This week, following on from my Water element theme, I look at heel pain (specifically Plantar Fasciitis) and how Acupuncture can help.
How can my feet be connected to my Kidneys?
Well, primarily because of the location of the Bladder (which is paired with the Kidneys) meridian which runs through the back, knees and heels. But in Chinese Medicine the heel is also related to the Kidneys because of the emotional aspect. This makes sense if you think about it, as the Kidneys are the storehouse of our inherited Qi (our Jing or Essence). They are linked to our ability as humans to grow and to stand upright, and therefore stride forward into the world. If this ability is taken away from us, the ability to stand and walk, the resulting emotion is fear.
As you know I love to take a step back into the past. So let us once again imagine ourselves as the hunter gatherers our ancestors once were. Image injuring your back/knees/heels, from either old age or a run-in with a wooly mammoth. If you can’t get out there and look for food, or if you are unable to run from a predator, you are pretty much done for. These emotions are hardwired into us. If you can’t get up in the morning, the first thing we feel is fear. How can I get ready for work? What about the kids? How can I do the shopping? Who will do the chores? Nowadays of course you won’t get left behind as the tribe moves on for pastures new, but the fear is still there!
A pain in the foot
Recently a Client came to see me for Acupuncture after being diagnosed with Plantar Fasciitis. PF is the most frequent cause of heel pain. It is commonly seen in runners, but can also be caused by walking and standing on a hard surface. PF is an inflammation and irritation of the plantar fascia, the connective tissue that supports the arch. There is also the possibility of micro-tears in the fascia at or near its attachment to the calcaneus (which is the heel bone)About half of patients will also have a heel spur. Being overweight is also a very common factor in cases of PF.
My Client (let’s call him Bob) had been suffering with heel pain for quite some time, about 6 months. The usual treatment offered by the NHS is steroid injection, but so far after two injections Bob was still in pain. And being a man of a certain age, although the cause was unclear, his health wasn’t as straight forward as one would like. He has a history of Type 2 diabetes and Prostate Cancer, both of which have a Kidney and Bladder involvement. These conditions were well managed, however, and his general health is good.
So what could be the cause of Bob’s heel pain? The pain started the day after his first ever driving lesson. A stressful event that was perhaps a little too much for his already weakened Kidneys? It also seemed feasible to me that the car accelerator and brake (which he wasn’t used to) may have put strain on his achilles tendon, which then affected his heel.
Treating Plantar Fasciitis is one of those conditions I know straight away whether acupuncture is going to help, which in this case it has. As you can see in the picture, I treated Bob’s heel with electro-acupuncture together with the heat lamp. As the Kidneys are the most yin organ of the body, they are easily affected by the cold, so heat really helps nourish the affected areas. I also used acupuncture on tender points along the Bladder meridian, including the points related to Bob’s Kidneys in his lower back.
I am happy to report that Bob felt less heel pain after just one session.
If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me. Find out more about me, or my treatments here.
Following on from my Winter blog, in the coming weeks I want to take a closer look at some of the conditions that are commonly associated with a Kidney/Water element imbalance.
This week I look at Lower Back Pain and how Acupuncture can help.
Suffering with Lower Back Pain costs money!
As a leading cause of disability and one of the main reasons for work-related sickness, lower back pain is estimated to cost the UK economy over £12 billion per year.
In the UK the condition is responsible for 37% of all chronic pain in men and 44% in women. In a bid to cope with the condition, a study by the British Acupuncture Council reveals that 74% of people use painkillers as a quick fix to relieve discomfort.
Painkillers often mask the problem and don’t address many of the underlying causes of lower back pain. With traditional acupuncture I look at the root of the condition as well as the symptoms in order to try and promote longer term health and wellbeing. Many of my patients find acupuncture extremely beneficial.
With 2.3 million acupuncture treatments carried out each year, traditional acupuncture is one of the most popular complementary therapies practised in the UK today. Based on ancient principles which go back nearly two thousand years, acupuncture involves gently placing extremely fine, sterile needles at specific points on the body to trigger a healing response.
Moxibustion on the needle for Lower Back Pain
Back Pain according to Chinese Medicine
The Kidneys, mainly due to their location, are linked to lower back pain. But because of the meridians that run through them, the Kidneys are also related to problems with the knees and heels. To understand this relationship, I need to explain a little about the Kidneys and their function.
