Pluggerz For A Good Night’s Sleep

There is nothing more valuable than a good night’s sleep. But how can we effectively block out external sounds that range from snoring, to next door’s dog barking at the moon to refuse collectors emptying the bins?

Why not wear earplugs, I hear you say. But in my considerable experience, the regular variety fashioned from soft conical foam and favoured by workers in noisy environments falls short of expectations when it comes to sleeping. They are obviously not designed for side sleepers and have an annoying tendency fall out in the middle of the night. Their ability to attenuate sound is also quite limited in practice – surely a major requirement in earplugs.

Enter Pluggerz as sold by Boots. I was apprehensive of these at first, especially as I was expected to pay around £8 for two pieces of plastic that resembled Christmas trees, packaged along with a small carrying case. But as the manufacturer points out ‘they have a unique filter that helps remove background noise without completely blocking the ear so you can still hear important sounds like your alarm clock or baby crying’.

They can also be used over 100 times and are ideal for side sleepers. Too good to be true? I put them to the test. After following the instructions I was soon able to insert them with ease. They are very comfortable to lie on when side sleeping. Another surprise was how effective they are at blocking out sound. The ‘skirts’ of the device act as soft baffles and tuck themselves into your ear easily and conmfortably. One downside however was that I had to move my alarm clock closer as I failed to hear it going off the first morning!

But ultimately the most important thing was that I slept like a baby. For a light sleeper like me, there were no interruptions, just peaceful sleep. And my verdict? Worth every penny.

Pluggerz website

The Archer Releases His Grip

The archer pulls back the string and slowly but surely the tension builds until the moment of potential is reached. He then releases the bowstring sending the arrow on its purposeful way.

In this analogy the drawing back of the string with all its potential represents Winter and the actual release, Spring. Winter is the coiled force within the seed, all the processes beneath the soil which will lead in turn to the realised energy of a daffodil flower or a strong upward thrusting stem.

Spring though is so much more than a date in the diary, or a weather forecaster’s convenient definition. Each year has its own rhythm and surprises. Knowing when the seasonal transition actually occurs is as relevant today as it was in our ancestral past. At some level we will all change inside as the seasons wax and wane around us.

So what are the key transformations we might observe during this seasonal passage?

For a start growth in nature increases exponentially in a very short space of time. Lawns become a brighter shade of green and the sunlight begins to take on a warmer shade. As light intensity increases too we celebrate the demise of the dark, depressing winter months (even my solar powered pocket calculator starts working again). Dirt and dust become more visible so we feel the urge to spring clean. Spring-like days become more frequent (usually interspersed with Winter nips to remind us that it is a gradual hand-over). The buds on the trees begin to swell and open. Birdsong can be heard to increase in volume.

It is worth too taking on board that in order to experience the full vigour of spring, the preceding period of lying low represents a time to be still and to recuperate. Without this ‘recharge time’ a full-on Spring surge would be unsustainable. Our arrow would simply fall to the ground at our feet.

What are your favourite observations of this time of year?

A Theme For The Year

According to statistics only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions. In ancient times Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus for whom the month of January is named.

It is estimated that around a half of all New Year’s resolutions will be about staying fit and healthy. For others it is about relationships with family and friends or money.

At this time of year my wife and I choose to set a joint theme for the year ahead. In a previous year we declared that we were going visit as many seaside locations as possible. This turned out to be a most enjoyable year with numerous coastal visits,  both home and abroad. This year the theme is ‘simplicity’, allowing us to reflect on the many ways in which we needlessly over-complicate our lives.

Simplicity in the dictionary directs us to the words clarity, coherence and directness. Each of these reminds us that the best way from a to b is a straight line. Whilst there are clearly times where the meandering road has benefits, I am also mindful of the great strength in clarity of purpose. The great traveller will set out on the road equipped  with a clear route plan, but will also make allowance for the unexpected trips and falls he may encounter en-route.

What will you focus on this year? Who will you share it with?

A Crispy Kale Snack

A crispy kale snackHere is how to make a crispy kale snack that is quick and tasty.

We are often advised ‘for the good of our health’ to eat more vegetables. How many of us though really consume the suggested five portions a day? It is often quite difficult to achieve this when you have a discerning family AND only 24 hours in a day. One great way to pack a bevvy of vegetables into our meals is to make soups. Here is another idea – crispy kale.


