Making Sense of Illness

When an illness suddenly and unexpectedly rears its ugly head we often seek to make sense of it. I was given to reflect on this very topic myself, as the result of a stay in hospital. When we succumb to a common cold we are sure to have had previous experience of this. We know how it is likely to progress and how best to deal with it. We probably have the remedies and medicines we need in our kitchen cabinet.

Making Sense of Illness

Making Sense of Illness

When we are faced with a new malady it can often be disconcerting. We feel lost. How long will it last? Is it serious? Will it get worse or better? How will I know? With a clear diagnosis ‘Dr. Google’ will often give us the answers we seek but somehow knowledge isn’t the same as experience. The map isn’t the same as the territory. We rely on experts to fix us and to be our guides – our General Practitioner, Osteopath, Acupuncturist and so on. To make sense of illness.

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So what do you do if the experts don’t seem to have a clue? It helps to be able to join up the dots. I wrote about this in a previous blog (Connecting With Your Inner Sherlock) where I discussed the merits of looking at the bigger picture. This of course takes time and dedication, so is often unsuited to public health systems. It may also be helpful to  discuss your symptoms with a good friend (who is not a health professional). It often takes an impartial viewer to point out something obvious that sits in our blind spot.

In the context of making sense of illness I would like to offer one of my own tips for recovery. I am a great fan of the 2015 Ridley Scott film The Martian. Here is what Wikipedia has to say:-

When astronauts blast off from the planet Mars, they leave behind Mark Watney (Matt Damon), presumed dead after a fierce storm. With only a meager amount of supplies, the stranded visitor must utilize his wits and spirit to find a way to survive on the hostile planet.

In my opinion his quest for survival is a really inspiring way to raise your fighting spirit during a bout of illness. Try it and see what I mean. Let me know how you get on.

[Making Sense of Illness]

 

Martian

 

What Is Moxibustion Used For

Many of us are aware that acupuncturists use needles, but what about moxa (mugwort)? What is moxibustion used for.

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Spongy Herb

I wrote about the family of moxa devices in a previous blog. Moxa is a spongy herb used to facilitate healing. It is an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine. Moxibustion refers to the lighting of small pieces of moxa herb to release heat in a carefully controlled manner on or around the skin.

Moxibustion is not for everyone. It may be contraindicated in those with high blood pressure or symptoms of overheating. This aside, moxibustion is an extremely helpful technique to benefit poor circulation and low energy in particular. It has gained a particular reputation for turning breech babies, possibly due to its effect in increasing pelvic circulation. Browse the facts here. It can also be used to assist with fluid movement – for example with arthritis and chest congestion. But this is merely the tip of the iceberg for this wonderful herb.

what is moxibustion used for

What Is Moxibustion Used For

The best way to illustrate what moxibustion may be used for in practice is by example.

Patient Mary is seeking treatment for fertility issues. She passes all the standard medical tests and is given a diagnosis of ‘unexplained infertility’. On examination it appears that her lower abdomen is much cooler than the rest of her trunk. This suggests that there may be reduced circulation to her ovaries and uterus. She also has cold hands and feet and feels chilly.

I treat her with needles and send her home with a supply of moxa to warm a point on the inside of her ankle daily. It should be noted that the moxa device used here applies heat without touching the skin.

On each visit her lower abdomen is warmer until after three weeks it is normal. She also reports feeling warmer generally. She is hopeful of becoming pregnant soon.

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Susan was a farmer’s wife suffering from plantar fasculitis, a painful condition affecting the underside of the foot. After three sessions of acupuncture she was only 10% better, so I applied some moxa (the size of a tiny piece of thread) to the underside of her foot and lit it. The aim was to produce a microtrauma the size of a pin head. Within a minute she was experiencing tingling session running up her calves. Within a few days 90% of the symptoms had gone and she went on to make a full recovery.

What Is Moxibustion Used For

 

Paul consulted me with acute sciatica. As part of his treatment I used a moxa stick to warm the pathway of the sciatica down his leg. The finished effect was a visible red stripe. He gained much relief from this.

Pleasant Heating

These are just three examples of what moxibustion can be used for. Many acupuncturists will use this alongside needle therapy. The sensation from this therapy is a pleasant heating that penetrates into the skin.

