Acupuncture for Anxiety in a Nursing Home

Acupuncture for Anxiety in a Nursing HomeAcupuncture is a highly mobile treatment that can help people suffering from anxiety wherever they are. While visiting someone in her nursing home yesterday, there was a bit of staff confusion regarding medication prescription and the patient was anxious. She had just been released back to the nursing home from the hospital and family members were visiting. The hospital staff couldn’t provide this patient with her normal anti-anxiety medication and, as the patient grew increasingly anxious, acupuncture methods were helpful to reduce blood pressure, soothe breathing, allow rest.

It all started when the patient was moved back into the nursing home and a change in doctor required new medical orders be updated before anxiety medications could be released. Modern medicine, great though it can be, is still riddled with opportunities for miscommunication. The anti-anxiety medication hadn’t been prescribed on the release paperwork although it had been in use for years prior. While the staff made numerous phone calls trying to get the prescription, the patient meantime grew more anxious, frustrated over the staff’s inability to help her. Her blood pressure and heart rate elevated, she started getting red in the face and her breathing became more labored, all very troubling signs for an older person connected to medical machinery in a hospital bed in a nursing room. Nurse efforts to verbally calm the patient were ineffective.

I was asked to provide acupuncture to help relieve the patient’s anxiety. Acupuncture theory holds that acupuncture points can be stimulated in many ways- needles do not need to be used. The acupuncture methods to help relieve the situation involved first using hands-on trigger point holding of hegu or LI4 (large intestine 4). This acupuncture point, located on the fleshy hill of skin between the thumb and index finger, is commonly used for relaxation. It can be needled or, as in this setting, digital pressure can be applied and the point held for a minute or two. As the point was held, the woman’s breathing slowed, her heart rate slowed and her blood pressure showed signs of lowering. Next, an ear point called shenmen was stimulated with finger pressure for a moment, then a ear seed of sorts was made out of a bandaid adhesive and salt to be placed over the point for continual ear pressure. Auricultherapy or acupuncture using ear points is especially vital and useful in many acupuncture prescriptions. As the woman relaxed, a last point XB6 as held. The point xinbiao 6 is known to build yin or relaxation when touched or stimulated. Located 3 cun or fingerbreadths from the proximal wrist crease, XB6 is another frequently chosen acupoint for its potent effect on the system.

A skilled acupuncturist can provide care to a patient in a variety of settings, with or without needles. Patients and their caregivers can be educated to self-apply digital pressure or even apply healing herbs on acupoints to achieve treatment goals, in this way keeping anxiety and other situations under control at least until proper medical care can be provided. Some people, willing to learn self-care methods, might even be able to avoid or reduce medications even under their physician’s care.

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