About Martin Dean

Acupuncturist and University Lecturer Martin Dean has over 20 years clinical experience. He has a specialist interest in treating fertility issues and is also a founder member of Zita West's Network for Reproductive Health so you not only get the benefit of Martin's individual expertise but, through the network, the experience of Zita and her colleagues. In his spare time he practices tai chi to promote calmness and maintain health.

Why Are You Taking My Pulse?

The question ‘why are you taking my pulse?’ is perhaps one of the most disarming questions a naive patient can ask an acupuncture practitioner during a treatment. Naturally any question a patient asks is welcome, but this one has the potential for a very long conversation. In case you are unaware, pulse diagnosis oriental style involves feeling the pulse in three different positions on each wrist and, depending on the practitioner’s style may be repeated more or less frequently during the session. It is a way of gaining information about the patient’s state of health and monitoring the effects of treatment. Although referred to in earlier times, the first really systematic discussion of this technique is to be found in ‘The Pulse Classic’ written by Wange Shuhe in the 3rd century ad.why are you taking my pulse?

The problem is that most acupuncturists have trained for three years or more then spend the rest of their days of clinical practice perfecting their pulse technique. They forget that other people have not.  It may be compared to learning the piano in the sense that mastery is a lifelong process. ‘How do we distinguish a wiry pulse from a thready pulse’ and ‘what is a drumskin pulse’? So how on earth do I keep the answer to our question simple? How about :-

  • By reading the pulse I can figure out what is happening inside your body.
  • It is a little like the diagnostic test on your car engine.
  • I am checking the flow in your acupuncture meridians.
  • I am monitoring the progress of treatment.

In truth these answers are helpful but quite reasonably folks want more. Wouldn’t you?

One answer I feel comfortable with is – pulse diagnosis  tells me how you’re doing at this time and when I put the needles in the pulse reading changes. It is the nature of that change that tells me whether or not we are stepping in the right direction.

What do you think?

How Can Acupuncture Help Fertility

I am asked this question an awful lot –  how can acupuncture help fertility – so I thought I’d take the time to share some answers.

Firstly it is important to say that although acupuncture may on occasion help with infertility, most of the work I do is associated with subfertility. Thus we are looking at ways to improve or boost fertility, which obviously suggests a range of function. When talking to my patients about fertility issues I often refer to the 2012 olympic cycling team and the principle of marginal gains. There was no single aspect of cycling that led to so many medals being won – it was more about the accumulative effect of many small factors.

Can Acupuncture Help Fertility

In the same way, many of my fertility patients come to me with test results that rule out any major factors and yet they are not able to get pregnant. Acupuncture can be used to deal with a number of smaller factors. I often think of it as an ‘enabler’ in the sense that it can often make other treatments work better.

Acording to the British Acupuncture Council  acupuncture can help by regulating fertility hormones, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs, increasing egg production, normalising prolactin and cortisol levels, and promoting embryo implantation.

Here is an example which illustrates ‘marginal gains’. Jo (not her real name) came to me having been unable to get pregnant after three years trying. She has a stressful job as a school teacher and has difficulty sleeping. She skips breakfast regularly and often reports feeling cold. On examination her lower abdomen was noticeably colder than above her navel. She was also fatigued much of the time, especialy when she was on her period.

I worked with her on these aspects – we were able to demonstrably improve the circulation in her lower abdomen during the first session. Her husband (who was present in the treatment room) was amazed! I was able to help her deal better with her stress, and she gradually began to feel more energised. Four months later she was over the moon to report a positive pregnancy test!

How Much Water Should I Drink

How much water should I drink? As an acupuncturist I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked this question.How much water should I drink

In order to answer this we will first take a look at why drinking enough water is so important, and then examine how to judge the right intake for you.

Water is an essential part of the functioning of every cell in your body (after all each of us is made up of between 50 and 75% water). You lose water every day through essential functions such as sweating, breathing, urinating and opening your bowels. The amount of you lose is dependent on factors such as climate and how much you exercise (and hence how much you sweat). This can vary from day to day and from season to season. A common recommendation is to drink around 2 litres of water or other fluid every day. Some adults however may need more or less, depending on individual circumstances.

