Depression, stress and anxiety are on the rise across the U.S. just as anti-depressants are coming under scrutiny. With many seeking natural remedies instead of meds, licensed acupuncturist Matt Maneggia has definitely seen an increase in people turning to the ancient medicine.
In the last couple of years, stress-related disorders have become the 2nd most common condition that bring people to our office, with pain still the number one reason,” said Maneggia, owner of Connecticut Family Acupuncture in West Hartford. “Unquestionably, the number of kids and teenagers we treat is growing quickly.”
In fact, a new national report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State shows colleges are overwhelmed with students reaching out for counseling services to deal with mental health issues. Unfortunately many prescription medications are not recommended for young adults due to potentially harmful side effects.
“I think parents are becoming more and more wary of anxiety medications, and actually, kids usually really enjoy acupuncture,” explained Maneggia. “Very often they respond to it much more quickly than adults. Plus they love getting pictures of themselves getting a treatment to share on social media!”
Maneggia notes even for adults, research shows that around 50% of patients treated with medication for anxiety have an “inadequate response,” meaning that their symptoms are not relieved to a clinically significant level or that the patient experiences adverse side effects.
Acupuncture on the other hand, naturally inhibits the sympathetic nervous system, (the fight-or-flight aspect of the nervous system), and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, increasing the body’s ability to rest and relax. When the body is under stress, an area of the brain called the hypothalamus releases a bunch of neurochemicals. Acupuncture can calm this response. Acupuncture has also been shown to increase the release of endorphins, the body’s own “feel-good” chemicals.
And since acupuncture is not a medication, people can have acupuncture while they’re still taking medications. There are no interactions or contraindications between the two. And while Maneggia doesn’t advise his patients to go off any prescriptions, many of his patients work with their doctor to wean off anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications using acupuncture to bridge the gap.
Maneggia notes that while any acupuncture treatment helps with stress relief, there are some specific points that have a more direct effect on stress. Some of these are on the ear, and CT Family Acupuncture often uses ear seeds as a way for people to manage stress in between treatments. Maneggia explains that ear seeds are actual tiny black Vaccaria seeds adhered to the outside of the ear with tan or clear tape. Patients can apply them at home by themselves and gently pressing on the seed stimulates the central nervous system to relieve stress and pain. This allows the patient to activate the relief points when needed during a stressful situation.
“There are also two points on the bottom corners of the fingernail of the pinky that are quite responsive to acupressure to relieve stress – you can just press on these with another fingernail when needed,” added Maneggia. “I have an eBook coming out very soon that discusses some do-it-yourself techniques for a variety of issues, including stress and anxiety – so keep an eye out on our webpage.”
Chinese herbal formulations are also used in conjunction with acupuncture as they can be highly effective and sometimes provide fairly immediate relief. Like the ear seeds, herb formulas can be a great way to maintain the beneficial effects of acupuncture between treatments.
Everybody responds to acupuncture in their own unique way, with some people noticing improvement quicker than others. However, Maneggia generally believes it’s best to get a handful of treatments closer together when starting acupuncture since the treatments have a cumulative effect.
“That may be two treatments a week for a couple of weeks, then once a week for a few weeks, then every other week, etc. I use the analogy of starting a lawn mower for the first time after a long winter – you need to give the cord a few good pulls in close succession before the engine engages and takes over on its own,” he said. “Usually, once somebody is out of the acute situation, people schedule appointments once every 4-6 weeks for maintenance.”
ABOUT CT. FAMILY ACUPUNCTURE
Since 2007, Connecticut Family Acupuncture has utilized acupuncture, TCM work, and cupping to help thousands of people realize their optimum health naturally, without the use of pharmaceutical or surgical interventions. All practitioners exceed state and national requirements for licensure in acupuncture combined with an extensive knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Nationally certified by the NCCAOM and licensed by the CT Department of Public Health. Two locations: West Hartford Acupuncture at 173 Oakwood Avenue in West Hartford and 1212 Boston Turnpike in Bolton. To schedule a FREE 20 minute consultation, call 860.809.1125 or visit www.ctfamilyacupuncture.com.