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Home > Newsletters > May 2006 > Acupuncture, Tai Chi and Stress Management

Acupuncture, Tai Chi and Stress Management

By Bill Reddy, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

Since 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 Generalized 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; for Maryland, go to For tai chi instruction, go to and 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 .


This Month's Articles

May 2006
Volume 4, Number 5

Asthma and Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture, Tai Chi and Stress Management

Dietary Guidelines for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Recent Research

Ask The Doctor

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