Why I Love My Job

Patients often pick up that I really enjoy my work. This got me to thinking what it is about the practice of Acupuncture that fires me up.

why I love my jobFirstly I have to say that this ancient approach to wellness didn’t come about overnight. Constant development of ideas by Chinese thinkers and doctors over more than two millenia has given us a wide-ranging system of medicine that rather thoughtfully tries to explain what it is to be human with all our faults. It is about real people’s lives. And such a system naturally requires constant study and updating by the modern practitioner. It also draws to the attention of the acupuncturist – the agent of change –  the need for self-development.

In a week where the daylight coming through the window has begun to take on a warmer hue and the very air sounds different, I am remined how we advanced human beings are still affected by the relentless march of the seasons. As it is without us, so it is within.

The ‘Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine’, much of which predates the birth of Christ, describes in detail how we are affected by seasonal variations, and guides us in working hand-in-hand with nature. I am blessed to be able to pass on some of this wisdom as I understand it. Amongst my patients, farmers are the group most readily able to relate to this concept, with their close association with the land. All too often the solution to seasonal variations in how we feel inside is to turn up the heating, switch the electric lighting on and carry on with our normal routines. The enlightened soul might perhaps modify his/her behaviour according to the specific nature of each season.

So being an acupuncture practitioner isn’t neccesarily an easy job. And patients don’t always get better, or respond according to textbook theory. It would be surprising if they did! But many do and this is a regular reward that never grows dim. In truth attention to detail and careful use of the senses – sight, listening , touch and even smell – can go a long way towards allowing us to better understand each other.

The way of healing is so profound. It is deep as the oceans and boundless as the skies. How many truly know it?

If only we were perfect!

 

 

Introducing The Moxa Family

I have written about moxa before. Just to recap, and quoting from The British Acupuncture Council from their website,

Moxibustion is an essential part of Chinese medicine. This involves moxa, a substance prepared from mugwort leaves (Artemisia vulgaris), being placed either directly on the skin, on top of an acupuncture needle or held just above the skin, usually over specific acupuncture points or meridians. The herb is lit and as it smoulders slowly, the heat permeates the skin and affects the flow of “qi” (energy) and blood in the area being treated.

Most people find its gentle warming properties soothing and very effective. Whilst many people will recognise that acupuncturists use needles, it is an open secret that we also use moxa. It is perhaps helpful to think of moxa as a form of dry heat (as opposed to a hot water bottle, wheat bag or hot shower which is damp-heat). If your condition is improved by the application of heat then you may find moxa helpful. Your trusty acupuncturist will be able to advise.

What I wanted to do here is to highlight a number of different types of moxa available on the market, and illustrate the strengths of each. Just to be clear, they (nearly) all contain mugwort leaves. The difference is in the packaging.

Moxa Roll (Or Stick)

moxa stickThis type is available in a cigar form which makes it easy for home use. It can be held close to the skin to warm acupuncture points and specific areas. With sciatic pain it is often helpful to warm the affected nerve area creating a so-called ‘red-stripe’.

 

Moxa Cones

moxa conesIn this form the mugwort is rolled into cones and placed directly on the acupuncture point. It is lit and allowed to smoulder. It is of course removed before reaching the skin so that a pleasant feeling of warmth remains. This approach may be used in conjunction with needle insertion (after swabbing the skin of course). Watch a video.

Moxa On Needle

moxa on needleIn this application a small stub of moxa roll is threaded onto the end of a needle. When lit the heat is both radiated to the surrounding tissues and conducted down the metal of the needle to warm and soften underlying tissues. In the illustration the technique is being used to reduce inflammation and improve circulation in an injured knee.

Mini Moxa

mini moxaSo called ‘mini moxa’ devices are a very convenient and well made and safe device for home use. Patient can be instructed how to light and extinguish them safely, and how to use them.

 

 

 

So there it is. A range of convenient warming techniques for the modern acupuncture practice. Pick up the phone and call your local acupuncturist to discuss whether this treatment might be for you.

Warning: Moxa treatment should only be used under the guidance of a fully qualified traditional acupuncturist. It should not be carried out at home without supervision.

Call Martin Dean on 07969413158 for an appointment.

My Body Has Held Me To Ransom

“I can’t believe my body has held me to ransom for all these years”.

This is a sentiment I have heard expressed in so many ways over the years. As a man it is often difficult to truly appreciate what a woman puts up with each month, particularly when things don’t go smoothly. As an experienced fertility acupuncturist though I have treated many many women with a large variety of menstrual difficulties over the years and I have to say the results are often profound. Of course you don’t have to be trying to get pregnant to get help with your cycle.