Most intake is derived from beverages (water is best as there are no impurities to filter out), although some can be derived from the food we eat. Watermelon and lettuce are obvious examples of food with high water content.

How much water should I drink

Signs that you are not drinking enough may include:-

  • A dry mouth, perhaps accompanied by a sticky taste
  • Dry skin
  • Dry eyes
  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Constipation (lack of lubrication in the intestines)
  • Hunger pangs (when you are dehydrated your body sometimes thinks it needs food)
  • Premature aging

And finally one obvious sign to look for is reduced urination. If you go to the toilet 4-7 times a day you’re probably not drinking enough. This is particularly relevant if your urine is dark yellow in colour and/or strong smelling (aside from the first visit in the morning).

So what is the best strategy? How much water should you drink? A recent article in the Independent (15th July 2015) gave the following advice,

For most healthy people, drinking little and often throughout the day is the best approach. Drink a little more, but not too much, when it’s hot or you are exercising. Listen to your body and it will let you know whether you are drinking too much or too little. But don’t be afraid to seek medical advice if anything seems out of the ordinary.

From a dietary point of view Chinese dietary therapy guru Daverick Leggett advises us :-

To include more lubricating foods which are foods with high water content and mucilage content.

In this capacity he suggests marrow and most fruits (in particular pears) but you could also include moister methods of cooking such as soups and stews. Or you could simply cook your breakfast porridge a little thinner.


The Acupuncture Pain Centre

Chinese Brushstrokes

Written Chinese brushstrokes are essentially pictures. For example the character for yin depicts the shady side of a hill, and that for yang the sunny side of the same hill. This leads to a whole range of descriptive metaphors for the processes of life (such as day and night).

I swim suffused in purest sun
Bathe my soul on my emperor hillChinese Brushstrokes
A picnic spread upon the rug
Birdsong rolling through my heart

I am brushstroke on paper
I am Yang
I am light I am heaven
I am rising I am restless
I am growth I am summer
I am male, I am you.


I close my eyes and my thoughts fall away
Into shadow on this emperor hill
Gripped by river sleep and
Drawn into the tent of night

I am brushstroke on paper
I am Yin
I am darkness, I am earth
I am falling I am still
I am moon I am winter
I am female I am you.

We are couple we are dancing
Hand in hand, eye to eye
Co-dependant, intertwined
I am you and you are me
We are Yin and we are Yang.

Chinese Brushstrokes (c) M. Dean 2016


Acupuncture Tales From The Treatment Couch

Here is the latest in the occasional series, Acupuncture Tales From The Treatment Couch. We discuss what will happen during that crucial first acupuncture session? What should I expect to happen on the treatment couch?

For what must be an unfamiliar situation for some, here is a typical scenario. It is based on a patient with tennis elbow, a painful condition of the elbow which can cause loss of grip, and an inability to perform everyd

Acupuncture Tales From The Treatment Couchay tasks such as opening drawers and pouring tea.

During the initial consultation with your acupuncturist you will be asked lots of questions about your problem. How did it start, when did it start, how does it feel, what does the condition prevent you from doing? It is also helpful for the practitioner to know what makes the condition better and what makes it worse. Did you try applying heat, is the soreness better or worse for rubbing? The answers to these will help to formulate the most effective acupuncture treatment strategy for you.

Following this you will be asked questions about your general health and lifestyle. What do you do for a living, do you open your bowels every day, are you a hot person? Such questions can help to pinpoint any underlying factors. For example if you tend towards poor circulation in your hands, you may be more prone to arm muscle strain in cold weather. In this case careful application of heat may be of great benefit as part of your treatment.

Phyical assessment of the injury may involve testing specific movements of your affected arm, and pressing for tender points. These tests are important in establishing a baseline before treatment starts.

So what about treatment itself? This may involve the insertion of hair-fine needles, the application of moxa herb to warm the tissues, massage and other acupuncture related techniques. Electrical stimulation may also be used to enhance the overall effect.

At stages during treatment, tender areas may be pressed again and any lessening of sensitivity noted. Range of movement may be similarly retested. Any improvement is an encouraging factor, though recovery is not always apparent straight away (especially during the first session or two).

