Acupuncture Southend Pain

Ear Acupuncture – a modern twist on an ancient therapy

The word acupuncture literally means ‘to puncture with a needle’, but its usage is relatively new;  it was first used as a verb in 1972.  Acupuncture itself, though, has been around a long time, and it has picked up more than one way to puncture the skin along the way.  There is the Chinese system of course, but there are also the Japanese methods, as well as Vietnamese and Korean.  You will also find acupuncture in Ayurvedic tradition medicine.  There are also many micro-systems of acupuncture including facial, abdominal, scalp and head.

Acupuncture Southend Pain

Ear Acupuncture – a modern twist on an ancient therapy

My training is in Chinese acupuncture, but I also use Ear acupuncture (also known as Auriculotherapy).  The origins of using the ear as a microsystem is not actually Chinese, but French.  In the 1950’s, Doctor Paul Nogier discovered that there are anatomical correspondences associated with the image of the inverted foetus in the ear.  He observed a scar located precisely on the upper portion of the ear on several of his patients, made by a lay healer in Marseilles, had successfully treated their sciatic pain.  Based on this, Nogier was able to map the human body and its functions on the ear.

But what has this got to do with Chinese medicine? The Chinese later adopted Nogier’s findings to enhance their own understanding of the ear as a microsystem.  Large scale trials carried out in China validated Nogier’s discoveries and led to the eventual widespread acceptance of his approach.

Southend Acupuncture Pain

The anatomical representations and acupuncture points identified in the ear are therefore quite recent discoveries and cannot be considered traditional, but because of the inclusive nature of Chinese medicine and its ability to absorb ideas from outside, ear acupuncture has been embraced by TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).

So how is ear acupuncture different to normal acupuncture? 

Well, there is no difference; people have been sticking pins in their ears (and hands, feet, abdomens, and anywhere else you can think of) to see how it affects the body, for a very long time!  Just like Acupuncture on the normal meridians, Ear Acupuncture can help with not only pain, but a wide variety of conditions.

Ear treatments have been around for a long time.  In around 450BCE Hippocrates, who studied medicine in Egypt, wrote about the Egyptian method of treating impotence by bleeding points on the back of the ear.  And just a few hundred years later (250BCE – 200CE) the Chinese began to write about points on the ear for the treatment of specific conditions.

Did you know?

  • Ear acupuncture is commonly used in the treatment of alcohol and drug withdrawal. The NADA protocol (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) was developed in the 1970s to help people in withdrawal from narcotics and later spread to alcohol and other withdrawal problems.  It has been used to benefit disaster victims and trauma sufferers worldwide.
  • Battlefield Acupuncture is a protocol developed for the US military and has been highly effective as an emergency analgesia for wounded soldiers.It is a first line therapy used before medics can evacuate the patient and introduce pharmaceuticals.  The protocol does not require the removal of armour or clothing so it can be applied immediately in the field.
  • It has been suggested that pirates used to believe wearing a gold or silver earring would improve their eyesight. There is an acupuncture point on the earlobe called the “ear point” or “vision point” or “master sensorial.” Although there are various points on the body that may be used to improve eyesight, there are reports of people enjoying vision improvements after having their ears pierced.

What happens at an appointment?

An Ear acupuncture appointment is no different to a normal acupuncture appointment. However, it can be performed either seated or lying down, and there is no need to remove clothing.

Chinese medicine looks at the body as a whole, so I may ask you about things that at first seem unrelated to, say, the pain in your elbow.  This is because I need to ascertain that the cause of the pain is not due to something  other than playing tennis.  For example, the pain could be related to diet; research has shown that an autoimmune condition such as Rheumatoid Arthritis can be worsened by certain foods.

But it can sometimes be simpler than that.

I once saw a client who came to me with recurring left elbow pain.  After chatting with him about his lifestyle etc. he mentioned that he was a driving instructor.  It turned out that when he was working he spent most of the day with his left elbow leaning out of the window, exposed to the wind and cold! I treated him and suggested he wind the window up a bit, and the pain never returned!. No steroid injection that time, I’m happy to say.

