Today's modern medicine has little to offer us to help us cope with the ever-increasing difficulties of life, but addressing stress is where Chinese medicine truly shines. What can we do when we feel pent up inside, frustrated and overwhelmed with an unrelenting list of tasks? What can we do when our stress has become a knot in our stomach or the intensity of always “being on” and never having down time drains us of mental and physical energy? Practicing in D.C. I have found that the level of burnout in the city is tremendous. Luckily acupuncture, Chinese herbs and bodywork have a great deal to offer someone with anxiety or depression, as well as someone with stress so strong that they experience neck pain, headaches or any one of many possible symptoms. In these cases often there are two parts: one part is a sense of binding or being stuck. A person could feel a specific place in their body where there is chronic tension. The most common symptoms I see people experiencing tension is in the neck, the stomach (and with it a litany of possible digestive troubles), as a binding sensation in the chest, heart palpitations or as a restlessness when they are trying to fall asleep. But everyone experiences stress differently and can hold tension in any part of the body. Coupled with tension is a fatigue and taxation. Over time this binding can cause you to feel tired and lack motivation, making the world seem less vibrant, causing a loss of zest for life. If there is a tendency towards anxiety or depression this binding and fatigue will make our underlying anxiety and depression much worse.
Chinese herbal medicine offers both a way of treating that daily binding as well as a way of coping with the rigors of a very busy lifestyle. Chinese herbs used for stress binding do not cloud the mind or bring you down like the often-prescribed valium or sedatives, but do what they are used for without the lethargic side effects associated with modern medicine: They release tension in the body. Certain herbs are better for releasing the tension in the neck, while others are more effective at releasing the binding that occurs in the stomach, and still others are relied upon for when binding has lead to a depressed state. Since the herbs are releasing binding in our body they do not make us tired or drowsy. Rather they liberate some of the pent up energy. Often in situations with long-term stress, herbs that are able to act as invigorators will also be recommended to offer you more stamina and focus to help you deal with the difficulties you are facing. Once a patient’s balance has returned and much of the binding and pent up energy has been released, other Chinese herbs can help start the process of restoring your energy back to where it was before the long march of stress drained it away. So in effect, I am not just treating stress, but restoring you back to your natural state.
Acupuncture and bodywork have a very immediate effect on the nervous system. Many of my patients come to me with with stress as the main complaint or as a significant contributing factor. This can be old emotions stuck in the body from years in the past or something that happened during a meeting an hour before our session. It doesn’t matter. Once released the energy stored in the binding is able to flow back into the our body’s circulation where we can use it to fuel more positive emotions.