Anxiety That Hurts
By Sara Calabro
Love is in the air. So is anxiety.
For many people, Valentine’s 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 patient’s 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 syndrome—but no effective treatment options. Trigger-point acupuncture can help alleviate this clog in our healthcare system.
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, acupuncture may offer a solution that can’t be found in the ER—no matter how long you wait.
Photo by Sara Calabro