The Kidneys store our Essence (Jing), which is the root of our vital energy (Qi) and so are buried deep within us so they are protected. The Kidneys are considered to be the most Yin of all our organs. However, as we age our Yin diminishes; the water within us slowly dries up leaving the mind and body less flexible. And just like a stagnant puddle, when water is constrained and cannot move, toxins develop which affect everything else. This is natural, of course, as we must all age. But in our modern lives this depletion of energy is often accelerated by doing too much, eating poorly and stress!
Cupping is also good for Lower Back Pain.
Here are 10 ways Traditional Acupuncture can help with Lower Back Pain.
Talk about it
Don’t live with pain, have it treated! If you’re not happy with your current situation or diagnosis get another opinion. I will be happy to discuss your problem and help you understand whether acupuncture can help you, before you commit to having any treatment.
Tailored for you
Traditional acupuncture is an effective therapy that treats the whole person. This means each patient is treated as a unique individual so the acupuncture points chosen for one person with lower back pain may be different for another person with the same symptoms. This bespoke style is one of the key reasons traditional acupuncture is so effective as it’s not a one-size fits all approach.
Contrary to popular belief, traditional acupuncture is an incredibly relaxing experience. Some people of course will be naturally wary of the needles but they’re sterile and the same width as a human hair so they’re extremely fine! As a member of the British Acupuncture Council I can guarantee a high standard of safety and care.
Natural pain relief
By stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, traditional acupuncture helps release “happy” hormones including endorphins and oxytocin, which are the body’s own natural pain-relieving hormones. These hormones can change the way the body processes pain, helping to reduce discomfort and distress.
Traditional acupuncture has also been shown to reduce inflammation and swelling by stimulating blood flow to the affected area and dispersing excess fluids to promote healing and aid recovery.
Get moving again!
Many patients find that even after one session of traditional acupuncture their movement and mobility will be improved and their muscles don’t feel as stiff. The number of sessions needed will depend on each individual and whether their pain is chronic or not. I will put together a bespoke treatment plan during your initial consultation.
Many back pain sufferers are sick and tired of being continuously on medication (understandably!). Traditional acupuncture can potentially reduce the need for the long-term use of medications without the side effects often attributed to some pharmaceutical drugs.
The holistic approach of traditional acupuncture means that the whole person is treated, both body and mind. These two are often linked, especially when there is chronic pain. Once a patient has started to feel the benefit of treatment, the therapy can often restore a feeling of hope and positivity.
A 2006 study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) showed that a short course of acupuncture compared with usual treatment was cost-effective in the long term for persistent lower back pain. Those given acupuncture recorded higher levels of satisfaction and fewer complaints than patients treated with conventional medicines, which included painkillers and anti-inflammatories.
Finally, if you’re reliant on your painkilling tablets you’ll be pleased to hear traditional acupuncture works just as effectively alongside modern medication. In fact it can even speed up the recovery process. Be sure to consult with your GP before undertaking numerous treatment plans.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms then you could have Benign Paroxymal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV.
This a type of Vertigo that can be frightening, but it is harmless and can be easily remedied with the Epley Manoeuvre.
What is BPPV?
BPPV is the most common inner ear problem and cause of vertigo (a false sense of spinning).
BPPV is a specific diagnosis and each word describes the condition:
Benign: this means it is not life-threatening, even though the symptoms can be very intense and upsetting
Paroxysmal: it comes in sudden, short spells
Positional: certain head positions or movements can trigger a spell
Vertigo: feeling like you’re spinning, or the world around you is spinning
What causes it?
There are crystals of calcium carbonate that are a normal part of our inner ear and help us with our balance and body motion. These tiny rock-like crystals are settled in the centre “pouch” of the inner ear. BPPV is caused by the crystals becoming “unglued” from their normal place. They begin to float around and get stuck on sensors in the wrong canal of the inner ear. The dizziness you feel will continue until the crystals settle after you move. As the crystals move and settle, your brain is getting powerful, false messages telling you that you are violently spinning, when all you may have done is moved slightly.
What are the common symptoms and how can BPPV affect me?
Everyone experiences BPPV differently, but there are common symptoms. The most common symptom is distinct spells of vertigo. You may experience nausea (vomiting) or a severe sense of feeling unstable or like you are losing your balance. These symptoms will be intense for seconds to minutes. You can have lasting feelings of dizziness and instability, but at a lesser level, once the episode has passed. In some people, especially older adults, BPPV can appear as an isolated sense of instability brought on by a position change like sitting up, looking up, bending over or reaching. It does not cause constant severe dizziness and is usually triggered by movement, and it does not affect your hearing or cause you to faint.
