Don’t Get Spray Paint on Your Face

Are you finding the government’s current messages a little confusing? If so you are probably not in the minority and here’s why.

In the first phase of lockdown the message was simple and clear. Unless you are an essential worker, stay at home. A straightforward and relatively uncomplicated piece of guidance. The difficulty in releasing lockdown in stages is that the messaging moves from one clear instruction to a range of options and this compels us to carry out frequent risk assessments in order to avoid infection. A big ask? The English government’s message is ‘Stay Alert’ but let’s face it most of us are not skilled in infection control are we? When we go to the supermarket the owners give us clear guidance on how to behave, but what do we do when we use a road crossing? Is it safe to press the button?Don't Get Spray Paint on Your Face

I want to share with you a method I employ for such assessments in my acupuncture practice. To illustrate this I am going to consider two individuals in this Covid-19 transmission scenario and apply it to the road crossing scenario.

  1. I am a spreader of infection and liable to infect others
  2. I pick up an infection from someone else

So imagine if you, person 1 sneeze, only instead of spreading invisible droplets you are spraying bright red paint. How does it get to another person’s face (and hence to their nose or mouth)?

If you are in close proximity to people, such as on public transport this may be obvious (and I’m not going into detail here). If however you are about to cross the road and accidently spray the crossing controls bright red, the next person to touch this button (person 2) will probably smudge it onto their face within minutes. So which practices would make a difference to this transmission chain and avoid someone getting a red face?

If (person 1) you were wearing a face mask or covering when you sneezed the paint would probably be contained. In circumstances where you had no covering but the person who pressed the button (person 2) was wearing gloves (and safely disposed of them after touching it) or washed their hands afterwards, no paint would be transferred to their face. And finally they could of course use their elbow to press the button as they would be unlikely to subsequently touch their elbow to their face.

Not risk free but reduced risk. In my experience sensible and proportionate steps are best when judging everyday situations.

I hope this has been helpful. In the meantime stay safe and don’t get spray paint on your face.

Coronavirus Update to Patients – 15th March 2020

Dear Patient,

Good health is something we need more than ever. I understand the concerns everyone is having around coronavirus at the moment, so I wanted to be clear with you about the steps I am taking in my practice to safeguard your health. This is of course an evolving situation. I will continue to respond to advice from Government and the British Acupuncture Council and keep you informed.

Your Responsibility to Others

In according with public health guidelines, do not present for treatment if you have :-

  • a new, continuous cough
  • high temperature
  • shortness of breath
  • recently returned from a high-risk country

You should follow guidelines on minimising social contact. We must all do our bit to try and slow the spread of this infection, particularly to the vulnerable.

On Arriving for Your Appointment

  • You should refrain from shaking hands
  • Please wash/cleanse your hands
  • I will take your temperature. Unfortunately, I will be unable to treat you if you do have a fever.
  • If you think you have coronavirus you should self-isolate.


My Responsibility to You

I will continue to apply the high standards of hygiene and cleanliness you expect from a British Acupuncture Council registered practitioner. I will implement further changes as and when current advice alters. I am also taking steps to look after myself and will be happy to discuss this with you.

Further Advice

Asthma sufferers

If you have heart or circulatory disease

If you suffer from diabetes


With all my best wishes,


How Can I Improve My Immunity to Infection

As I write this blog the world is in the grip of a pandemic. The UK has 456 confirmed cases of coronavirus and panic buying has stripped the supermarket shelves of essentials such as toilet rolls. I am mindful that the word pandemic contains the word panic.

I read a news article today which highlighted a case of a 103-year-old grandmother who has recovered from coronavirus after 6 days of treatment in Wuhan, China. Her doctor told the local press that ‘she did not have many underlying health conditions.’ She was in a critical condition on arrival and could barely speak.

Said another member of staff, she ‘gradually recovered after being given round-the-clock care and nutrition therapy sessions.’ This got me to thinking about what else I could do to improve my immunity to infection? Aside from good genes and a large dose of luck, did she have any other secrets?

The article also reported that, in the words of the matron ‘the grandmother loved being complimented by the nurses,’ and ‘she would smile and nod every time after I told her she looked pretty.’