Once the questions are over you can sit back comfortably during the treatment. Occasionally I may also use body points or Tui Na (Chinese massage) to enhance the treatment.

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.

southend acupuncture back pain

Times they are a changing – Acupuncture and Change

Change is inevitable – defy it at your own peril!

You will have gathered from my earlier posts that change is going to happen whether you like it or not.   So perhaps it would be easier if we made more of an occasion of the changes in our lives.

It seems to me that in our society most stages of life are no longer honoured.  We celebrate birthdays and marriages, but what about the other big occasions like coming of age, a girl’s first period, the menopause, and even death?  All these landmarks in a lifetime were once celebrated, but now are gone, tucked away and difficult to talk about.

The Chinese knew about change

Over two thousand years ago Chinese doctors observed that females and males age in seven and eight year cycles respectively.  This is true to some extent; the cells of the organs do regenerate, but at different rates, as do the bones and skin.  The Chinese medical classics talk about Qi and Essence rather than cells.  The Neijing (which is basically the Chinese Medicine bible) makes it very clear that the body is in decline from around the age of thirty-five!

This is what the Chinese observed:

Women age in 7 year cycles

At seven years of age her kidney energy becomes full, her permanent teeth come in, and her hair grows long.

At fourteen years the tian kui, or fertility essence, matures, the conception and vital channels responsible for conception open, menstruation begins, and conception is possible.

At twenty-one years the kidney energy is strong and healthy, the wisdom teeth appear, and the body is vital and flourishing.

Southend back pain

At twenty-eight years the bones and tendons are well developed and the hair and secondary sex characteristics are complete.  This is the height of female development.

At thirty-five years the stomach and large intestine channels that govern the major facial muscles begin to deplete, the muscles begin to atrophy, facial wrinkles appear, and the hair begins to thin.

At forty-two all three yang channels are exhausted, the entire face is wrinkled, and the hair begins to turn grey.

At forty-nine years the conception and vital channels are completely empty, and the tien kui has dried up.  Hence, the flow of the menses ceases and the woman is no longer able to conceive.

Men age in 8 year cycles

At eight years of age the kidney energy becomes full, the permanent teeth appear, and the hair becomes long.

At sixteen years of age the kidney energy is ample, the tien kui is mature, and the Jing is ripe, so procreation is possible.

At twenty-four years the kidney qi is abundant, the bones and tendons grow strong, and the wisdom teeth come in.

At the thirty-second year the body is at the peak of strength, and functions of the male are at their height.

southend fertility

By forty the kidney qi begins to wane, teeth become loose, and the hair starts to fall.

At forty-eight the yang energy of the head begins to deplete, the face becomes sallow, the hair greys, and the teeth deteriorate.

By fifty-six years the liver energy weakens, causing the tendons to stiffen.

At sixty-four the tian kui dries up and the Jing is drained, resulting in kidney exhaustion, fatigue, and weakness.  The kidney reservoir becomes empty, marking the end of the power of conception.

We live in a cult of youth

We have become too squeamish to talk about ageing and bodily fluids; which is strange when you think about it, because it will happen to every one of us, if we’re lucky. I suppose that’s why we try to brush it under the carpet. 

southend acupuncture neck pain

Take funerals for example, which in our culture are often sad affairs.  The Toraja people in Indonesia, however, exhume the corpses of their relatives every year in what they call ‘The Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses’.  They clean them and dress them in new clothes and spend the day with them.  In Mexico, of course, they famously celebrate the Day of the Dead. And in Tibetan Buddhism the daily contemplation of death is positively encouraged.  Better to not be taken by surprise by something that is definitely coming.  We just don’t know when.

It is important that we are accepting of change. 

Some things are just inevitable.  We all age and we all experience illness and pain at some point in our lives.  So rather than focusing on the deterioration of our physical bodies, we should highlight the strengths that come with ageing.  The young may have tight skin and be able to stay up all night, but most do not have the wisdom that comes only with ageing.  Let me also add though that not all old people are wise!

 

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.

