Neither Too Much Nor Too Little

Acupuncture texts devote a lot of space to the most appropriate arrangement of things in nature. According to the ancient Chinese principle of Yin and Yang, the world is composed of a delicate balance between polar opposites. Night and day are a prime example of this. We are not talking here about a fixed state of being, rather of a delicate interplay between these forces. We are effectively asking about what is normal.

Here are some questions an acupuncturist might ask you during a consultation session. Using your own experience of health, decide where do you think the balance should be struck in each case.Neither Too Much Nor Too Little

  • How often do you open your bowels?
  • Is there a foul odour (or perhaps none at all)?
  • How often do you sweat?
  • How well do you regulate your body temperature (taking into account the normal variations in climate)?
  • How many hours do you work in an average week?
  • How much exercise do you take?
  • How is your appetite ?
  • How are your energy levels?

The acupuncturists will also listen to you

  • Is your voice excessively loud or quiet?
  • If you have a cough, is it weak or explosively loud?

The practitioner will use his sense of touch.

  • What is your muscle tone like (flaccid, tight)?
  • What is your normal pulse rate (rapid, slow)?
  • Is your pulse strong, weak?

We could look for the following

  • Are you at your ideal weight?
  • Is your facial complexion pale, florid?
  • Are your physical movements slow or jerky
  • Is the body of your tongue moist, dry?

How did you fare? Are you perfectly balanced? At your first session with an acupuncturist, this type of questioning will give him an overall picture of your health. Treatment strategies will then be devised to help normalise these factors, and progress carefully monitored. For example if you have very chilly feet, treatment may consist of moxibustion (warming therapy) and a change to eating more warming foods. The key question might be ‘are you still wearing bedsocks in bed in June?’

What would you really like to change about your health? What could you do with more or less of?

The Acupuncture Pain Centre

Call for an appointment on 07969413158

Charting Your Basal Body Temperature

A Precision Instrument

The female body is a precision instrument, and this is never more crucial than when you are trying to get pregnant. Many years of experience as a fertility acupuncturist tell me that small variations in operating temperature can often affect the chance of a successful outcome. For this reason, charting your basal body temperature or BBT (your body temperature at rest), is a critical fertility sign because it is the only sign that will tell you definitively that you ovulated. It also is the only sign that will let you pinpoint (to as close a degree as possible) when ovulation occurred. All your other signs tell you only that ovulation is approaching. Temperature charting was first identified in the 1930’s by supporters of the rhythm method of contraception.

charting your basal body temperature

Basal Body Temperature Variations Over The Month

After ovulation, the body produces progesterone. Progesterone causes an increase in your body temperature that is observable when you measure your BBT with a special BBT thermometer just upon waking in the morning.

Now take a look at the illustration.  An experienced eye would recognise that the temperature in the first half of the chart is too high and will observe that this person has ovulated early. Higher temperatures can often also lead to poorer egg quality. This is just one possible variation  seen in clinical practice, other examples include temperatures that may be too low or simply unstable.

By asking careful questions the skilled practitioner is able to uncover the reasons for this variation from the norm, and will be able to recommend an appropriate course of  treatment. Continued monitoring of the BBT chart allows for checking of treatment outcomes. It may also allow you to check the effects of lifestyle changes such as reducing stress.

In effect taking your daily temperature can be a useful tool in optimising your fertility. Are you ready to start charting your basal body temperature now?

 How To Take Your Basal Body Temperature

  • Take your temperature before rising in the morning as any activity can raise your BBT.

  • Take your temperature at the same time every morning (if this changes make a note of the time).

  • Take your temperature after at least 3 consecutive hours of sleep

  • Keep your thermometer accessible from your bed so you do not have to get
    up to get it.

  • Use the same thermometer throughout your cycle if possible.

  • Keep a spare thermometer in case one breaks (especially if you are using a glass thermometer).

  • Temperatures can be taken orally or vaginally but must be taken in the same place throughout the cycle since the temperatures of the different parts may vary. Most women prefer to take their temperatures orally and this is usually fine, though some women find that they get a clearer reading by temping vaginally.

  • Record your temperature soon after you take it (or ask your partner to) since most thermometers only store a reading until the next use. If you have to do something else or want to stay in bed, you can record it later.Basal body temperature charting

  • If you must use a heating pad or electric blanket, keep it at the same setting throughout your cycle. Make a note of its use.

  • Take your temperature before doing anything else including eating, drinking or going to the bathroom. If circumstances arise that prevent you from taking your temperature right away, take it as soon as you are able and make a note of the circumstances.

  • Start your chart from the beginning of your cycle, i.e. when you start bleeding.