So how could acupuncture help? Before starting it is a great idea to seek a medical diagnosis so do have a talk with your GP first in order to rule out anything more serious. On your first visit to an acupuncturist you will be asked a whole lot of detailed questions about your menstrual and general health to establish what is behind your symptoms and how best to move forward.My Body Has Held Me To Ransom

I have come to regard the female menstrual cycle as something which needs to ‘flow’ smoothly. This means for example that the monthly blood flow should be smooth and fluid (so no clots) and free from ‘stop-start’ bleeding. You should be largely pain-free and emotionally consistent for the whole month (so no mood swings or energy drops). Any other symptoms that occur during your menstrual cycle such as bloating (bowels not flowing well) or fluid retention (impeded fluid flow) will be taken into account.

In some of my more poetic moments I am drawn to consider my role as a ‘plumber’, opening taps, removing blockages, turning up the water pressure and improving heat distribution. To translate this into ‘acupuncture speak’, one of the most common diagnoses is ‘Liver Qi Stagnation’ which has amongst its symptoms, moodiness, fluctuation of mental state, a churning feeling in the stomach and feeling ‘wound-up”. Does this sound familiar? Yes we are talking about PMS. Treating acupuncture point ‘Liver 3’ (located on the foot) during the premenstrual phase often produces the most dramatic treatment outcomes. It is like opening a tap.

So go on – get your life back!

Martin Dean

07969 41 31 58

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connecting With Your Inner Sherlock

When  people attend their initial acupuncture session, we will not surprisingly have a long conversation about their health. Although there will be a list of questions to ask, with experience these can be used to give structure to the session and not to hinder the flow of the dialogue. The chat may meander from bowel habits to ‘get up and go’, from dry skin to the death of a parent. Often when I pause to ask how things are proceeding the answer is  something like “I’ve never really thought about it in that context before”. The point here is that we are encouraged to think of our health as manifesting in small unconnected parcels. We are unused to considering such issues as being joined up, one to another.
image

To take an example:-
“I have a back problem which has nagged me on and off for three years. My GP says it is just wear and tear and offers me painkillers. These simply mask the problem. Osteopathic treatment is helpful for a while but I have to keep going back for more. My acupuncturist asked me when it all started and I immediately went back to the time when I lost my job three and a half years ago. I was sick with worry for several months afterwards and that is when it started I think. Although I eventually got another job, I haven’t slept well since. I’m beginning to think these things are all connected”.

This patient had never thought of joining up the dots, and no other health professional had encouraged her to do this. As a result of our discussion acupuncture treatment was given to address the sleeping issues, calm her mind and strengthen her back. Her symptoms began to ease and she felt like the woman she thought she had lost.

So what are the keys to connecting with your inner Sherlock Holmes? My suggestion would be to construct a timeline and write down the key experiences in your life. Include health challenges, life changing moments such as getting divorced or having children, and anything else you can think of. If appropriate draw arrows to show things may be connected. Does anything new jump out at you?

Then focus on some of your current symptoms – for example PMS or fatigue. Do you know what makes it worse or what eases it? Are your headaches improved or worsened when you massage the affected area? What do you think you need to do to change things? Not only will this help your GP, acupuncturist or other health professional to accurately diagnose and treat your condition, it will help you to feel more in tune with the workings of your body.

Why not get talking to your inner Sherlock right now?

Cold Relief Tea

It is that time of year when many of us reach for the lemsip and tissues. Statistically the autumn season is a peak time for respiratory diseases, due it is said to the changes in temperature. It is for this reason that ancient acupuncture texts often associate the lungs with the season of autumn.

Cold relief tea

Beat Those Autumn Sniffles

This recipe uses the principles of traditional Chinese medicine to produce a cold relief tea which drives cold out of the body and ‘releases the exterior’. It may not be an obvious choice of brew but this is just the tonic if you are showing the first shivers of a cold. After drinking the tea I would recommend you cover yourself up and sweat it out.

Please note that this tea is not suitable if you show signs of a high fever.

Ingredients
Fresh ginger 2 teaspoons
Cinammon bark 1 teaspoon
Garlic 1 clove
Spring onion 1
Cayenne pepper 1/4 teaspoon
2 cups water
Simmer the first two ingredients and add the rest before the end. Sweeten if desired. Enjoy!

 

For more information on Chinese food energetics click here.

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 www.fertilityfriend.com

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?

www.acupuncturepaincentre.co.uk

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!