PCOS Acupuncture Southend

Another Acupuncture PCOS Success Story

Once again Acupuncture comes to the rescue when it seems like there is no hope! Here is another success story dealing with PCOS and the absence of periods (amenorrhoea).  
Vicki is 33 years old and she came to see me for acupuncture because she hadn’t had a period for over two years.  She had been diagnosed with PCOS five years ago, and apart from a dose of Metformin (which did nothing), the doctors said there was nothing they could do.  And so Vicki heard that acupuncture might be able to help….I’ll let Vicki tell the story in her own words:
 

Vicki’s Story – Acupuncture and PCOS

“My sister saw a post on Facebook about Steve’s successful treatment for a lady with PCOS, and she suggested I contact Steve to see if he could help. At this stage I hadn’t had a period for roughly 2.5 years and had been having issues for a number of years before that. The Doctor’s only solution was that I stayed on the pill to regulate my period, and when I did come off it in December 2016 they were totally unsupportive. I really was totally lost for what to do until my sister found Steve!
 
I told Steve my fear of needles and he was absolutely brilliant and reassuring – I can honestly say not one of those needles ever hurt and I’ve had a lot now! Steve went through the approach we would take to get my periods going and that it would be a 3 month journey. When we came to the end of the 3 months, however, my period hadn’t started again, so we talked through the options. Steve was really supportive and I made the decision to carry on as I felt we had put so much time in to give up. I am so so glad we did as a few weeks after I had my first period in over 2.5 years!
 
If you are not sure whether to give acupuncture a try, whether you’re scared of needles, cynical as to how it works or just apprehensive, seriously, have one consultation with Steve and you will change your mind. It’s an investment into your health and well-being, things in life that are priceless!”
Thanks Vicki 🙂

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.

acupuncture southend backache

Change and Moving Forward: Acupuncture can help

In my last blog I wrote about the Gall Bladder and its importance when it comes to coping with change.  But the Liver is equally as important.  Both are related to the Wood element.  If you remember from my blog earlier in the year, the Liver represents the warrior within us.  It gives us the courage to make changes and to see them through.  A healthy Wood element also gives us flexibility.  A tree with no water will eventually snap in the wind, or it will simply be uprooted.

Follow this link for a recap of the Liver’s role in the body.

https://www.stevecosteracupuncture.co.uk/2019/03/22/spring-is-here-and-the-liver-as-warrior/

The Liver acts as the General; it needs to be smart and courageous.  It is responsible for defending the borders of the Empire and making plans to do so.  But in order to do this efficiently, the General needs to be flexible as well as courageous.  So just being brave isn’t the only characteristic needed to cope with change, you also need to be flexible.  Sometimes retreating, stepping back and assessing the situation, is necessary on the road to victory.  Just imagine an army that can only go blindly forward. 

change southend acupuncture Tui Na fertility

So it’s all well and good that a healthy Gall Bladder enables us to make changes, but we also need the courage provided by the Liver.  

Change and moving forward – Amanda’s story

Amanda came for acupuncture earlier this year primarily to sort out her sciatica and tight hamstrings.  After we talked for a while I began to pick up that she wasn’t particularly happy with certain aspects of her life, and she was quite angry.  There was a lot of frustration in her life.  Her husband was dragging his heels and procrastinating about agreeing to a divorce.  She was bored with her job and she wanted out.  And to top it all, she had recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure!  

Based on Amanda’s sciatica and high blood pressure, I was pretty sure there could be Gall Bladder and Liver involvement, but after hearing more I was certain. I suggested that perhaps it was time for a change and this was a contributory factor to her health issues.  This is a chicken/egg situation.  Is her Qi stagnation stopping her from moving on, or is the inability to move on causing the Qi stagnation which is affecting her physically?  Well it’s difficult to say, but not that important in the scheme of things.  By treating the physical we can also affect the emotional.  So that’s what I did.

Amanda didn’t know where to start, plus she was quite fearful of change.  Where do you start?  She had bills to pay and a son to provide for.  No one likes having the boat rocked when you feel like you are barely clinging on.  But when I suggested that the problem could be an imbalance, this struck a chord.  To make change we not only need to be strong and warrior-like, but we also need to be clever strategists.  Just like General Liver. 