Pick up the phone and call acupuncturist Martin Dean on 07969413158

 [ What is moxibustion used for ]

 

What On Earth Does An Acupuncturist Do?

Worried About Picking Up A Phone?

People are sometimes worried about picking up the phone and calling a traditional  acupuncturist. Common perceptions range from ‘it must be painful’ to ‘will he/she be professional’ or simply a fear of the unknown. So what is the reality? What happens when you book a session. What do people say?

What On Earth Does An Acupuncturist Do?What On Earth Does An Acupuncturist Do?

Not Nothing But Not Painful

When asked about the sensation of having needles inserted into your body I often describe acupuncture as ‘not nothing but not painful’. When I asked some of my patients for feedback, one said ‘you don’t really feel it do you?’, and another said ‘its much better than waxing’. Read my previous blog on this topic. http://theacupunctureblog.co.uk/comfortable-needling/

Also take a look at this video.

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Whilst many practitioners generally don’t work in an NHS setting, if you choose a British Acupuncture Council registered acupuncturist (in the UK) you will get someone who has trained for a minimum of three years to degree level (or equivalent) in acupuncture. They will be fully insured and bound by the highest professional standards.

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has a membership of around 3,000 professionally qualified acupuncturists. It is the UK’s largest professional/ self-regulatory body for the practice of traditional acupuncture and was one of the first organisations to become a PSA Accredited Register. The Accredited Register scheme is designed to recognise that an accredited organisation maintains high standards of training, safe practice and professional conduct where the operational sector is not covered by statutory regulation.

Initial Consultation

The first session with an acupuncturist will generally last longer to include taking a full case history. This is more than a nicety – it is a solid foundation on which to create a treatment plan suited to your individual needs. In general you are advised to wear loose, comfortable clothing to an acupuncture session.

You may be surprised to learn too that acupuncturists do more than just insert needles into you. We are caring, sympathetic and willing to listen. Treatments may also include moxibustion (warming therapy), guasha (friction massage), cupping, dietary advice according to traditional Chinese theory, auricular therapy and more. Chinese exercise forms may be recommended too.

What On Earth Does An Acupuncturist Do?

Moxa Is Used for its Warming Properties

So rest assured when you call an acupuncturist you are not entering a portal to an alien world! We are professionally trained human beings backed by one of the oldest established healthcare systems in the world and regulated by a leading self-regulatory organisation.

Martin Dean

The Acupuncture Pain Centre

07969413158

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[What On Earth Does An Acupuncturist Do?]

Onions and Garlic – Acupuncture Medicine

Too Common and Crude?

According to Ayurveda – traditional Indian medicine – onions and garlic can be ‘stimulating to the desires’. For this reason it is usually avoided by those who practice meditation and other spiritual paths. In Chinese herbal medicine, garlic is often considered too common and crude to be included in classic herbal recipes. So why might we consider onions and garlic acupuncture medicine?

onions and garlic acupuncture medicine

Are Onions and Garlic Acupuncture Medicine?

So how should we regard onions and garlic? Does they have a good side? Could it be helpful for improving our health?

According to traditional Chinese acupuncture dietary theory onion and garlic, both of which hail from the Alium family, are pungent in nature and warming. This can help to move stagnant Qi (energy), activate the lungs and act as a digestive.They are considered excellent for improving circulation, and for resolving phlegm and dampness (fluid retention) in the respiratory system. This makes these foods a great asset during the autumn cold and flu season in the UK, set against a backdrop of increasing damp and cold.

onions and garlic acupuncture medicine

According to author Henry C. Lu ‘onion is used in Chinese folk medicine as a diuretic and an expectorant’. Other members of the Alium family including spring onions, chives and leeks offer up similar properties.

Feeding Gut Bacteria

An analysis of 64 studies by researchers at King’s College London found prebiotic fibres in onions and garlic which are known to have a positive effect on ‘good bacteria’ in the gut, specifically Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. These bacteria are required for a healthy digestive system to function effectively. Also refer to http://theacupunctureblog.co.uk/the-microbiome-diet-bugs-that-count/

At this time of year therefore a good addition to one’s diet would be a hearty vegetable soup created from a stock of onions, garlic and leeks. Enjoy good health this autumn.