Scientific research is revealing the link between positive emotions and a healthy immune system. In one study 350 participants were deliberately given the common cold. Before the experiment researchers asked them to rate their experience of positive emotions. Five days after exposure those who had the highest range of positive emotions also showed the lowest rate of infection.

Deepak Chopra talks about reducing stress, citing the link between exam stress and reduced immunity to illness.

Suggestion: Find time for those activities or beliefs that give you real pleasure?

On the topic of nutrition Chopra also reminds us to look after our gut health, pointing out that our microbiome (gut) is the centre of our immune system. If you wish to read more about this, ‘The Diet Myth’ by Professor Tim Spector is a great starting point.

Suggestion: Prof. Spector recommends improving your gut health through probiotic products such as kefir (fermented yoghurt drink) and kombucha (a fermented tea).

A recent article on trials of Traditional Chinese Medicine to combat COVID-19 in Wuhan shared some of their treatment protocols. The authors were keen to stress that they ‘are not to be used in place of Western medicine, rather they are to be integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan utilizing both Western and Chinese medicine.’ What particularly caught my attention was a proposal for acupuncture treatment for suspected cases, located under the title ‘prevention phase’. The text says that

The purpose is to strengthen the immune system,  to help alleviate early symptoms, and to shorten the duration of the virus.

The approach is consistent with ancient theories taught at acupuncture school. It is interesting too to note that many of my acupuncture patients remark how they seem to catch fewer common colds after a course of treatment, even when the rest of their office are coughing and sneezing. Could this be coincidence?


My remarks here assume that you are taking appropriate medical advice for any underlying conditions and following latest public health guidance. I offer no guarantee or crystal ball. Mine is simply the dialogue of curiosity offered with humility and honesty.

Martin Dean is a Nottingham, UK based acupuncturist with 25 years experience. To book an appointment please call 07 969 413158


We Do It Because it is Hard

If like me you are a compiler of lists you will be familiar with that one item that never gets ticked off, the job that we seem have a mental block about. We find it easier to do something else than to tackle it. Our sticky task is in effect a blind spot. The longer you put it off the scarier it becomes.

Having recently confronted just such an issue head on I devised a series of killer questions to help me.

  • How long has this task stayed on my list? Days, months, years?
  • Does it make me feel uncomfortable?
  • If so, what makes me feel most uncomfortable about it? Aside from avoidance what would make me feel more comfortable?
  • Enter the uncomfortable zone (go towards it not away from it)
  • Re-define the task using positive, comfortable words. Schedule it
  • Keep going until the job is done
  • Give self a pat on the back

Here is an example. I hate ironing but I also hate wearing crumpled shirts. ‘Iron my shirts’ has appeared on my to-do list for several weeks now. I feel uncomfortable doing this task when I could be spending the time engaged in something more pleasurable. Aside from not ironing, having someone else to do it would be the most comfortable option.

I looked for ways to make the process of ironing more enjoyable. Listening to a half hour radio play whilst ironing made me feel good and I had a basketful of beautiful wrinkle free shirts to show for it.

Job done! Feel good about yourself

What will you focus on?

By Cecil Stoughton, White House – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration.

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade, not because they are easy, but because they are hard” – President John F. Kennedy






[We Do It Because it is Hard]

A Long Way in a Short Space of Time

New and prospective patients will often ask how many sessions of acupuncture they will need. I wanted to share my experiences with you (both as a practitioner and a patient) so that you can feel empowered in your own journey. Good luck.

Hidden behind the question may be issues such as :-

  • can you help me?
  • when can I expect to be normal?
  • how much will it cost me?
  • do you have appointment times that fit in with my life?