And finally a word about expectations. I often remark that acupuncture treatment is like building a house – you lay the foundations first and then apply the bricks course by course. The casual bystander may not notice any sign of the housebuilding until the first few courses have been laid. Don’t be afraid to ask your practitioner how things are progressing.

Acupuncture Awareness Week

According to a report released to mark Acupuncture Awareness Week (7th-13th March 2016), almost three in ten Brits exercise more now than they did ten years ago, more than half have been injured during sport in the past, with one in three never recovering from their injuries.

Acupuncture awareness week is as it sounds, the opportunity for you to find out more about what is becoming an increasingly popular way to overcome some of the hurdles life can put in your way.

Acupuncture Awareness Week

Read the big stories, including how Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington has used acupuncture to put injury behind her. We ask what is acupuncture, who has acupuncture, and how can acupuncture help me?

And finally, to help you make an informed choice, we at The Acupuncture Centre in Bramcote, Nottingham are offering FREE 15 minute consulations for the whole week. This is a great opportunity for you to meet the acupuncturist Martin Dean and ask those questions that really matter to you.

Call 07969 41 31 58 to book your appointment.



Does Acupuncture Hurt And Other Questions

Our patients are naturally curious, especially about something as unfamiliar as traditional acupuncture. The questions they ask are straightforward, but the answers we offer them are often far from simple (after all we have spent much time and money studying the subject). A key part of my job as a practitioner is to explain unfamiliar concepts in familiar terms (it is something I constantly refine). An ancient Chinese text reminds us that

“so much of all illness begins in the mind, and the ability to persuade the patient to change the course of perception and feeling to aid in the healing process is a requirement of a good physician.”

Here are the top five questions patients tend to ask.

  1. Do the needles hurt?
Does Acupuncture Hurt And Other Questions

Five Common Questions About Acupuncture

Prospective patients often hesitate over this issue before picking up the phone, but like many things in life this is usually an overstated anxiety. When given by appropriately trained practitioners (such as British Acupuncture Council registered individuals) needle insertion is usually accompanied by rather mild sensations.

See earlier blog post on this topic

  1. Are you familiar with treating my condition?

This boils down to the question “how can I be sure of choosing the right practitioner”?

Ask about professional qualifications and status. The British Acupuncture Council is the UK’s largest regulatory body for practitioners of traditional acupuncture with around 3,000 members .

Ask how long they have been in practice. The more experienced the acupuncturist is, the more likely it will be that they have already treated someone with your condition. Ask them about their success rate. Perhaps this is a condition they specialise in. If not then have they treated something similar? Do they have an understanding of your symptoms? How they might be able to help? Can you communicate with this person?

The British Acupuncture Council have a series of fact sheets which provide accurate and un-biased information for a variety of conditions.

  1. How many sessions will I need?

This is often difficult to judge at the outset since everyone is different.  There are however some rules of thumb that can be helpful.

The first step is to book an initial consultation with your chosen practitioner so he can assess your circumstances. From this he will be able to suggest some pointers which will help you to build a roadmap to recovery.

For example you might expect to start feeling more refreshed after sleep, experience milder premenstrual mood swings or feel more energised. Each can indicate progress towards the main goal. Ask about expectations – does he expect you to make a full recovery? Does this feel right to you?

Initial treatment may be given weekly or twice weekly until symptoms begin to stabilize, then will be offered less frequently until the main treatment goal is reached.

  1. Why don’t you stick it where it hurts?

“I have come with a back problem, so why are you putting needles in my feet?”

See earlier blog post on this topic

  1. How did you get into acupuncture in the first place?

Men and women train in this field for various reasons. Some are so impressed by their experience of receiving acupuncture treatment that they have an ‘aha’ moment. Others are interested by the philosophy behind acupuncture and see it as a way of changing the world. Some have an overriding desire to help their fellow human beings. Often it is a combination of these.

In my case it was intense curiosity that drove me to read every book on the subject. If acupuncture was so good and had been around for hundreds of years, how come it wasn’t routinely available from my GP? I spent fifteen years working as an electronics engineer in the telecommunications industry, and this question was still with me when considering the option of career change.