[Onions and garlic acupuncture medicine]

I Can Never Get My Temperature Right

Bright Red And Rolling With Sweat

You never know what to wear. One moment you are frozen and the next you are bright red and rolling with sweat. You put on layer after layer of clothes so that you look like Michelin man! Your hands and feet are always blue and freezing cold.

Full or Empty?

If any of these apply to you then acupuncture might be a helpful friend. But how does this ancient treatment deal with temperature regulation? To make sense of this let us boil the possible variations down into two key questions. These are –

  • Hot or cold?
  • Full or empty?

So what does this mean in practice? The distinction to an acupuncturist is important as each of the four possibilities requires a different treatment strategy. Distinguishing whether we are hot or cold might seem obvious – do we prefer a warm or a cold room, do we look pale or red and flushed, do we like our drinks hot or cold? Does heat or ice help? Do we wear more or less clothes than other people around us?

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But what about full or empty? Full conditions are generally stronger and give rise to fuller symptoms, with a stronger presentation. Empty conditions on the other hand arise from deficiency and may become worse when we are tired.

To give a couple of examples, mild menopausal night sweats are usually characterised as empty heat and often show their hand in the afternoon and at night when we are more tired. They come and go as flushes, as does the redness in the face.  Full heat would be exemplified by tonsillitis. Symptoms of this condition  include a sore throat aggravated by swallowing, along with  a continuous fever. The symptoms will often feel more intense than with the first example, and less inclined to variation. We may feel more restless.

The Red Tip Of This Tongue Indicates The Presence Of Heat

A similar set of principles applies to cold. It is curious to note that many of my fertility patients that exhibit low progesterone levels also present with empty cold. Commonly their abdomen will  be cold as will be their hands and feet.

Deciphering The Signs

The skill of the acupuncturist lies in deciphering the signs presented by the body which involves listening, touching, asking, looking and smelling. This will include a reading of both the tongue and pulse. Treatment such as clearing and nourishing will be applied as appropriate until the signs diminish. Lifestyle changes can help too. Foods can be added/subtracted to your diet to cool you (avoid ginger and chili), warm you (soups and stews, ginger, black pepper) and nourish you (miso soup, beetroot soup).

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You may also exhibit a combination of these symptoms (eg freezing during the day and hot in bed), which would require two parallel treatment principles. And yes men do get night sweats too!

Would you like to be better regulated? Call Martin Dean on 07969413158

[I can never get my temperature right]

Acupuncture As Good As Drugs For Constipation

A large Chinese randomised control study carried out recently found acupuncture as good as drugs for constipation.

Three Different Point Combinations

Researchers tested three different acupuncture point combinations and compared these against the drug Mosapride. 684 patients were randomly assigned to one of the four groups.

Acupuncture As Good As Drugs For Constipation

The acupuncture patients were given 16 sessions over a four week period. In each of the three groups treatment points were stimulated by passing a pulsed electrical current through the needle. This technique allows for increased acupoint stimulation over needle insertion alone.

Outcome

After four weeks all four groups experienced significantly improved bowel movements, but at eight weeks the three acupuncture groups were showing significantly better bowel movements than the drug group. Stool consistency improved equally in all four groups.

Comment

Among the points that were chosen for this study Stomach 37, known as ‘Upper Great Void’ refers to the large bowel. This point, located on the lower leg is known for its ability to regulate the large intestine, and when used in combination with another point used in the study (Large Intestine 11) is said to lubricate the passage of the stool. This point combination was first discussed in a text book (The Spiritual Axis) compiled in the first century BC.

Acupuncture As Good As Drugs For Constipation

For more information on this study click here.

 

Giving elderly patients regular acupuncture could help take pressure off stretched NHS, say experts

Giving elderly patients regular acupuncture could help take pressure off stretched NHS, say experts
I have reproduced here an article published by The British Acupuncture Council on 16th July 2018

Elderly patients with co-morbidities should be referred for regular acupuncture sessions to help reduce pressure on the NHS, the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) says.

Significantly Fewer Deaths

The comments follow a systematic review, published in BMJ Open, which showed that continuity of care resulted in ‘significantly fewer deaths’ among patients and halved the risk of an emergency hospital admission.
The BAcC claims that the ‘continuity of patient-centred care’ provided by regular acupuncture, delivered by the same practitioner, over a considerable period of time helps relieve symptoms, reduce medication and improve wellbeing of elderly patients, therefore reducing their risk of hospital admission.

