In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the energy that is behind the body’s life force function is called ‘qi’. Unlike modern medicine, TCM perceives the body’s organs as having different roles in regards to the body’s qi (among many other aspects). Chinese medical theory considers the liver to be the organ in charge of the qi flowing correctly in the body. When someone undergoes stress or extreme emotions, it causes the energy or ‘qi’ to contract. This has a secondary effect of stopping the natural flow of qi - which the liver is in charge of. The qi then either becomes stuck or begins to move in the opposite direction, which affects the body’s normal function. The symptoms that can arise from this are pain, irritability, insomnia, abnormal menses, headaches, and abdominal discomfort among many more.
When a patient comes in presenting the symptoms above, the TCM physician will assess and create a treatment protocol that will most likely include acupuncture and herbs. Acupuncture needles will be located in specific points which will work to unblock the ‘qi’ and allow the channels that are stagnated to move qi more freely. There are many herbs that are effective for doing this from a different aspect which is more chemical in comparison to the physical aspect of acupuncture. This is why working with both herbs and acupuncture is so effective.
There have been several studies that have shown the effectiveness of TCM on stress. One study lead by Dr. Ladan Eshkevari of Georgetown University found that acupuncture reduces levels of a protein linked to chronic stress in rats. This protein called neuropeptide Y (NPY) is secreted by the sympathetic nervous system in humans which is involved in the fight or flight response.
Before these studies many people have noted that even when they come in for a completely different symptom than stress, they often feel more peaceful since beginning their TCM treatments.