With Amanda I worked mainly on the Sacrum, an area where lots of channels cross, so it’s prone to stagnation. It is also where the Gall Bladder and Bladder channels intersect.  As we know, the Gall Bladder is the decision maker and its paired organ is the Liver, the warrior.  The Bladder’s function, on the other hand is to do with sorting waste products – what to hold on to and what to let go of, and its paired organ, the Kidney, controls fear. 

Fear balances the warrior and stops us from making hasty decisions, but it can also stop us from making any decisions.  We literally freeze in fear.  So by working on these channels to release Amanda’s back pain, I was also working on an emotional/spiritual level.  First the back issue was resolved.  And then one day, after about six sessions, Amanda told me that her husband had agreed to a divorce (with some encouragement from her) and that she had made a stand at work!

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.

Southend Acupuncture Tui na

Time for a Change?

So here we are at that really weird time of year when it is neither too hot or too cold.  In Chinese Medicine this is the time of year associated with the Earth element.  It is a transitional time of year when we benefit from the harvest but also take stock for the coming lean times of the winter months.  It is also a time of change.

Change is natural and is the only thing that is certain.  But there can be problems if it is resisted, especially if it is forced upon you.  Disease or injury are just as much about dealing with change as they are about being ill or in pain.   Not being able to work or exercise, or even simply getting up and down the stairs, all test ones ability to deal with change. 

Why can change be so difficult? 

As you know from my previous blogs, any imbalance of your Qi will affect your health, physically and emotionally.   It’s complicated, of course.  We are not machines who just need new batteries every now and then.   A very fine balance is needed between all the organs in order for there to be good health.  

southend back pain acupuncture

How can Acupuncture and Tui Na help?

The Gall Bladder channel and its points are particularly relevant when it comes to difficulty dealing with change.  The channel itself is situated on the side of the body.  It starts on the side of the head, travels down the ribs and flanks into the buttock, and then down the side of the leg to the outside of the foot, where it finishes on the inside of the little toe.  Perhaps, because of where it’s channel is located, the Gall Bladder is said to control our ability to rotate and turn the body.  On an emotional level, a healthy Gall Bladder helps us make decisions and change direction in life.

Feeling stuck

In my Acupuncture and Tuina practice I find people are often stuck in an old way of thinking, or an old lifestyle pattern, which stops them from moving on.  And it’s often these old ways of thinking which got them where they are in the first place.  These thought patterns lead to frustration and anger.  They ask themselves’ ‘Why me?’.   Mixed into this there is also often fear, guilt, regret, self-recrimination, every emotion that goes with a chronic illness/injury etc.  And as you know, all emotions, over time, will affect our health.

southend ivf fertility PCOS

I’ll be back

It’s all these additional emotions that can make change so difficult.  Which is ironic really when you think that as physical beings we are constantly changing.  However, the belief that the body regenerates itself every seven years is actually a myth.  In actual fact, although some cells die and are lost forever, some are able to rejuvenate.  Brain cells are precious; we lose thousands daily and they do not return.  The Liver, on the other hand, is like the Terminator, it just keeps on coming back.  But given enough abuse and it will eventually pack up.  Unfortunately, it is so tough that there are no symptoms of damage until it’s too late! 

Bones take up to 10 years to regenerate, whereas skin only two weeks!  The cells of the heart also  have the potential for regeneration, as do finger tips and toes, the endometrium, the kidneys and the vas deferens (testicular tubes).  Other areas of the body such as the bladder, lung, penis, vagina and spinal nerves also have the potential for regeneration, but only with the intervention of stem cells or in a laboratory.  Pretty amazing stuff.  But don’t chop anything off if you can help it, it might not work every time.

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.

Southend Acupuncture

Enjoying the last days of summer

It only seems like yesterday that I was writing about how it feels like the summer is coming.  After the last sunny weekend it looks like summer is on it’s way out.  It’s actually sunny as I write this, although it has been raining for much of the week and there’s more to come.