Taking a three year degree (or degree equivalent) course is no easy option, but the rewards are tremendous! Nothing matches the thrill of helping someone to get their life back or to become pregnant after years of trying.

CT Scans Reveal Acupuncture Points

Modern research is finally catching up with ancient Chinese techniques as CT scans reveal acupuncture points.

A recent study by Chinese researchers at the University of Fudan has revealed distinct anatomical structures around acupuncture points. This follows on from the findings of previous studies (using techniques such as MRI and infrared imaging) and show that in repeated experiments, acupuncture points and acupuncture channels are scientifically measurable phenomena.

The measurements published in The Journal of Electron Spectroscopy and Related Phenomena used state of the art CT (computerised tomography) scans to reveal a clear distinction between the structures of acupuncture points and non-acupuncture points. Using a hind limb of a rabbit (which has acu-points similar to a human being) they were able to see an increase in the density of micro-vessels around points St36 and St37 when compared to that of non acupuncture areas.

CT Scans Reveal Acupuncture Points

CT Scans Reveal Acupuncture Points

They concluded that “our results demonstrated again the existence of acupoints, and also show that acupoints are special points in mammals.”

Another recent study which took a look at partial oxygen pressure variations at different locations on the inside of the wrist showed distict correlations with the locations of classic acupoints (see accompanying image).



NICE Recommends Acupuncture

Here we take a look at why NICE recommends acupuncture, and summarise the evidence for its use.

NICE Recommends Acupuncture

NICE Recommends Acupuncture For Migraines, Back Pain and Tension-Type Headaches

Did you know that in the UK NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommends Acupuncture for the treatment of migraines, headaches and back pain on the NHS. Some GP practices offer integrated healthcare that includes acupuncture, but this is not yet commonplace. As an alternative, many people choose to go pay for acupuncture privately.

With over 3,000 members the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) is the UK’s largest regulatory body for practitioners of traditional acupuncture. The BAcC is a founder member of the Professional Standards Accredited Voluntary Register (AVR) and maintains high standards of training, safe practice and professional conduct.

Many company health insurance schemes will cover treatment provided by British Acupuncture Council members – we suggest you read the small print.

The following is a brief review of available evidence for the treatment of three common conditions with acupuncture.

Back Pain

Back pain can affect anyone at any age and most people will suffer from it at some point in their lives. It is the UK’s leading cause of disability and one of the main reasons for work-related sickness absence.

According to the Acupuncture Research Resource Centre, ‘research has shown that acupuncture is significantly better than no treatment and at least as good as (if not better than) standard medical care for back pain. It appears to be particularly useful as an adjunct to conventional care, for patients with more severe symptoms and for those wishing to avoid analgesic drugs’.

NICE clinical guideline 88 makes recommendations for the early management of persistent non-specific low back pain (ie pain that has lasted for more than 6 weeks, but for less than 12 months). Their recommendation is for up to 10 sessions of acupuncture over 12 weeks.

In addition to needle therapy, it is common for traditional acupuncturists to use cupping, moxa therapy (i.e. warming), auriculotherapy, adjunctive electrostimulation, dietary advice, massage and exercises according to the patient’s individual characteristics.


Migraine is a primary headache disorder manifesting as recurring attacks, usually lasting for 4 to 72 hours and involving pain of moderate to severe intensity (IHS 2004).

According to the Acupuncture Research Resource Centre, ‘research has shown that there have now been many controlled trials of acupuncture for migraine, with some large, high-quality ones in recent years. The results of the latest reviews are quite consistent: acupuncture is significantly better than no treatment/basic care for managing migraine, and appears to be at least as effective as prophylactic drug therapy, with few contraindications or unpleasant side effects’.

NICE Recommends Acupuncture

NICE Recommends Acupuncture For Migraines

According to the NICE clinical summary on migraines in adults, ‘evidence suggests that the addition of acupuncture to treatment of acute migraine attacks or to routine care is beneficial for at least 3 months, and that acupuncture is better than evidence-based prophylactic drug treatment’.

They recommend the use of acupuncture for up to 10 sessions over a course of 5 to 8 weeks as second-line prophylactic treatment. They also found that when 10 sessions are provided, acupuncture is more cost-effective to the NHS than no treatment.

