By Bill Reddy, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.
the early 1970’s when the bamboo curtain was lifted, a few jewels of
Chinese culture began to trickle into the west. One specific example of
China’s best-kept secrets is their use of acupuncture and tai chi to
combat stress. Stress can be defined as “What you feel when life’s
demands exceed your ability to meet those demands.” A vast majority
of people living in and around the beltway can identify with the feeling
of being overwhelmed. Job, school, family and social engagements are all
competing for their place on the schedule. Even though most people have
little control over the stressors in their lives, they can actively
change how they respond to them. Signs and symptoms of stress can
include, but are not limited to, tension headaches, sleep disturbances,
hair loss, fatigue, hypertension, palpitation, cold hands and feet, and
immune system suppression. The Chinese see the physical manifestation of
stress as a stagnation or blockage of internal energy, Qi (pronounced “chee”).
Both acupuncture and tai chi are ways to release blockages and allow the
free flow of this energy.
Scientists are still trying to understand
fully the mechanisms of acupuncture, the millennia-old method of
inserting fine hair-like needles into the body to promote health and
well-being. According to a Yale Medical School study involving
fifty-five healthy volunteers, acupuncture was shown to significantly
reduce stress, as measured by blood pressure, state
Anxiety, heart rate,
and electrodermal activity. Additionally, in a double blind,
placebo-controlled study published in 1998, researchers demonstrated
that acupuncture was 85.7% effective at treating patients with
Anxiety Disorder with no negative side effects.
Some experts describe tai chi as “acupuncture without needles.”
Webster’s Collegiate dictionary defines tai chi as “An ancient
Chinese discipline of meditative movements practiced as a system of
exercise,” but the definition completely misses the point about its
practice enabling one to balance their Qi. Tai chi literally translates
into “Supreme Ultimate,” which gives one a sense of how the Chinese view
this art form. Not only does the slow tai chi movement of twisting and
untwisting massage a practitioner’s internal organs and optimize spinal
nerve transmission, but it also reduces key “stress chemicals” in the
body3. In a recent interview, Dr. Lixing Lao, director of University of
Maryland’s complementary and integrative medicine program and tai chi
instructor, said “Not only do I see profound improvement of my tai chi
students’ perception of stress, but also keep my own stress levels at
bay despite my harried schedule of teaching, researching and
publishing.” The combination of acupuncture and tai chi practice is
synergistic, has the greatest effect on reducing stress, and should be
seriously considered in any stress management program. To find a
qualified acupuncturist in Virginia, go to
Maryland, go to
http://www.maryland-acupuncture.org. For tai chi instruction, go to
choose tai chi or tai qi as a keyword.
Bill Reddy is a board certified, licensed acupuncturist who
studied under graduates and professors from Beijing and Shanghai medical
school and is currently the President of the Acupuncture Society of
Virginia. He is a lecturer, researcher, martial artist and qi gong
practitioner and has clinics in Fairfax City and Annandale, Virginia.
His website is http://www.QiMed.com .