Kale is often portrayed as the villain of the piece – the green chewy green vegetable  that usually gets pushed to the side of the plate. Here is a way to make kale sexy again and get this – it is very quick to cook. And here’s how.

Take a bag of kale and using your hands rip the curly leaves from the thick main stems. Throw these away. Place the remainder on a baking tray, lightly drizzle with olive oil (not too much) and toss around with your hands to evenly distribute the oil. Place tray in the oven at 150C/130C fan/gas 2 and cook for 10 to 20 mins. The kale is ready when it is crispy but not burnt. I really love this dish served as a starter, lightly seasoned with salt.




Introducing Acupuncture Point Kidney 1

Acupuncture point Kidney 1, Yongquan meaning bubbling spring in Chinese, is the lowest acupuncture point on the body. It is located on the lowest part of the foot where we make contact with the ground. This gives us a clue to some of its uses.

acupuncture point kidney 1

Acupuncture points are essentially way stations on a line (aka meridian or channel) which then connects to organ(s) within the body. It may also be helpful to think of this line as being associated with regulating functions within the body (for example, adrenal balance or adjustment of body temperature). Needles inserted into the points help carry this out.

One author describes Kidney 1 as ‘returning the unrooted back to its source’. The most obvious use of this point is in the treatment of menopausal hot flushes. Here sporadic feelings of heat rise to the face, chest and hands unrestrained. The use of Yongquan is like holding the string of a Helium balloon to stop it from rising. In China it is common to massage this point before bedtime , or to soak the feet in hot water to counter the upwards tendency to the head.

In the Chinese exercise form known as Qigong, directing the mind to this point helps us stay connected with the ground. In the jargon ‘it helps descend and root the Qi’. One version of this you could try yourself is to stand on a soft carpet in bare feet, close your eyes and feel (yes really feel) bubbling spring against the softness of the carpet. Enjoy.


The Role Of The Spleen

The use of food as medicine in Chinese culture and the role of the spleen can be dated at least as far back as the  Western Zhou dynasty (11th c BC to 771 BC) where food and beverage hygiene were one of the four specialities a doctor could follow (as well as internal medicine, external medicine and veterinary). The ‘Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine’ describes how

used in the right combinations, everyday food can prevent illness.

The Role Of The Spleen

It is with this in mind that we can view the idea of ‘going on a diet’ with fresh eyes. A quick Google search of the word ‘diet’ defines it as

the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.


It may come as a surprise when your acupuncturist starts talking about your spleen as an essential part of your digestive process, after all many people live perfectly well without one. In Chinese medicine the ‘spleen’ is a set of functions involved in the breaking down of food into useful ‘fuel’ and the transporting of it around the body. You may liken the former to the function of a compost heap and the latter to a lorry driver who takes the compost away.

Current dietary advice is to eat 5 portions of fruit/vegetables a day, to cut down on fat and sugar and to reduce ‘bad’ fats. We instinctively know that too much of one thing may be detrimental, but what else can Chinese medicine theory bring to the party?

To delve into this further, let us take the example of chronic diarrhoea, with undigested food passing through the gut. In many such cases there is an underlying spleen weakness. Essentially the breaking down of food is being impaired and the lorry driver is out of control. So how might we address these issues purely through dietary adjustment?

This reveals, in my opinion, some of the essential differences between Western and Eastern dietary practices. In the Eastern model food choices and practices may be advised which reduce the load on the digestion. For example to avoid overeating, especially late at night, and to chew everything well. As the old expression goes

breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince, supper like a pauper

Foods to avoid might include excessively fatty and deep-fried foods, dairy products and raw or chilled foods. But of equal importance are foods which help to strengthen the spleen function. Many of these foods are yellow/orange in nature (which is often said to be the natural colour of the Spleen). Especially helpful examples are:-

apples, apricots, kiwi, lychee, peaches, pineapple, bamboo shoots, spinach, turnip, oats, tomatoes, brown rice, barley chestnuts, walnuts and pumpkin. Spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

These choices are summarised in more detail in the accompanying diagram, but in general the spleen appreciates a freshly prepared range of nourishing foods. If you are in doubt at this stage what to eat, why not try the colour test. Take a look at your dinner plate and look for a balance of the five colours, which are:-

Red (orange), yellow, blue/black (which includes most foods from the sea), green and white (eg onion, garlic).