We need the Sun to survive.  If the Sun were to be suddenly extinguished we would know about it in about 6 and half minutes, which is the time it takes for light to travel the distance from the Sun to Earth, 149.6 million km.  Photosynthesis would stop immediately, so food would run out pretty quickly.  And it would get cold pretty quickly too; the earth’s average surface temperature would drop below freezing after just a week.  

Acupuncture Southend Essex

There would be some light as there would still be some electricity, but that’s the least of our problems.  The Sun is the dominant gravitational force in the universe, so without it all the planets that orbit it would just spin off into space. 

Cold is for dead people!

Heat Is really important in Chinese Medicine and I use it all the time in my Acupuncture and Tui Na practice.  I generally use moxibustion and my hands to generate heat, but I also have an infrared heat lamp.  The body needs heat to function, just as all living things do.  Without it the organs would cease operating and all bodily functions would stop.  Luckily for us the body can generate and preserve heat whether it is summer or not.

Southend Acupuncture

That’s why a zombie apocalypse could never happen.  With no circulatory system (and therefore no heat) the zombie would be unable to move.   They might be able to drag themselves around for a few minutes, but that would be about it.  Like a dead person, which is exactly what they are!  So don’t fear the living dead, fear global warming, that is actually happening!  It might be summer every day soon.

When the heat is on.

The body needs heat to function, 37 degrees Celsius in fact.  It needs heat to keep the organs functioning, the blood fluid, the muscles and tendons flexible. But that is a healthy heat.  In Chinese Medicine there is also a less desirable heat associated with illness.  This type of heat is often called pathogenic heat.  You might have experienced this when you have a cold, or if you have a swollen joint.  Some women also experience heat during their period or during the menopause.  Healthy heat is the product of a well balanced yin and yang.  In biomedicine this is called homeostasis.  Pathogenic heat is therefore a product of an imbalance of yin and yang.  We call this either full heat or empty heat.

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  • Full Heat is caused by too much yang energy, typically caused by some sort of stagnation.  The root of stagnation can be emotional strain or something more physical, e.g. irregular eating, excessive physical work or lack of exercise.
  • Empty Heat, on the other hand, is caused by a yin depletion.  As the yin depletes, its cooling nature can no longer contain the heating aspect of yang.  In the West the main cause of yin becoming depleted is over work.

Feeling the cold.

On the other hand, if you are simply cold and feel no heat, this could be due to a general depletion of yin and yang.  Yin is substance, without which there can be no action/movement, which is heat.   

Having a healthy balance between your yin and yang depends on may things – what you eat, what you think, and how you rest and play.  As I’ve said before, life is a balancing act; a series of ups and downs.  The trick is to make sure you are not on a rollercoaster.

More next week. 

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.

Acupuncture tui na Southend

Supporting Women through the Menopause as a Fundamental Doorway of Life

One of the things that I love about being an Acupuncturist and Tui Na practitioner is that I never stop learning.  Unlike Western medicine where new research and evidence supersedes the old, in Chinese medicine new information is often simply added to the existing canon.  So that means not only studying the classics, but also keeping up to date with current research.  Western medicine is entirely evidence based, although if you think about procedures like Blood letting by applying leeches, the actual evidence is debatable.  But although controversial, leeches are still used by doctors today.  Some things just work; being able to show how they work, well that’s another matter.

Creating space for a positive experience

Last week I was busy honing my acupuncture and Tui Na skills in London, on a course called Supporting Women through the Menopause as a Fundamental Doorway of Life. Menopause in the West is in may ways still a taboo subject.  Many of the rituals that traditionally helped us through important life changing events, such as entry into manhood/womanhood, menage and menopause, have been lost, leaving us unable to move through the passage of life smoothly.

southend acupuncture menopause

The menopause, ‘the great cleanse’, the end of menstruation when the blood retreats, a powerful rite of passage for women.   This course looked at how Chinese Medicine can provide space, solitude and quietude – all the things Western society doesn’t allow for – to allow women to have a positive experience.  

