Acupuncture may be the key to your stress- and a number of associated health problems

One’s reaction to stress is mediated by the hypothalamus -pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA)


What is the hypothalamus -pituitary-adrenal axis?

The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, secretes hormones that regulate the body’s response to stress as well as regulating digestion, the immune system, emotions, sexuality and energy metabolism.

It is also involved in the “flight or fight” response to acute stress, which results in constriction of blood flow and in the case of chronic stress, causes elevated blood pressure and heart disease.

What is the role of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal  axis in stress?

The hypothalamus, a central part of the brain, releases corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF).

CRF travels to the pituitary gland, where it triggers the release of a hormone, adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH).

ACTH is released into the bloodstream causing the adrenal cortex to release stress hormones, such as cortisol, which is a corticosteroid hormone.

If cortisol levels remain elevated for too long, muscle breaks down, and the immune system becomes suppressed.

Excess cortisol, stress and your health

Stress can manifest itself in a variety of physical and psychological symptoms.

Common physical symptoms of excess stress can include: sleep disturbances, muscle tension, muscle aches, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, fluid retention and high blood pressure.

Symptoms of many pre-existing medical conditions can also worsen during times of stress.

Emotional and behavioral symptoms that can accompany excess stress include nervousness, anxiety, changes in eating habits, irritability and depression.

Acupuncture and stress


Research has shown that acupuncture blocks the chronic stress-induced elevations of the HPA axis hormones and the sympathetic nervous system response, by reducing hormone levels associated with exposure to the stress.

As a result, it can have an effect on the aforementioned stress induced physical and psychological  conditions.

In a study published in  the Journal of  Endocrinology, the  stimulation of just 1 acupuncture point  located below the outside of the knees was found to be effective in blocking the adverse effects of stress.



As western medicine catches up with the East, we may soon be hearing doctors say- “Take two needles and call me in the morning”




About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin