Stress Relief through Acupuncture: Q&A with Dr. Christina Captain
by Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
Stress does not always take the form of mental and emotional turbulence. In many cases, it can also manifest as physical tension. When this occurs, you might experience issues like joint or muscle soreness, headaches or migraines, and other sources of chronic pain or discomfort. The trouble is, however, stress can often feel inescapable in our busy, fast-paced lives.
As summer wanes into autumn, and you swap out that beach vacation for a calendar full of work and school activities, it’s not uncommon to notice your stress accelerating in response. But while stress itself is part of life, the painful or uncomfortable symptoms of stress don’t have to be. Lasting relief is available from an unlikely but effective source: Acupuncture.
In this month’s Community Spotlight, Dr. Christina Captain, board-certified Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM), is here to shed light on the all stress-reducing benefits of acupuncture. As lead practitioner of Sarasota Center for Acupuncture and Nutrition—as well as a longtime contributor to Natural Awakenings—Dr. Captain has a wealth of insight to share on this powerful holistic modality, so let’s dive right in!
Natural Awakenings: This is a hectic time of year—back to school season is in full-swing, and the holidays are just around the corner. How can acupuncture provide relief from both the physical and mental effects of stress, from headaches to general tension?
Dr. Christina Captain: Acupuncture is well-known to reduce the impacts of stress, which is what also makes it so beneficial for treating anxiety. I mean, how often do you get 30 minutes of uninterrupted “me” time? This quiet time alone has its own set of health benefits.
Acupuncture releases neurotransmitters such as endorphins and enkephalins. These brain chemicals induce feelings of wellness and pain relief. I believe that acupuncture can activate the release of other chemicals too, such as dopamine and serotonin. As a result, acupuncture can be used to treat mild symptoms of depression, including postpartum. It could also have a role in balancing hormones and resolving menstrual and menopausal issues.
Because of this, we often see women particularly respond to acupuncture treatments, but the stress-relieving benefits are for everyone. Acupuncture is a major player in the treatment of chronic pain and tension—especially headaches or migraines. Bottom line: When you reduce stress with acupuncture, you’ll feel so much better.
NA: What sets acupuncture apart from some of the more conventional or mainstream methods of treating those symptoms? In addition to using acupuncture as a standalone therapy, how effective is it as an adjunct to other healthcare modalities?
Dr. Captain: What makes acupuncture such an excellent healing modality is that, unlike some medications and hormone replacement therapies, it will not cause any known negative side-effects. Not only is acupuncture benign, it can also produce highly effective results.
With that said, I also love integration, and in my own practice, I have found that a combination of treatments is sometimes the best method to care for a patient. I believe no healthcare practitioner should think their specialization is the only option that works. It's helpful to use an integrative team approach.
One example of this is treating post-surgical joint pain. Integrate acupuncture into the treatment plan, and a patient will feel relief almost immediately. It almost seems like a miracle, but it’s just how acupuncture sparks the human body’s innate abilities to heal.
NA: For those who are unfamiliar with acupuncture but are curious to learn more about it, how does this treatment specifically work? Which types of acupuncture does your practice offer, how many sessions are usually advisable, and which factors do you take into account when developing a treatment protocol for each of your clients?
Dr. Captain: Acupuncture works in all sorts of different ways. We provide acupuncture in any form that a patient needs to receive it. Our team is trained in numerous styles of acupuncture, from Korean to Chinese to Japanese. Our modalities also include injection therapies, electro-acupuncture, ear acupuncture and laser acupuncture—we also offer painless sessions.
In my practice, we evaluate each patient according to their specific needs, as well as the duration of the problem they want to improve or resolve. We’ll then determine the number of sessions during that initial assessment. However, I would estimate that we cannot expect to see any real, lasting improvements without a minimum of 10 sessions.
NA: In addition to helping relieve stress and tension, what other health challenges can acupuncture be used to treat? What would you tell someone who currently needs relief from one of these ailments, but is hesitant to try acupuncture for themselves?
Dr. Captain: Acupuncture is a rockstar at helping to resolve chronic pain from any source including osteoarthritis, peripheral neuropathy, post-herpetic neuropathy (pain from shingles), failed surgeries, fertility issues (either with or without reproductive endocrinology treatments), headaches, migraines, menstrual or menopausal issues, and the residual effects of COVID or any post-viral illness, just to name a few of its numerous applications.
Acupuncture has become much more mainstream than it was 23 years ago when I first started practice. However, if anyone is still hesitant to experience this modality for themselves, I would encourage them to call our office for a new patient consultation. I would also urge them to look for these five qualifications before choosing an acupuncturist:
Make sure they have a doctorate-level education in acupuncture, signified by the DAOM (advanced practice doctorate or DACM first professional doctorate).
Confirm they are a licensed acupuncturist—not some other healthcare practitioner. This distinction should be prominently visible in their office.
Check to see if they hold an NCCAOM professional acupuncturist board certification.
Take into account their experience, treatment success and number of years in practice.
Visit their office to meet in person and to see if you click.
Dr. Christina Captain, DAOM, MSAOM, MSHN, MA, AP, is the owner and lead practitioner of Sarasota Center for Acupuncture and Nutrition. Her practice is located at 2650 Bahia Vista Street, Suite 101, Sarasota. For more information or to schedule a patient consultation, call 941-951-1119 or visit https://www.sarasotacenterforacupunctureandnutrition.com/
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota–Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger and social media marketer. Her personal blog HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com features tips for embracing an active, nutritious, balanced and empowered lifestyle.