Acupuncture and Tui Na for the Menopause

Acupuncture nd Tui Na can help with all the symptoms associated with the menopause (including drug-induced menopause):

Hot flushes and sweating

Sleep disturbances

Symptoms of dryness

Emotional symptoms (adrenaline, anxiety, easily stressed, feelings of loss, grief)

Digestive problems (reflux, oesophagitis and epigastric discomfort)

Aches & Pains (joint and muscular aches, feelings of weakness, plantar fasciitis)

Pain in the lower back/sacrum/pelvis/hips

Pain in the neck/nape/shoulders

Head symptoms (headaches and migraines)

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.

Steve Coster Acupuncture Southend

Qi Gong: the Universe and You.

Practicing Qi Gong is just as much about how you view the world as it is about simply exercising. It is about understanding our connection to the Earth and the Universe, and also to ones self.  As one of the main branches of Chinese Medicine, the practice of Qi Gong is based on the philosophy of Qi:  the movement of Qi and how it affects our health, mentally and physically.  So, over the next few weeks I will be exploring what this actually means.

Qi is everything

Steve Coster Acupuncturist Southend

Everything affects our Qi.  What you eat, who you speak to, the air you breathe.  In Qi Gong philosophy (there are many schools but it is all basically Chinese Medicine) we say there are five aspects of life that need to be balanced for optimal health (but not in any particular order):

Exercise – how we move our Qi 

Environment – where we live/work 

Breath – how we breathe and what we breathe

Diet – what we eat and how we eat

Mind – what we think and how we think

Qi Gong is not just exercise. 

Unlike sport, which is often ultimately about competing (against others or the clock), Qi gong is about finding balance within, but with your health in mind.   It is about being able to tune in to what you need.  Let’s take exercise as an example – how many of us really know how much we need?  We usually only stop when we’re exhausted or we’ve run out of time.  And if you recall from my previous blog, we’re riddled with guilt if we dare to take a day off!  

So, do you need to move your Qi?  Or do you need to rest?  Most of us sleep when we need rest, but simply sleeping doesn’t address the real problems underlying tiredness.  Tiredness is often the result of years of working too hard, or poor diet, or worrying.  Take your pick. Some people get no rest when they sleep.  They toss and turn all night and wake up feeling just as exhausted as they were when they got into bed.  We take drugs to relax, or watch TV or the internet, but this is not resting, it’s escaping.  They do not help you connect to your inner self.  They take you somewhere else, anywhere but within.

Chinese Medicine says that our health is affected by either internal or external factors.  Let us first look at some of the external factors.  I’ve written a lot about exercise over my last few blogs, so this week I’ll look at how our environment affects our Qi and health.

Qi is affected by your Environment.

What I mean by environment is:

  • Where you live and who you live with
  • What job you do where you do it
  • Where you practice Qi Gong.

Where you live

Where we live is hugely important to our health, so it’s crucial that we care not just for the planet, but also for our immediate surroundings.  The two go hand in hand I guess.  Its no surprise that the health of the planet is suffering when you think how easy it is to neglect your own personal environment.

Steve Coster Qi Gong Acupuncture Southend

Living in a room on the High Street will affect your energy in a different way to living next to a gently running brook in a forest.  The urban environment takes us further and further away from nature, which ultimately means further away from ones self.  It’s good practice to avoid pollution, including noise, traffic and mobile masts, all of which affect our Qi.  Of course, it’s pretty difficult to avoid any of these things nowadays, but practicing Qi Gong will help protect you by strengthen your Qi.  Who you live with will also affect your Qi. Living in a state of fear, stress or misery, or even boredom, will slowly wear you down.

Where you work

This applies equally to the job you do and where you work.  If the job you do is stressing you out, this will have an impact on your health.  I worked in the City for 17 years and it was the boredom that nearly did me in!  There is a lot to be said for the old adage ‘do a job you love and you will never have to work again’.

Steve Coster Qi Gong Acupuncture Southend

Where you practice Qi Gong

Just as where you live and work is important to your health, It’s important where you practice your Qi Gong.  Finding somewhere to practice outdoors is preferable but this is not always practical.   If you can’t get out into the countryside or your back garden, maybe then find a quiet space in your home.  Avoid rooms where there is a lot of people traffic.  Don’t do it in a busy living room or while listening to the radio or watching the tv. If you live with other people let them know you are practicing and don’t want to be disturbed…‘No, I don’t want a cup of tea!’

