Do the words, “just relax,” have the opposite effect on you? That’s because when your body is in the hormone frenzy that is our stress response, commonly called fight-or-flight, it is virtually impossible to “just relax.” Trying unsuccessfully to become pregnant is stressful and more often than not, the anxiety becomes oppressive. Unfortunately, while it is easy to become highly stressed, it is equally as difficult to de-stress. This is where acupuncture comes to the rescue! Just ask anyone who has had acupuncture and they will tell you how wonderfully relaxing an acupuncture session is. Now research is beginning to help us understand just why acupuncture works in this way.
A study published in the October 2015 journal Endocrinology used an animal model to experiment on the mechanisms of acupuncture. They found that acupuncture affected chronic stress via the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA). This is the same pathway targeted by some anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants. This is also the same pathway that is responsible for our reproductive hormones.
In this study researchers measured levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and saw that the animals that received acupuncture had levels of cortisol comparable to the non-stressed animals. To confirm the acupuncture affected the pathway they suspected, the researchers gave the animals a drug to block the HPA pathway and found the effect went away. The next step is to repeat the experiment in humans. However, based on the relaxation people feel after an acupuncture treatment, there is confidence that this is a promising explanation as to why acupuncture is so helpful for reducing stress.
At Triangle Acupuncture we understand that if you’ve never had acupuncture, getting poked with needles doesn’t sound relaxing. The needles are very thin, about the size of a cat whisker and our first-time patients are always surprised that they barely feel them at all. So don’t let the fear of needles keep you from trying something that’s good for you! When we’re working with fertility patients, our intention is for the acupuncture sessions to be first and foremost a space for your body and mind to finally “just relax.”