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Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction

According to Wikipedia, symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) is a condition found in 1 in 300 pregnancies (although some estimates are higher). It is characterised by pain and discomfort in the front of the pelvis. Movement such as sitting or walking may be difficult and sleep may be affected. The pubic symphysis is the joint where left and right pelvic bones join. This is prone to strain during the heavy loading of pregnancy and childbirth. It has been suggested that the hormones of pregnancy may cause this joint to widen.

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction In Pregnancy

Pelvic support belts and prescribed medication are the most common treatments for SPD, which usually spontaneously resolves after childbirth. Specialist physiotherapy may also be of benefit. Sufferers are advised to be careful of heavy lifting, avoid stepping over things and being careful of twisting movements of the body.

Acupuncture And SPD

I have treated this condition on numerous occasions and found that the pain usually resolves very quickly with acupuncture. Needles are carefully inserted according to where the pain is situated, most often along the top of the pubic bone. I acknowledge that such treatment requires complete confidence in the acupuncturist, but believe me the results are worthwhile.

Naturally care must be taken with any treatment in pregnancy, but if you are considering acupuncture for your SPD you should seek the advice of a fully trained acupuncturist, such as a member of The British Acupuncture Council.

Mindfulness and Meditation With Buddhify

How things have changed! The art of meditation, once the realm of hippies and buddhists is now mainstream, rebranded as mindfulness. This is a basically the art of being in the here and now, and is the mental equivalent of going to the gym. Benefits are said to include reduced stress, better focus and improved sleep.

I have been testing a new kid on the block. Buddhify is available for Android and iOS smartphones, and according to its authors :-

“is the most convenient, best value and most beautiful meditation app available today. It is helping people around the world reduce stress, be present & get better sleep in even the most busy of lifestyles. Peace of mind for just the price of a cup of coffee with no hidden or additional costs.”

Mindfulness and Meditation With Buddhify

When you first open up the app’s colourful wheel (see picture), you are confronted with a series of choices based on your current activity. These include going to sleep, working online or eating. For example, ‘waiting around’ brings up 3 meditation options ‘stereo’, ‘curious’ and ‘base’. Ranging from 5 to 11 minutes in length these are audio tracks which will take you through a range of guided lessons based around this scenario. The tracks are thoughtful and relevant to modern living – a lifetime away from the ‘imagine you are in a meadow’ meditations of yesteryear.

According to its authors, Buddhify comprises “over 80 custom made meditations for wherever you are”.

Altogether I found listening to Buddhify a surprisingly pleasant and thought provoking activity. The voices are very pleasant to listen to – both male and female – and not an American accent anywhere! For these reasons I have been recommending Buddhify to some of my stressed acupuncture patients, and the feedback so far has been positive.

Buddhify website

Acupuncture Review Finds Evidence Of Effect

Acupuncture Review Finds Evidence Of Effect

Acupuncture Review Finds Evidence Of Effect

What Is Acupuncture Good For?

I am often asked which conditions acupuncture is good for. A recent review commissioned by the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association, provides an up to date evidence based guide to the effectiveness of acupuncture using scientifically rigorous methods.

In this study they considered 122 different health conditions and assigned them to one of four categories –

  • Positive effect (8)
  • Potential positive effect (38)
  • No evidence of effect (5)
  • Unclear/insufficient (71)

For the eight best supported conditions the evidence was consistently positive and acupuncture was recommended by the review authors. The eight conditions are:-

  • allergic rhinitis
  • back pain (chronic)
  • headache (tension type, chronic) and migraine
  • knee osteoarthritis
  • nausea and vomiting (either postoperative or due to chemotherapy)
  • post operative pain

The ‘potential positive effect’ list of 38 conditions includes neck, elbow, heel and shoulder pain, asthma, IBS, anxiety, depression, insomnia. It also includes primary and secondary stroke treatment. This is a condition which is the most common inpatient indication for acupuncture in Chinese hospitals.

Acupuncture Review Finds Evidence Of Effect

To be clear, no evidence of effect does not mean that acupuncture is ineffective, rather that there is currently no evidence of effect. These results reflect only what research has been done to date, they are not neccesarily a good indication of how someone would get on with acupuncture in normal practice. Interestingly however, the study authors do point out that :-

“it is no longer possible to say that the effectiveness of acupuncture is because of the placebo effect, or that it is useful only for musculoskeletal pain”.