Mark Bovey, research manager at the BAcC, says there is significant evidence suggesting acupuncture is effective in relieving pain in conditions such as back pain, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and other musculoskeletal complaints and acupuncturists could be playing a much bigger role: ‘National health services across the developed world are struggling to cope with increasing numbers of old people with chronic illnesses. Conventional health and social care resources are overstretched and polypharmacy is rife, with its attendant side effects and interaction complications. Acupuncture could offer a useful additional resource.’
He highlights a report, Long-Term Acupuncture Therapy for Low-Income Older Adults with Multimorbidity: A Qualitative Study of Patient Perceptions, which was carried out in California last year and published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

The qualitative study, which involved 15 patients aged 60 years and older suffering from at least two chronic conditions, showed that a substantial number of participants were able to reduce their medication and maintain physical and mental health. In addition, they developed a strong trust in the clinic’s ability to support the totality of their health as individuals, which they contrasted to the specialised and impersonal approach of conventional medicine.
‘What is perhaps most interesting,’ Bovey comments, ‘is how the acupuncture clinic became the main health hub for these people. They were diagnosed and treated, there was social and emotional support, practical advice and referral to other community resources. This was a one-stop, holistic service, the sort of coordinated care model that the NHS is striving for, and patients yearning for.’

Giving evidence to a 2013 House of Commons health committee investigation into how the NHS could better manage elderly people with long-term conditions, the late Dr George Lewith, former professor of health research at the University of Southampton, said conventional medicine could ‘learn a lot’ from complementary medicine.

Whole Person Approach

‘Being nice to people and approaching them as whole people has a big effect on their symptoms. [The whole-person approach] could be delivered within regular medicine [ . . . ] We need to learn the lessons from complementary medicine and deliver them better conventionally, but you are not going to get GPs who are working 14 hours a day within the current health system, and who are all pretty disillusioned, to have increased compassion,’ he said.

Giving elderly patients regular acupuncture could help take pressure off stretched NHS, say experts

Keywords: Giving elderly patients regular acupuncture could help take pressure off stretched NHS, say experts.

http://theacupunctureblog.co.uk/check-that-your-acupuncturist-is-safe/

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?

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.

 

www.acupuncturepaincentre.co.uk

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.

 

The Four Pillars of Health

What are the four pillars of health and how can they help us? Dr Rangan Chatterjee, 38, a GP from Oldham, and presenter of the BBC’s ‘Doctor In The House’ series was recently interviewed on the BBC Breakfast TV sofa. He asserted that most GPs these days are too busy to properly investigate complicated medical conditions, and it is therefore much easier to prescribe a pill. As part of his TV experiment Dr Chatterjee was allowed the luxury of spending time with patients in their home environment. As a consequence he was better able to get to the bottom of their medical issues, with some heartwarming outcomes.Four pillars of health

The four pillars he described are:-

  • Eating
  • Moving
  • Sleeping
  • Relaxing

It all sounds too easy, but what can we really learn from this approach? We are bombarded with health messages on a daily basis. Which ones should we really pay attention to? Let us take a look at each pillar in turn.

Nearly every day there is a new story in the media about healthy eating, which frankly can be really confusing. For me the key questions are about how often you eat freshly cooked food? Perhaps convenience wins over quality. Are do you allow adequate time to ‘rest and digest’ at mealtimes?

Have you ever had a conversation with your GP or practice nurse about taking more exercise? What was the outcome? Perhaps you started with good intentions but something more important came along.

four pillars of healthAnd on the topic of rest, the sleep council (http://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/) notes that ‘nearly half of us are getting just six hours sleep or less a night. And an alarming four out of five people complain of disturbed or inadequate – or ‘toxic’ – sleep’. Go to their website for answers to these and other sleep related issues.

According to an online dictionary, the word relax means ‘to make or become less tense or anxious, to make (a rule or restriction) less strict’. Which rule could you relax? For all you schedulers out there, do you ever pencil in R & R breaks?

Here is a tip to make your four pillars work for you. I like to score each one from one to ten (where ten is perfect), and then write alongside each score one action I can take that will improve my score. Go on and have a go.

Martin Dean is an acupuncturist with over 23 years practice experience who practices in Nottingham. www.acupuncturepaincentre.co.uk