A Long Way in a Short Space of TimeIt may come as a shock, but real life doesn’t always have simple answers. Your friendly acupuncturist will try his/her best to advise you and this usually becomes easier with increasing experience. The number of sessions you need may vary according to

  • your age
  • whether or not you are still aggravating the problem
  • the nature, severity and duration of your condition
  • your general fitness
  • how well you respond to acupuncture
  • how experienced the acupuncturist is in treating your condition

Although difficult to predict there are guidelines that can be used to give a rough idea of what will is needed

  • Attending a consultation session will give you a chance to meet your acupuncturist and share your story. He/she will then be able to provide some more answers and perspectives and discuss a treatment plan with you
  • For a rough rule of thumb look at how long you have had the complaint. For years it will take months to resolve, for months it will take weeks. Not exact but a guide nonetheless.
  •  Cheapest isn’t always the best. An inexperienced practitioner may be able to treat the same conditions as an experienced one, but the latter may be able to achieve it in a shorter timescale
  • Few conditions are resolved in one session. Your acupuncturist will carefully monitor progress to ensure that you are responding to treatment.
  • Most people start to feel signs of progress after 1 to 3 sessions. Typical early indicators of progress include a greater sense of wellbeing, improvements to sleeping patterns and increased energy levels. True healing starts from the inside.

Acupuncture treatment usually follows three distinct phases

  • Initial intensive treatment (usually once or twice a week) where symptoms begin to ease
  • Consolidation phase. Dealing with the root causes of your condition and ensuring that your body is able to make repairs. Decreasing frequency of visits until condition is minimised or resolved
  • Maintenance (as required) to prevent symptoms from coming back or to nip problems in the bud (eg sleeping issues, stress)

Traditional acupuncture has a strong emphasis on seeing, touching and listening. Techniques for uncovering problems before they become more serious have a very long history. In my own practice maintenance patients will usually come back either monthly or at the change of the seasons.

a long way in a short space of timeIt is also helpful to ask friends and family who have received acupuncture. People seek treatment for a variety of reasons and many come a long way in a short space of time. Here is a range of observations from my own practice.

  • So much better. I can honestly say that I have felt so much better with acupuncture than without, to this day I always wonder how I managed before treatment. Susan
  • I was at my wits ends and was ready to give up! I had never tried it before and so thought I would try my chances. For anyone in doubt I would say go and try it you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I never ever thought I’d work again! Kelli
  • I contacted Martin for some treatment on my lower back problems. From my initial contact Martin explained everything. Mr Austin
  • We chose Martin because he was close at hand and was very welcoming and approachable with my illness. Mr Plotka

Martin Dean is an acupuncturist with a practice in Nottingham, England. He qualified in 1995 and has over 10 years experience of teaching the subject at degree level. He specialises in treating couples with fertility issues and has attracted patients from as far afield as the Republic of Ireland and Morocco.

And finally; the underlying message is pick up the phone and talk to a registered acupuncturist. Satisfy yourself that they have enough experience in treating your condition and book a visit. On the basis of this visit negotiate a treatment plan (and be patient). Once again, good luck.

[A long way in a short space of time]

What Should I Eat To Stay Well

We are bombarded almost daily with information about what to eat and what not to eat. So, who’s word should we trust?

What Should I Eat To Stay Well

Family eating dinner at a dining table

In this article I will attempt to answer this question through the long lens of Chinese medicine. The idea of food as medicine goes back at least as far as the publication Recipes for Fifty-Two Ailments (ca. 200 BCE), recommending as it does recipes for different medical conditions. Sun Simiao’s Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold which was completed in the 650s has a chapter on food. This contains 154 entries divided into four sections – on fruits, vegetables, cereals, and meat – in which Sun explains the properties of individual foodstuffs with concepts borrowed from contemporary medical texts.

We will look at some of these ideas through modern eyes to help make sense of our dilemma. Although each food item will have different effects on your body, it is possible to draw broad conclusions. It can be helpful too to see each food item in the context of the place and time of year that it grows naturally.


These are often cooling, due in part to the high water content. This makes for the perfectly refreshing summer food. Tropical fruits such as pineapples are often more cooling that our local varieties. Too much fruit is not well suited to waterlogged individuals (e.g. those with oedema).What Should I Eat To Stay Well

Tip: Try to blend fruit rather than juice it so as to preserve valuable fibre. Serve at room temperature to help digestion.

Nuts and Seeds

These are packed with nutrition for powering new plants, which makes them a good source of energy for humans. Many varieties are heavy and oily which can help moisten sluggish bowels.