Read the study

{Based on an article by Mark Bovey, Research Manager British Acupuncture Council}.

Topic: Acupuncture Review Finds Evidence Of Effect

Cupping As A Form Of Deep Tissue Massage

What Is It Good For?

What is cupping therapy and what is it good for? According to The British Acupuncture Council it is where ‘glass cups with a vacuum seal are placed on the skin to stimulate blood flow and clear stagnant qi’.

Cupping As A Form Of Deep Tissue MassageIn essence it can help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being. We could also consider cupping as a form of deep tissue massage.

Not New

The cups can be fashioned from bamboo, glass, plastic or earthenware. Cupping is by no means a new phenomenon. According to The Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences, ‘the earliest record of cupping is in the Bo Shu (an ancient book written on silk), which was discovered in a tomb of the Han Dynasty [206-220 AD]. Several other ancient texts mention Chinese medicine cupping. Several centuries later another famous medical classic, Su Sen Liang Fang, recorded an effective cure for chronic cough and the successful treatment of poisonous snake bites using cupping therapy’.

The modern cupping practitioner creates a partial vacuum using a lit taper, and the cup is placed on the skin. Sometimes a mechanical pump is used instead.

Cupping As A Form Of Deep Tissue MassageSo how does it work? I like to explain it to my patients in this way.

The partial vacuum created inside the cups causes the skin within to be pulled up and to redden (see illustration), indicating that additional blood is flowing into this area. The effect is, I explain similar to deep tissue massage, and can be helpful in treating muscle injury and stiffness. Where a larger muscle area requires treatment, a little massage oil applied to the skin first will allow the cup to be moved around the affected zone. This draws blood to the area and ‘walks’ it along the muscle.

In clinical practice I will use cupping most often in treating lower

Cupping As A Form Of Deep Tissue Massage

Cupping therapy – removing cups from a patient’s back

back pain, shoulder tension and in respiratory conditions such as the common cold (in which case it is applied on the upper back behind the lungs).

And finally here is a story to illustrate how cupping can be of benefit to athletes.

Marathon Treatment

Three days prior to running a marathon, a lady came to me with a muscle tear in her calf. She could barely walk. Could I achieve the impossible and help her to compete? After assessing her, I oiled up the affected area and attached a cup. Sliding this along the muscle allowed me to improve local blood flow until the area was visibly red. I advised her to rest totally for 24 hours before recommencing running. And the result? She was thrilled to complete the marathon (though not in her best time).

And finally, you may have seen photographs of athletes with painful-looking round ring marks on their torsos as a result of this treatment. ‘Not for me’ do I hear you say? I clearly advise patients that surface marking may occur for a few days after cupping, and that there should be no accompanying pain as a result. The marks will always disappear. If carried out by a competent, trained practitioner cupping therapy should be safe and effective.

Cupping. A form of deep tissue massage for treating pain, inflammation, improving blood flow, relaxation and well-being.


A New Way To Pay Your Acupuncturist

In the last few years the way we carry out financial transactions has changed beyond recognition. Contactless cards, on-line banking, paperless transactions, ping-it, bitcoin etc. The list is seemingly endless.A New Way To Pay Your Acupuncturist

According to Payments UK 500m personal cheques were written in 2015, and though banks are now promising to process them for as long as they are needed, this total was 13% lower than in 2014. They are still a popular way of paying tradespeople, charities and friends/family.

So enter the newcomer – paym. This works by linking your mobile number to your bank account. Simple. There’s no annoying sort codes or account numbers and because you get it straight from your bank or building society, it’s safe and straightforward.

So here’s how to pay a small business or individual using paym (assuming they are set up to receive payments as described above).
According to ‘to send a payment, just log in to your existing mobile banking or payment app. Select a friend’s number using your contacts or enter a mobile number manually. No sort code or account number needed. Enter the amount you want to pay. Paym lets you check the name of the person you’re paying, so you can be sure you’re sending it to the right place. Confirm the name of the person you are paying, press send and your app will confirm your payment has been sent straight away’.Simple and easy.
 Paym, a new way to pay your acupuncturist.

Martin Dean is an acupuncturist with over 23 years practice experience who practices in Nottingham. As a forward thinking small business owner he is pleased to accept paym transactions.