupuncture is so relaxing, it was always a great treat to look forward to each week!