These are basically grass seeds. The old texts hold that grains build and vegetables cleanse. Grains include wheat, oats, rye, quinoa.

Tip: Try and eat a variety of grains, avoid too many refined ones (especially wheat).

Beans and Pulses

Sweet and nourishing. These can be helpful to drain excess fluids from the body and will combine well with grains. Soya beans, especially in the form of tofu or miso is a south east Asian staple and is wonderfully nourishing.


These are known to be cleansing, especially when raw. This form though is not recommended, especially in colder weather as it is harder work for the digestion.

Root vegetables are nourishing and warming since they are a store for the plant during winter. It is for this reason that they are popular in winter stews and casseroles. Carrots, celeriac, celery and fennel are great digestives. Brassicas are mild tonics and are useful for moving the digestive system.

Dark green leafy vegetables are a great source of nutrition for building blood.


Meat is the most blood nourishing food. Best eaten in small amounts as its heavy fatty nature can lead to stagnation. Slow cooking and good seasoning can aid digestibility.


Sweet and rich but can be hard to digest, affecting especially the lungs. Fermented forms such as yoghurt are easier to tolerate and have probiotic properties. The warming effect of butter can help blood circulation.

Herbs and Spices

As well as providing additional flavour, herbs and spices can be used as a digestive (cardamom, cloves, cinammon), to warm (ginger), cool (mint), dry up phlegm (fennel seeds, lemon zest, rosemary), or act as a blood tonic (parsley).

And finally, it may be helpful to think of a good diet as comprising three elements;

  • General dietary factors
  • Your personal constitutional requirements (for example improve circulation)
  • Eat according to the season.

So that is it. We have looked at the properties of some common food groups in relation to your health. I trust that this will provide you with a broader perspective and trigger some interesting conversations around the dinner table.

Bon appetit!

Please call Martin Dean Acupuncturist on 07969 41 31 58

For further resources:

[What should I eat to stay well]

Tension Without Trying

The way that can be spoken of is not the constant way;

The name that can be named is not the constant name

(Ancient Chinese book; Dao De Jing)

tension without trying

The author goes on to add that ‘as soon as something becomes fixed by words, form, language it loses its capacity to adapt, to be everlasting’.

As an acupuncturist I have many patients who hold tension in their shoulders. If I suggest they relax, the first thing they will do is to sit upright, stiffening their back muscles. If I ask them to relax their shoulders they will attempt to pull them down. In effect they are holding their shoulders up through tension and pulling them down with another set of muscles. This is no less than a tug of war and can be very tiring! An easier way is to just let them go and allow gravity to do its work. ‘Not so easy’ do I hear you say? Of course it isn’t otherwise there would be no problem shoulders.Subscribe To Our Blog

What the author of the text is saying is that to really understand something somatic we also have to feel it. Traditional techniques such as Pilates, Tai Chi or Yoga and also progressive muscle relaxation techniques allow us to feel what our bodies are doing, to improve our understanding of these strange bodies we inhabit through endless repetition and practice.

When you walk briskly do you power swing your arms? Do you walk upright? Perhaps you lean back or stoop forwards. When you reach for the kitchen cabinet do you raise your whole shoulder or just your arm? The more I think about it the more remarkable it is how little body awareness we all exhibit. This is of course a survival tactic as we simply do not have the capacity to process every single sensation.

The buzzword on everybody’s lips at the moment is mindfulness. What I have come to realise is that you don’t need to sit in a darkened room and listen to relaxation CDs to be mindful. No self-help book will tell you how to be. You have to find your own truth. Feel your way through life. Wake up to your body and relax.

[Tension without trying]

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Why Is My Tongue Sore

Patients will sometimes ask me why their tongue is sore and what they can do about it. Their GP may have diagnosed a bacterial infection or perhaps prescribed a medicine to ease symptoms. Are there any other perspectives that might be helpful in this situation?

