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]

 

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.

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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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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.

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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?