The natural course of BPPV is to become less severe over time. People often report that their first spinning episode was the worst and that the following episodes were not as bad.
How common is it?
BPPV is very common. It is more common in older people. Many of us will experience it at some time in our lives.
What caused my BPPV?
Most cases happen for no reason. It can sometimes be associated with trauma, migraine, other inner ear problems, diabetes, osteoporosis, and lying in bed for long periods of time (preferred sleep side, surgical procedures, and illness).
How is it diagnosed?
Normal scans and x-rays, and medical testing cannot confirm BPPV. However, a simple bedside test can be completed to confirm your diagnosis. This involves moving your head into a position that makes the crystals move and will make you dizzy. The testing may include hanging your head a little off the edge of the bed or rolling your head left and right while lying in bed. The examiner will be watching you for a certain eye movement to confirm your diagnosis. The most common tests are called the Dix-Hallpike test and the supine roll test.
Can it be treated? Yes, with the Epley Manoeuvre.
Although medicines are only used to relieve symptoms, such as nausea, most BPPV cases can be improved with bedside repositioning exercises, such as the Epley Manoeuvre, which usually takes only a few minutes to complete. This has high success rates (eight out of every 10 people will respond immediately) although sometimes the treatment needs to be repeated a few times. The Epley Manoeuvre is designed to guide the crystals back to their original location in your inner ear. It can be done at the same time that the diagnosis is carried out.
You can also be taught to perform these manoeuvres by yourself, which is called “self-repositioning.”
Is there any down side to the Epley Manoeuvre?
During the actual treatment there can be some brief distress from vertigo, nausea, and feelings of disorientation. Following the treatment, some people report their symptoms start to clear right away, and others report that they have continuing motion sickness-type symptoms and mild instability. These symptoms can take a few hours or a few days to go away.
Can BPPV go away on its own?
There is evidence that if left untreated, it can go away within a few weeks. However, remember that while the crystals are out of place, in addition to feeling sick and sensitive to motion, your unsteadiness can increase your risk of falling. You will need to take precautions to not fall. You are at a higher risk of injury if you are a senior or have balance issues. Older adults are encouraged to seek professional help quickly to resolve symptoms.
How do I know my BPPV has gone away?
The strong spinning sensations that have been triggered by position changes should be greatly reduced, or completely gone.
How long will it take before I feel better?
You can still feel a little bit sensitive to movement even after the Epley Manoeuvre is successful. You can also feel unsteady at times. These mild symptoms can take up to a few weeks to slowly go away, but you should follow up with your medical provider or physiotherapist if your symptoms of dizziness or instability do not get better within this time. Older adults with a history of falls or fear of falling may need further exercises or balance therapy to cure their BPPV completely.
Is there anything I should or shouldn’t do to help?
Yes. Your balance will be very poor, so you will need to take precautions so that you don’t fall. You will feel more sensitive to movement until the BPPV has healed. When your symptoms are fading, it is important to return to normal activities that you can do safely. Exposure to motion and movement will help to speed your healing.
Can BPPV come back and/or can I prevent it?
Unfortunately, it is a condition that can sometimes return. You may only ever have a few episodes, or they may become more frequent, often caused by factors such as physical injury, inner ear conditions, or aging. We cannot stop BPPV from coming back, but we can treat it with a high rate of success.
What happens if I still have symptoms following my initial Epley Manoeuvre?
There are a number of reasons Epley Manoeuvre could have failed:
It is quite normal to need more than one repositioning session to get the crystals back in their proper place. You may only need a few more treatments. There are a number of different types of BPPV. The self-treatment is designed for the most common form, but there are other treatments available for the other types. BPPV can sometimes be in more than one canal and/or side at the same time. This may require multiple treatments to resolve. If your initial tries at self-repositioning have failed, seek a BPPV specialist. It can be difficult to complete correct positioning by yourself. A professional may be able to complete better positioning and/or use helpful equipment.
There can be some significant leftover dizziness even after the BPPV crystals have been correctly repositioned. This dizziness may require more time (few days to couple of weeks) or it may be appropriate for a different exercise/movement. It is VERY important to follow-up with your healthcare provider if you continue to have symptoms. You may be sent for further tests to confirm your diagnosis or discuss further treatment options.
What if your Vertigo does not match the listed criteria?