Western medicine, so often good at saving lives, will sometimes compartmentalise issues, and so a sore tongue is a sore tongue. Isn’t that obvious, I hear you ask? It is a cornerstone of Chinese Medicine that our wellbeing depends on the efficient functioning of interrelated systems, presided over by our internal organs. A delicate balance is struck between these organ systems which operate like a team. When one member misbehaves it may affect the whole side. Yin and yang, and the five elements are ancient models that describe these associations in detail and form a framework for our understanding of human functioning. To illustrate this point, our lungs hate being dry, but unless the kidneys take away any excess moisture they will flood (pneumonia). Hence the lungs and kidneys work in partnership.

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In regular practice acupuncturists rely on a variety of indicators to assess a patient’s state of health. We ask questions (how are your bowels?), make observations (you are looking a little pale today) and assess through touch (pulse diagnosis). And of course there is tongue diagnosis.

Why Is My Tongue Sore

The tongue represents a complete microsystem – that is a representation of the whole organism. Whilst a sore tongue may just be the result of accidental biting, by carefully observing the it we can arrive at observations about the patient’s state of well-being. Specifically we can make observations about energy levels, hydration and blood flow. Similar microsystems include the hands, ears, feet (foot reflexology exploits this), eyes and the abdomen. Tongue diagnosis is a pillar of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. To take an example if the tongue is dry we may assume the patient’s tissues are dry. By observing which part of the tongue is dry we can make further assumptions about which part of the body this pertains to.

Broadly speaking the tip of your tongue represents your head and the very rear your lower trunk and legs. ‘But what about my sore tongue?’ I hear you ask. This commonly points to anything that triggers the build up of heat, such as  weakening of specific organs from (for example) worrying or aging. As well as soreness your tongue will probably be dry and your urine dark. You may suffer from night sweats.

Acupuncture treatment will focus on nourishing the affected systems and reducing the heat. You may be advised to avoid dietary factors such as spicy foods and eat easily digested food such as porridge, fish, vegetables and soup.

Give us a call today on 07969413158

Also see related blog If Only We Knew How To Listen

[Why is my tongue sore]


Up Down In or Out

You could say that acupuncturists are obsessed with directions. Up down in or out. We ascribe to each of the major functions of the body, the lungs, kidneys, stomach etc a direction. This may be intuitive, at other times less so, so let us take a look. When we consider the stomach this must surely go downwards and not up? So what is the correct direction of the lungs? These are said to descend and disperse in the sense that the fluidic substances associated with the delicate membranes are sent down to the kidneys and bladder for elimination and to the skin. Where the descending function is impaired fluids may collect on the lungs (giving rise to a cough) or we may acquire a nasal drip. Lack of dispersion to the exterior could result in dry skin or perhaps swelling in the face.

Up Down In or Out


The direction of the heart is downwards, allowing our minds to be calm and free. Impairment of this could result in a head full of clutter or insomnia.

According to an ancient document called ‘The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine’

Without ascending-descending there would be no birth, growth, transformation, harvesting and storage.

Here are some normal bodily functions where direction is important. Can you spot the correct direction?

  • Giving birth
  • Holding organs in place (i.e. preventing prolapse)
  • Staying grounded, feeling steady on one’s feet
  • Opening one’s bowels
  • Retaining a pregnancy

All these movements work to co-ordinate harmonious functioning. By asking questions about the behaviour of these systems the skilled acupuncturist can ascertain which aspects of the whole are not working correctly and recommend appropriate and effective treatment.

(Answers  – down, up, down, down, up)

Six Point Plan for The Two Week Wait

Many of my IVF patients find their two-week wait after embryo transfer to be a struggle. You have been through so much in a short space of time. Protocols, injections, scans, hope and despair, more advice than you know what to do with. You emerge blinking from the IVF tunnel and are expected to be patient for two weeks until your pregnancy test. You are understandably anxious to do the right thing, but what does this mean? Here is what I tell my patients at this point, my six point plan for the two week wait.

Six Point Plan for The Two Week Wait

Six Point Plan for The Two Week Wait

  1. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. There is no point in beating yourself up. Think of the team of people behind you.
  2. Gentle exercise has been shown to be helpful but how much should you do? Modest activity is great for circulation, and particularly around your middle. Take plenty of walks walks but avoid strenuous exercise such as running or aerobics.
  3. Look after your energy. Avoid overtiring yourself and get plenty of rest, after all you have earned it.
  4. You cannot possibly know if your cycle has been successful or otherwise. Stop thinking about this and busy yourself with something else instead.
  5. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  6. Deal with anxiety. Remember that fertility acupuncture isn’t solely about treatment but support and someone to talk to.

