Treating Stress with Acupuncture

I have been asked if acupuncture is effective for Stress. To answer this question we need to understand what is Stress and what is involved. I had opportunity to have a special training during Medicine School and during my residency with my Prof. Dr. Artur Zular, MD who has been for the past 7 years the President of Associação Brasileira de Medicina Psicossomática – Regional São Paulo / Brazilian Society of Psychosomatic Medicine – Sao Paulo’s Office. He wrote a book about Stress what I have to this day where he gave me a sweet dedicatory. I saw with my own eyes what Stress can do. I saw people with healthy heart with no history of heart diseases in their families to suffer a massive heart attack and died with no explanation whatsoever (“Researchers have long suspected that the stressed-out, type A personality has a higher risk of high blood pressure and heart problems. We don’t know why, exactly. Stress can directly increase heart rate and blood flow, and causes the release of cholesterol and triglycerides into the blood stream. ” )  I saw patients that suffered a kidnapping to develop unexplained gastric pain and digestive problems weeks later with no background. Did you ever meet a person you were friends one year later and they looked 10 years older ? Than you discover that her/his little kid has cancer and is fighting for her/his life ? ( ” There’s actually evidence that stress can affect how you age. One study compared the DNA of mothers who were under high stress — they were caring for a chronically ill child — with women who were not. Researchers found that a particular region of the chromosomes showed the effects of accelerated aging. Stress seemed to accelerate aging about 9 to 17 additional years.”  )  quotes from

And the alarming problem is that Stress has no limitation of age. We hear that kids younger than 12 years old took their own life in aboriginal communities in northem Manitoba due to Stress and Depression  : here is what you will find in this article : ” There is a low occurrence of suicide among children and a paucity of data for children under the age of ten. However, suicide is the 4th leading cause of death among children between the ages of 10 and 14. • In Canada in 2009, there were 25 recorded suicidal deaths of children aged 10-14. The rate of suicide was 1.3 per 100,000″ . And here are some of the factors that increase their chances to commit suicide :

‘ Exposure to violence or abuse (physical, emotional, sexual) • Family history of psychiatric problems/family member who has died by suicide • Unstable family situation-frequent moves/multiple caregivers if in foster care • Early stressful life events (for example, divorce) • Negative school experiences (including bullying), ETC”

 ” In USA, In 2012, they found, 50.4 emergency department visits per 100,000 visits by children were for mental health-related concerns. By 2016, mental health was the cause for 78.5 emergency department visits per 100,000 children. The average age of children being brought in for acute mental health crises was 13, the team found.

So Stress is real and everyone can relate to experience a high level of stress in some point in your life, could be a job interview, dealing with infertility, having a difficult Boss, preparing for University exams, having a kid with serious illness, losing someone you loved , moving places, dealing with renovations , negotiating terms during divorce or living in a city with lots of crime.

So what is the definition of stress ? I will translate the best as I can the words of my mentor Prof. Dr. Artur Zular: 

   ”  O estresse é um mecanismo adaptativo essencial de todos os seres vivos. Por definição, estresse é o conjunto de reações que o organismo desenvolve ao ser submetido a uma situação que exija esforço de adaptação.” ” Stress is an essential adaptive mechanism for all beings, by definition Stress is a collection of reactions that your body does after being affected by a situation that needs immediate adaptation or reaction”

Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically benefit anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety and stress by:

  • Acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry (Hui 2010; Hui 2009);
  • Improving stress induced memory impairment and an increasing AchE reactivity in the hippocampus (Kim 2011);
  • Reducing serum levels of corticosterone and the number of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive cells (Park 2010);
  • Regulating levels of neurotransmitters (or their modulators) and hormones such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA, neuropeptide Y and ACTH; hence altering the brain’s mood chemistry to help to combat negative affective states (Lee 2009; Cheng 2009; Zhou 2008);
  • Stimulating production of endogenous opioids that affect the autonomic nervous system (Arranz 2007). Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, while acupuncture can activate the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response;
  • Reversing pathological changes in levels of inflammatory cytokines that are associated with stress reactions (Arranz 2007);
  • Reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kavoussi 2007, Zijlstra 2003);
  • Reversing stress-induced changes in behaviour and biochemistry (Kim 2009).
  • ( quotes from :


If you don’t understand what all these scientific terms means just know that Acupuncture will stimulate your brain with several chemical reactions to reduce stress. What my patients share is that even if the Stressful situation is still there they don’t get overwhelmed by it and they can think better on solutions to reduce stress. Before their minds and bodies were so plugged in problems and extreme emotions they lost the ability to think and make a different choice for their lives. I try to show to them multiple choices and they can see a way out of that stressful situation. But before their brains got reprogrammed by acupuncture they could not see it. Try it. It is effective. Some patients years later meet me at street and give me a big hug saying….” acupuncture saved my life, thanks Dr Kerr….I’m a happier person now”