Painful Anxiety

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This well-written article from brings to mind an important principle about how acupuncture works. People in New York City tend to operate under high levels of stress.  That ultra-relaxed and rejuvenated feeling people get from acupuncture can be an invaluable resource during the Manhattan workweek.Sayings like “pain in my neck”, “ bad it hurts”, “the painful truth”, ect. aren’t without meaning; mental/emotional activity can often correspond with painful somatic (bodily) symptoms. And to say that a symptom is “all in your head” can also be misleading. If we understand “mind” as a phenomena that closely correlates with neuronal activity, then physical symptoms can be irrefutably linked to emotional states.  This is why acupuncture is so remarkably effective at relieving anxiety and stress; it regulates the neuronal activity that correlates with stressful and axious states.  Specifically, when a person feels stressed,the sympathetic (fight or flight response) nervous system begins firing. This results in a variety of changes in the body that prepare a person to respond decisively in a threatening situation.  This is helpful for the survival of the species, but in places like Manhattan NYC with an endless onslaught of external stimuli, the result can be an overly-excited sympathetic response that causes painful conditions to develop.chest-pain1Love is in the air. So is anxiety.

For many people, Valentines Day brings up feelings of loneliness, rejection and even literal heartache. This can be very anxiety provoking, causing not only higher-than-normal emotional stress but also physical symptoms such as chest pain and heart palpitations.

Acupuncture can be extremely effective for managing anxiety. Unlike medications, which address anxiety with a one-size-fits-all approach, acupuncture treatments are tailored to each patients unique combination of symptoms. This is a more appropriate strategy for a condition that is famously varied in its manifestations.

Through regulating the sympathetic nervous system, acupuncture reduces anxiety symptoms such as nervousness, shortness of breath, temperature fluctuations, nausea and insomnia. In addition, through the release of trigger points, acupuncture can relieve chest pain and heart palpitations.

Anxiety-induced or exacerbated chest pain and heart palpitations, because they can make people feel like they are having a heart attack, are scary. They contribute significantly to overcrowded emergency rooms and redundant expensive medical tests. Biomedicine has two names for anxiety symptoms that mimic a heart attack cardiac neurosis and Da Costa syndrom but no effective treatment options. Trigger-point acupuncture can help alleviate this clog in our healthcare system.

pectoralis Trigger points in the chest muscles can cause chest pain and heart palpitations. People experiencing these symptoms may be very tight and tender on the pectoralis muscles, near acupuncture points KD22, ST18, PC1 and LU1. Trigger points in the pectoralis might hurt locally and also refer pain to the anterior shoulder and chest, and to the breast. Pain also may extend down the inside of the arm. (See the pectoralis major pain-referral pattern at right.)

Frequently, people with trigger points in the pectoralis muscles also have upper back pain. They may be tender on the infraspinatus, rhomboid and trapezius muscles, around acupuncture points UB14 and UB43. Releasing the pectoralis trigger points often alleviates both the back pain and anterior symptoms.

In addition to pain reduction, releasing trigger points in the chest muscles is a preventative measure for patients who are in fact suffering from heart disease.

Janet Travell, in her book Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual, says, When coronary artery disease and pectoralis major [trigger points] coexist, relief of the [trigger point]-induced pain is important for more than just comfort. Pain itself may reflexly diminish the caliber of the coronary arteries and thereby further increase myocardial ischemia.

Chest pain is no joke, so it’s important to get checked for heart disease. But if pain persists once cardiac problems are ruled out or under control, acupuncture may offer a solution that can’t be found in the ER”no matter how long you wait


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