Holistic remedies like acupuncture and massage offer many advantages. They’re natural, have minimal side effects, and are accessible to more people than traditional Western specialist treatments. Both modalities work well for stress, but which is better? 

The two practices have similarities and differences, and it’s not all about the needles. However, your preferences can affect which technique you find more relaxing. Learning about the various benefits can assuage fears and may pave the road to the deep healing you deserve. In the battle of acupuncture versus massage for stress relief, which emerges as the winner? 

Acupuncture vs. Massage for Stress 

Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the living room — if you’re afraid of needles, you’ll probably consider a massage the better bet. However, while acupuncture and massage have similar benefits, there are differences beyond the pinpricks. You don’t want to deny yourself potential relief — learning about what to expect from each treatment can help you decide which is best for you.

After all, you must decide how to best use your limited resources. Although these treatments are far more accessible than Western medicine if you lack health coverage, they still cost a pretty penny. Your typical acupuncture treatment costs roughly $80 per session, although the initial consult costs $100-$400. Prices for massage are similar. You’ll rarely pay a higher initial fee unless you join a membership club, but select treatments may come with premium costs. 

1. Unique Benefits of Acupuncture

When deciding whether to use acupuncture or massage for stress, examine the cause of your tension. Does it stem from environmental stressors, like a micromanaging boss or a toxic partner? Or does your condition relate to chronic illness? 

Anxiety and ongoing pain conditions often go hand in hand, as the high cost of health care in America is a major source of stress. However, acupuncture offers unique benefits for multiple chronic conditions, giving you a one-two punch of healing goodness. It can be useful for the following:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Lower back pain 
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Post-operative pain 
  • Dental pain 

Some people even use acupuncture to induce labor. It can widen your cervical opening, signaling your body to begin delivery. 

How acupuncture works depends on who you ask. According to Eastern practitioners, it stimulates the flow of “chi” or vital energy. Western scientists suspect that needle manipulation activates nerve fibers to send specific signals to your brain. 

Acupuncture releases endorphins, nature’s painkillers. You also produce these during exercise, but stress can leave you too exhausted to work out. When you undergo an acupuncture treatment, you lie back and relax. Don’t be surprised if you quickly fall into one of the deepest sleeps of your life. 

2. Unique Benefits of Massage

What about the advantages of massage over acupuncture for stress? You already know one big plus if you have a needle phobia — no poke. However, your therapist may use acupressure techniques designed to stimulate similar nerves. 

Another benefit of massage is that you can learn to DIY. While professional therapists undergo nearly a year of training and regular continuing education, you can master the basic strokes. You can even perfect specific techniques like menstrual massage to hone them for your needs. 

What if you’re too tired to give yourself a rub? You can find specially-made devices that make the job easier, with adjustable strength levels to provide the precise pressure you desire. Are you partnered? Practicing different techniques with each other can increase your bond. 

It’s worth it to get a professional massage whenever possible. You can select from various modalities to best suit your health needs, such as: 

  • Swedish 
  • Hot stone
  • Aromatherapy
  • Sports
  • Deep tissue
  • Shiatsu
  • Thai
  • Reflexology 
  • Acupressure
  • Lymphatic drainage 
  • Cranial-sacral therapy 
  • Myofascial release 

Like acupuncture, massage activates your parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the side of your autonomic system that tells you to rest and digest. Many people today have an overactive sympathetic nervous system that leads to negative health effects, increasing the release of inflammatory hormones like cortisol and elevating physical signs of stress. Tapping into your autonomic nervous system’s opposite side can restore balance and spur deep healing. 

Are There Any Downsides to Using Acupuncture and Massage for Stress? 

There’s one advantage both acupuncture and massage for stress share — they have few side effects. You don’t need to worry about how they interfere with other medications you may take.

Massage may be your best bet if you can’t overcome your fear of needles. After all, your body can create a negative feedback loop when under stress — your brain interprets your elevated heart rate and sweating as reasons for further panic. While acupuncture needles are thin filaments you barely feel, it’s okay if you can’t overcome your hesitation. Talk to your massage therapist about using acupressure techniques to reap similar benefits without the poke. 

Are there any downsides to massage? There can be if you have a trauma history. Talk to your therapist if touching certain parts of your body triggers you — they should respect your wishes. You might even choose a “safe word” before you begin treatment that you can use to signal your discomfort and need to stop. Choose your therapist carefully, as having them respect your firm “no” can be deeply healing in itself. 

Side Effects of Acupuncture and Massage 

Most people who undergo massage or acupuncture for stress have zero side effects. The only change is an improvement in their overall well-being. Those that do occur are generally mild, including the following:

  • Pain at injection sites
  • Bleeding at injection sites
  • Dizziness or feeling faint 
  • Fatigue or sleepiness
  • Lingering soreness, especially after a deep tissue massage
  • Temporary increase in inflammation

Acupuncture Versus Massage for Stress 

Which is better for stress — acupuncture or massage? The answer depends on you. Acupuncture and massage offer decided benefits for stress, such as helping you relax and easing the pain of chronic conditions. Explore holistic treatments from Myobuddy today and feel better.