Tension-Type Headaches

Tension-type headache is the term used for infrequent and frequent episodic, as well as chronic, tension-type headaches. They occur in up to around 80% of the UK adult population, and are more prevalent in women.

The Acupuncture Research Resource Centre states that ‘evidence from the most up-to-date and highest quality systematic review showed that there are clinically relevant benefits of adding acupuncture to routine care and also a statistical advantage of ‘true’ acupuncture over sham interventions’.

Although they go on to assert that current evidence is as yet insufficient to strongly support the use of acupuncture for treating tension-type headaches, NICE state that ‘because they found very little evidence to support the use of pharmacological prophylaxis, this evidence was sufficient to recommend its use’. Hence ‘a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture over 5–8 weeks is recommended.


The Acupuncture Pain Centre.co.uk

Acupuncture Research Resource Centre

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

British Acupuncture Council

Look After Your Kidneys

Look after your kidneys – they are vital to good health. According to Chinese medicine the organs of the body are more than just the fleshy parts – they are viewed as a complete system having a number of vital regulatory functions.

Look After Your Kidneys

Look After Your Kidneys

For example, the kidneys look after growth, reproduction and development. They look after the lumbar back and the legs and of course govern the water functions of the body.

In general looking after your kidneys is vital to having a long and healthy life.

How do I know when my kidneys are weak?

When your kidneys are weak, the following symptoms can arise (even though a conventional kidney function test shows normal):-

  • Lower back weakness and pain, which may be worse when tired. This is often accompanied by sore knees
  • Night sweats leading to dizziness, insomnia a dry mouth and dark urine
  • Frequent urination, day or night
  • Impotence or low libido in men
  • Delayed periods (longer than 30 days) in women
  • Lack of energy and poor concentration and memory
  • Oedema, especially in the legs. Usually accompanied by feeling cold.

How Can I Look After My Kidneys?

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Avoid overwork and get adequate rest. Find the right work-life balance.
  • Don’t overuse your back
  • Avoid excessive sexual activity
  • Avoid walking barefoot on cold floors (as exposure to cold in this way can impair kidney function)
  • Eat a diet rich in kidney nourishing foods (see below)

Kidney Nourishing Foods

Foods that can nourish your kidneys are often dark (or black) in colour. These can include black beans, black walnuts, but also foods from the sea such as seaweed, fish, kelp and sushi.

Finally don’t forget that your friendly British Acupuncture Council registered acupuncturist will be able to offer advice and treatment to benefit your kidneys.


Call 07969 41 3158



The Stony Ground Gets All The Blame

In her best selling novel Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel writes about Anne Boleyn’s inability to conceive a male heir for king Henry VIII. The main character Thomas Cromwell remarks thus:-

Have you ever observed that when a man gets a son he takes all the credit, and when he gets a daughter he blames his wife?

The stony ground gets all the blameAlmost 500 years later it is still a common occurence for the female partner to pick up the phone and book in for fertility acupuncture treatment. It is a truly modern couple where the male partner makes the first move.

Thomas Cromwell continues:-

And if they do not breed at all, we say it is because her womb is barren. We do not say it is because his seed is bad.

It’s the same in the gospels. The stony ground gets the blame – responds the other character.

It is too often the case that in modern fertility medicine, the female partner is offered a battery of investigations – blood tests to measure hormones at various phases of her cycle, antibody tests, ultrasound scans, and biopsies. The man on the other hand gives a sperm sample which is likely to be judged largely on the basis of whether the sperm can swim in a straight line or not!

In Chinese medicine there is a saying that women are ten times more complicated than men. Gender stereotypes aside, this may go some way to explain why women have historically been given more tests than men, but fortunately for the male modern science is beginning to redress the balance.

According to one leading analysis lab – while a conventional semen analysis test will reveal basic problems – like not enough sperm – the quality of the sperm can only be assessed by looking at its DNA. We have now shown that up to 80% of couples with unexplained infertility have problems in their sperm DNA.

This is frankly shocking! According to them, such issues can often be resolved through lifestyle changes. As a modern society we therefore need to recognise that the problem isn’t always with the ‘stony ground’ and act accordingly.

Men – it’s in your hands.