If your Vertigo does not match the above criteria, do not despair as we are still able to help. Vertigo can be caused by a variety of things, for example neck problems, TMJ problems, side effects of medication and allergies are just a few possible reasons.
I have helped many people with BPPV using the Epley Manoeuvre. Find out more about me, or my treatments.
Feeling sluggish after the Christmas celebrations? Now is the time to boost your energy with a shot of acupuncture!
Winter is here!
So Christmas is done and here we are in the midst of the most Yin time of year, winter. In Chinese Medicine winter relates to the Kidneys and the Water element.It is the time of year when we should be doing less. Staying in as the night draws in, warming ourselves around the fire and retiring early.In the UK the seasons always seem to take us by surprise. It’s not until the Beast from the East appears that we realise it is now winter. If you are feeling tired and lack lustre after Christmas, Acupuncture is just the thing to boost your energy.
Be like a dormouse!
But unfortunately the world doesn’t really allow us to slow down anymore.We are expected to work long hours, spend time with the family, go down the gym, be slim, watch Games of Thrones, shop online, AND eat properly, all at the same time!While the dormice sleep throughout the winter months, we continue on and on like a hamster on a wheel.
Many of the people I see for acupuncture this time of year tell the same story. They are working long hours, eating hurriedly and on the go, punishing themselves in the gym and not sleeping properly. Then they come for acupuncture because they are exhausted.
Do what comes naturally!
So let’s just take a step backwards…I want you to image what life might have been like before the internet, before mobile phones, even before the electric lightbulb.The industrial revolution is yet to happen.
But you are not poor, you do not live in a hovel, and you are not hungry.Let’s imagine that you work the land for a living. Through generations of experience you know what to expect when the winter truly arrives, so you are prepared.The harvest is now done and all the produce has either been sold or it is in storage.And now is the time that you must slow down.After a hearty dinner of root vegetables you sit around the fire with the family catching up on the day’s events. You plan what needs to be done the next day, and then you retire to bed early, which after the long hard days of summer graft, is welcomed.
Can we still live in this way?
We have to be realistic, of course. We all still need to work in one way or another, or have commitments that we might not want to get out of even if we could. But the naturalistic philosophy behind Chinese Medicine gives us some idea of how we should be living in rhythm with the seasons.For instance, going to bed earlier in the winter months and generally taking it easy. Winter is when the Water energy is at its strongest, a time when the reservoirs can fill up and the energies are replenished through rest. At this time, the life energy of the seed is now underground, which with the stillness of winter brings the potential of new birth in the spring.
People who live the agrarian lifestyle have an intimate relationship with the seasonal energies, and they have a genuine sense of what it means to be in harmony with them.If the farmer fails to plant the seed in the springtime, he would have missed the moment when the summer arrived.Without the growth of the spring (wood) and the maturity of the summer (fire) there would be no harvest (earth).Drawing upon our own connection with nature we are able to build an awareness of the elements.
The Water element and Winter
Water, the energy of winter, symbolises a time of stillness and rest that allows for the building up of reserves.If the reservoirs are dry and there can be no potential for the coming forth into life. So those with a deficiency in this element may experience a severe depletion of energy. And since the winter rains bring fluidity and freshness, Water brings the ability to flow.
When there is a lack of this energy, a person may become rigid.A deficiency can also be reflected in a blue colour, which can appear under the eyes or as a darkening on the side of the face. Or a groaning sound in the voice, which is understandable when one considers the fear of drowning or the feeling engendered by the scarcity in the storehouse during the wintertime. Or the feeling of fear when your back goes and you cannot work, or even walk!
The fearfulness from weak Kidney energy can also block loving experiences.Stressful, fear-ridden kidneys (water) fail to remove excess water, which extinguishes the heart spirit (fire) and its normal expressions of love and joy.
Boost your Energy with Acupuncture
Acupuncture can help in many ways.It can help to boost your energy stores, but foremost it can help you stay in tune with the changing seasons.Those people who are out of tune may experience Seasonal Adjustment Disorder (SAD) as the seasons change.They may lack energy or lustre; their digestion could be affected or they might suffer from insomnia; or they may become depressed.Either way, these could all be symptoms of being out of synch with the time of year, or simply not listening to what your body wants.
So when you get home from a long day at work and the sun has long set, and your modern head says you should go to the gym/running/party, listen to your inner dormouse…tuck yourself in for a night of peace and rest.