DE-STRESS: Fight Stress and Relax Your Mind and Body with the Help of Chinese Medicine


by Kai-Chang Chan

Do you often feel like you have a stiff neck, tight muscles and a racing heart? These are clear symptoms of stress. Stress is our instinctive response to the threats in our environment. In primitive humans, stress developed as an instinctive response to the threats of nature, such as the dangers of wild animals and starvation. However, today stress is more likely to be a response to the many challenges of modern life, such as our finances, work and social problems. 

Our bodies respond to stressful events by activating our sympathetic nervous system, which alerts us to either fight or flee from dangers. Traditional Chinese medicine can remedy the harmful impact of stress to relax your heart and mind and improve your health and wellness.

When we encounter danger, our body produces stress in three successive stages:

First, in the alarm stage, our central nervous system is aroused and our body’s defenses are mobilized.

Second, in the resistance stage, this mobilization of our bodily defenses causes us to respond with either a fight or flight response.

Third, in the exhaustion stage, continuous stress causes our compensatory mechanisms to breakdown as we become exhausted.

We know that diseases develop when the balance and equilibrium of the body is not restored in the second stage.

Traditional Chinese medicine is a holistic theory of medicine. Practitioners of Chinese medicine diagnose patients by considering not merely one organ, but rather the mutual interaction between all of the organs of the body. Acupuncturists understand the human and natural world to be inseparably conjoined. Illness and health are the results of dynamic interactions between persons, society and their environment.

The balance between the physical and psychological aspects of our lives is the key to maintaining the holistic health of our body. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine by Huangdi Neijing describes how, “… our body will generate seven emotions to harm our body from the inside.” When our minds suffer from stress, these psychological harms are transformed into physical harms that injure our bodies.

Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that stress causes tight muscles, a stiff neck, shoulder pain and headaches. Acupuncture treatment can be used to relax the muscles affected by stress. The sensation of the acupuncturist’s needle is like a deep tissue massage, but much more powerful. Thus, acupuncture treatment can improve circulation, nourish your whole body, and relax your heart and mind. A Chinese medical physician may also prescribe herbs to relax your muscles and calm your mind.

THSUKai-Chang Chan, MSAOM/LICAC, is a licensed professional acupuncturist who graduated with honors from the Texas Health and Science University. He currently teaches classes in San Antonio for the THSU master’s/bachelor’s degree programs in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. To learn more, visit



A new collaboration between University of the Incarnate Word and the Texas Health and Science University, based in Austin, is bringing the opportunity for a master’s degree in acupuncture much closer to home. THSU begins offering summer classes towards their master’s degree in acupuncture and Oriental medicine on May 7 at UIW’s Saidoff Center campus, where UIW’s physical therapy program is based. The collaboration between the two universities is designed in part to benefit UIW students preparing for degrees in physical therapy and other medical fields.


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