  • Use a new sheet for each cycle
  • You may like to create your chart online, using websites such as

To book an appointment with Martin Dean call 07969413158


Acupuncture Point Xue Hai An Unsung Hero

Acupuncture point Xue Hai (usually referred to as Spleen 10) is surely something of an unsung hero. It is amongst the most commonly used acupuncture points. Located on the inside of the leg just below the knee, its name translates as Sea of Blood. As you would expect it is used for treating disorders of the blood – its manyfold uses in this context include regulating menstruation, benefitting skin disorders (by moistening otherwise dry skin), and treating painful conditions distinguished by stagnant blood.

Acupuncture Point Xue Hai An Unsung Hero

To give an example, painful or irregular periods characterised by large clots can be eased with this point. In effect it promotes smooth circulation and discharge of  menstrual blood.

When combined with other points Xue Hai can also be used to treat blood deficiency (similar to anaemia). Typical symptoms of blood deficiency might include dizziness on standing up, ‘floaters’ in the vision, brittle nails and fatigue. So how does this work? In Chinese medicine, Xue Hai lies on the Spleen channel. This organ/system is responsible for the transformation of ingested food and drink (as a part of the digestive system) into blood. It is for this reason that the provision of acupuncture treatment would normally be accompanied by a proper discussion about diet.

And finally Xue Hai can help skin conditions where internal heat causes so-called ‘heat in the blood’, a characteristic of many skin conditions (for example painful, hot sores).

Is acupuncture Point Xue Hai An Unsung Hero? I will let you be the judge of this. Do you have a favourite acupuncture point?

Call: 07969413158 for an appointment.




What Is Traditional Acupuncture?

Isn’t All Acupuncture The Same?

Patients frequently ask me how the so-called traditional acupuncture I practice is different from that given by, for example a chiropractor. And some are unaware that there is a difference. This confusion is understandable, after all the word ‘acupuncture’ (zhēnjiǔ in Chinese) simply describes the act of ‘puncturing with a needle’. Surely it is a matter of inserting a needle in the right spot?

What Is Traditional Acupuncture?But how do we know which is the right place?  It has been frequently observed that all systems of medicine are subject to change over time by political, economic and social pressures. This might prompt us to ask about the philosophy underlying any practice of needle insertion? From whom and where do the key ideas originate? How do we view the patient and the world in which she lives and interacts with? What is the treatment context? How do we assemble the information we have about the patient into a meaningful diagnosis?

According to the British Acupuncture Council,

‘traditional acupuncture is a healthcare system based on ancient principles which go back nearly two thousand years. It has a very positive model of good health and function, and looks at pain and illness as signs that the body is out of balance’.

What Happens In A Treatment?

One way to appreciate the standout factors of traditional acupuncture is to observe what happens in a typical treatment session. Using all the senses, the practitioner may look at the patient’s tongue, feel her pulse, listen for subtle undertones in her voice or observe the colours on her face. Details, such as knots of veins on the ankles, dry skin on the arms or overall body shape may be considered. Even the brightness of the eyes is an important clue to inner health.

Questioning about symptoms is often detailed. Is your cough explosive or feeble? What does the phlegm look like? What makes it better, worse?

I recently came across a lady who received acupuncture from a chiropractor to ease a hip problem. She was advised that she would probably experience nausea after the treatment, which she did. I remarked to her that very few of my patients ever encounter this, and illustrates the ‘whole system’ approach of traditional acupuncture. If detailed investigation revealed digestive issues, this would be factored into the diagnosis and treatment would be tailored accordingly. By the way the chiropractor’s treatment did effectively cure the hip problem.

And this leads us to another key point. People receiving traditional acupuncture often report that other conditions will resolve whilst they are being treated for their main complaint.

acupuncture channelsAnd finally, traditional acupuncture has been developed for centuries as part of a connected system, and so acupuncture may well be prescribed alongside treatments such as moxibustion (warming treatment), guasha (friction massage), tuina (Chinese massage and stretching), qigong (breathing exercises), cupping therapy or Chinese dietary therapy.

More information on traditional acupuncture can be found on the British Acupuncture Council website.

The Acupuncture Pain Centre, Nottingham UK


Why Are You Taking My Pulse?

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

How Can Acupuncture Help Fertility

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

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

Can Acupuncture Help Fertility

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

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

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

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

How Much Water Should I Drink

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

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

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

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

How much water should I drink

Signs that you are not drinking enough may include:-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Acupuncture Pain Centre

Chinese Brushstrokes

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

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

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


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

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

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

Chinese Brushstrokes (c) M. Dean 2016

Acupuncture Tales From The Treatment Couch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acupuncture Awareness Week

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

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

Acupuncture Awareness Week

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

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

Call 07969 41 31 58 to book your appointment.

Does Acupuncture Hurt And Other Questions

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

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

Here are the top five questions patients tend to ask.

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

Five Common Questions About Acupuncture

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

See earlier blog post on this topic

  1. Are you familiar with treating my condition?

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

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

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

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

  1. How many sessions will I need?

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

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

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

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

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

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

See earlier blog post on this topic

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

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

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

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