Those of you who are prone to worrying might well benefit from an acupuncture treatment half way through your two-week wait. We call this a ‘tucking in the embryos treatment. ‘ Highly recommended.

What is unexplained infertility?

[Six Point Plan for The Two Week Wait}

Rewriting The Constitution

What do we mean by rewriting the constitution? When we look in a dictionary, the word constitution is described as the composition, configuration or form of something. In the context of human beings, we talk about having a strong or a weak constitution. We are effectively referring to the aggregate of a person’s physical and psychological characteristics.

rewriting the constitution

To treat a disease first find the root

When discussing illness and disease Chinese Medicine will talk about the root and the branch (the ben and biao in Chinese). The latter term refers to the ‘outward sign’ or ‘manifestation’. This could be a symptom such as dizziness or headaches. In assessing a patient we would also try to find the root (which is the original cause of the problem). This could for example be a weakness of the Kidneys, which would show up in a number of presenting signs such as the sound of the person’s voice and their facial colour. It is left to the skill of the acupuncturist to deduce the type of disharmony from the signs.

Often just treating the root is sufficient to clear the branches. As the expression goes ‘to treat a disease find the root’. In our example treating the kidneys may clear both the dizziness and headaches. Or we may treat both root and branch together.

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Treating the branch without treating the root is however rarely satisfactory. Gardeners will recognise that removing the stem and leaves of a weed, but not the roots often results in the weed reestablishing itself.

The way Chinese Medicine approaches treating imbalance, developed over many centuries, is an elegant way to treat disease. It consistently leads to longer lasting results compared to treating just symptoms. And often treating the root will clear up several symptoms at the same time.

[Rewriting The Constitution]

Interested? Give us a call.

07 969 413158

If Only We Knew How To Listen

In an age of technology where medical marvels emerge at a seemingly prolific rate, it is sometimes good to remember that our bodies tell us what they need when we are unwell. If only we knew how to listen . From hair to skin, taste to smell the body is talking to us all the time in its very own language.

If Only We Knew How To Listen

Have you ever noticed how your hair lacks condition when you are feeling below par? In Chinese medicine there is a saying that the state of the Kidneys [system] is reflected in the hair on the head. Your locks may feel lank, dry or just lifeless. Ask yourself – does this match how I feel in general? What will I do differently?

Let us consider too our skin. If we view this as the bag that wraps our body, it becomes a no-brainer that the wrapping somehow reflects the interior. Is your skin dry, mottled, podgy, scarred? Dryness frequently reflects insufficient fluid intake but may also occur as a result of stress interrupting the normal supply of nutrients to the skin layers. What life changes do we need to make to improve the situation? I find it curious that so many skin problems are treated topically without recourse to what is going on inside.

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If you’ve ever sat in a café and ‘watched the world go by’, you’d be aware that people have very different ways of walking. Next time you are in this situation take a look at how someone strolls and ask yourself the question ‘why are they walking like this’. Try mimicking their walk and become aware of which muscles you have to hold tight to act this out. If you are brave you could ask someone to do the same for you!

Common expressions such as ‘the face we present to the world’ and ‘face up to the reality’ make us aware of the significance we place on our countenance. You might recall an occasion when your best friend was feeling peaky. Something different about his/her face that you can’t quite put your finger on. Five element acupuncture uses the five palette colours of the face (red, yellow, green, white and blue/black) as one of the four key signs to figure out what is going on internally. For example when the red hue drains out of the face we see ashen grey. Think too of the sallow shade when someone has a stomach upset.

If Only We Knew How To Listen

There are numerous other ‘message channels’ you can tune into with practice including the pulse, tongue, finger nails, eyes and so on. It is like learning to appreciate a fine wine. Using the faculties of smell, touch, hearing and asking we can remove so much mystery from the human complex and tap into our hidden potential. Go on give it a try. Learn a new language. If only we knew how to listen.

[If Only We Knew How To Listen]

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