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One recent study at Yale University looked at close to 100 mothers of children who needed to undergo surgery. About half of the mothers underwent acupuncture 30 minutes before the surgery was scheduled. Those moms were found to have significantly less anxiety about their child's surgery than the moms who didn't undergo acupuncture -- and with calmer moms, many of the kids were less anxious, too. In studies at the University of Maryland, doctors have found that acupuncture can decrease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (a stress-related illness) in animals; studies are ongoing to see if similar results can be found in people.
"Acupuncture helps to bring the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, into normal ranges in the blood and it increases the levels of certain neurotransmitters like endorphins that have a feel-good effect on the body," says Brian Berman, MD, Director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland. "If you know you are about to embark on a stressful event, you could also have acupuncture done preventatively," Dr. Berman says. "Most people start having it done once a week for about 30 minutes, but as your body adjusts, once a month is usually enough to keep in balance."
No time for an acupuncture appointment, especially at the height of a crisis? Dr. Berman says you may get similar benefits on a smaller scale by performing self-acupressure. Instead of having needles inserted at key points in your body as in acupuncture, you press firmly on those same points and hold for about 30 seconds at a time. Here, five helpful acupressure points:
Originally published on LHJ.com, February 2008.