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Tension in your back, stress and acupuncture


The back, neck and shoulders all have a role to play in the level of stress manifesting in a physical way. Although there are many forms of stress, we naturally carry ourselves in a different way when stressed. The shoulders are more elevated, the neck becomes a little stiffer, as does what appears to be the entire back. It seems that the musculature just won’t relax, or it is short lived when we do do something about it. Why is that?

Well, the body adapts to stress, to almost quite literally ‘carry the burden’ so to speak. Chronic stress over-activates the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic system is the part of the autonomic nervous system that originates in the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spinal cord. It acts in opposition to the parasympathethic system such as speeding up the heart rate, reducing digestive secretions, contracting the blood vessels, regulating the sweat glands and stimulating the secretion of glucose in the liver.

The parasympathetic nervous system is the part of the autonomic nervous system that originates in the brain stem and lower part of the spinal cord that acts in opposition to the sympathetic system, by inhibiting the physiological effects of stimulating digestive secretions, slowing the heart rate, constricting pupils or dilating the blood vessels. As you can see these two opposing systems within the body require a dynamic tension that acts in balance to the body’s requirements. But, stress affects these two systems, directly – physically and indirectly- mentally and emotionally.

Now, chronic stress as stated before can over-activate the sympathetic system such causing pain and tension along the spinal cord up into the neck and shoulder areas. This constriction prevents the free-flow of what we call ‘qi’ in Chinese medicine. From our perspective, there are four channels or meridians that run parallel to the spinal column. These are known as the bladder meridians. Now as an organ, the bladder itself is called the ‘Minister of the resevoir’. It is responsible for storing and excreting urinary waste products passed down from the kidneys, but as an energy system the bladder system is directly related to the autonomic nervous system via the four parallel channels to the spinal cord.

These four channels run from head to toe. Acupuncture stimulation and Chinese massage can induce total relaxation by instructing the autonomic nervous system into its normal parasympathetic mode. As you can see from above, the autonomic system has many functions, as do the bladder meridians. That means that not only stiff muscles, back injuries, or stress induced nervous tension in the musculature can be treated, it means the vital organs and overall functioning of the body can be treated via these meridians and their points, known as ‘back shu’ points.

Quite often these points can be used alongside the front points of the body for a treatment. However, your acupuncturist will determine the treatment you require. But, if you do carry tension, you know you are stressed in your life, then why not ask your acupuncturist for a treatment on your back for this? You’ll be amazed at the results.

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