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.

Steve Coster Acupuncture Southend

More about Exercise…the Chinese way

So following on from my previous blog where I focussed mainly on running and endurance sport, this week I’m looking at a more holistic approach to exercise, Qi Gong.

No Pain No Gain

In the West we generally believe that doing lots of physical exercise is good for us and it will help us live longer.  But I think we just made this up in our heads; there is no actual evidence that body builders or athletes live any longer than the average human.  In fact, the evidence suggests the opposite.  These days fitness is gauged on how you look, so it’s all about six-packs and ‘just doing it’, and if social media is anything to go by (which it isn’t) they all look great and live perfect lives.  But I doubt they are any more healthy than the average person who just does a little exercise and eats and rests well..  So is being fit the same as being healthy?  No, it isn’t.  Looking great isn’t necessarily the same as feeling great.

Moderation is the key

As I mentioned in my last blog, moderate exercise is good for you.  But how much is moderate?  The current amount prescribed by the NHS is at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as cycling or brisk walking every week and strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).  Or,  75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week and strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).  

But what is moderate?

The danger with anything that is ‘prescribed’ however, is that it doesn’t take the individual into account; it certainly isn’t a holistic approach.   And it still isn’t clear what moderate is.  Some people can knock out 10k with the minimum of training, while others can barely make it down the stairs in the morning.  This week I saw several people out jogging in the 36 degrees Celsius heat, which may be moderate in Death Valley, but not in Southend.

heat Steve Coster Acupuncture Southend

Qi Belly vs. Beer Belly

The muscular system ultimately depends on the functioning of the internal organs and glands, so if these are not being Nourished above and beyond the muscles, you will ultimately do more damage than good.  We unknowingly tax the internal system beyond its limits in the belief that muscular development should take precedence.  Chinese traditional exercise then emphasises the internal rather than the external.  In Chinese culture a big belly was traditionally seen as having an abundance of Qi.  Unfortunately, the cult of the six pack is now huge and men and women all-around the world are flogging and starving themselves to look like whippets.  

Steve Coster Acupuncture Southend

 

Before the Industrial Revolution exercise was part of everyday life.  Working on the land or in a cottage industry, one walked, pulled, pushed, lifted.  We washed our own clothes and kneaded our own bread.  Life was the multi gym!  And even up to not that long ago most of us walked to work, or at least to the bus stop or station.  Now we drive everywhere.  Which isn’t anyone’s fault other than that of the town planners.  Imagine having to walk to Tescos to do the main shop!  So, what we need is a more holistic, mindful, approach to exercise, not the one-size-fits-all type that most often leads to injury or just simply quitting.  

Qi Gong is the answer! (Well, an option at least)

A lot of people do Qi Gong and they do it for a variety of reasons.  At the height of its popularity in China during the 1980s, it is estimated that up to one hundred million Chinese were practicing Qi Gong. People who are interested in qigong come from all different backgrounds and practice it for many different reasons.  Some people do it just for exercise and recreation, while others use it as a preventive medicine and as a self-healing technique.  Some do it for self-cultivation and meditation, and others to compliment their martial arts training.  And some do it for all these reasons.

What is Qi gong?

Qi is usually translated as life energy, lifeforce, or energy flow, and definitions often involve breath, air, gas, or relationship between matter, energy, and spirit.  Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts.  Gong is often translated as cultivation or work, and definitions include practice, skill, mastery, merit, achievement, service, result, or accomplishment, and is often used to mean gongfu (kung fu) in the traditional sense of achievement through great effort. The two words are combined to describe systems to cultivate and balance life energy, especially for health.

Steve Coster Acupuncture Qi Gong Southend

Qi Gong is about tuning in to how you feel and what your body needs.  It is not simply about breathing and movement (whether internal or external).   Not only does it develop stamina, flexibility, strong bones, muscles and sinews, and promote a good sense of balance, practitioners also become aware of their spiritual and emotional needs.  

Qi Gong is a lifestyle choice.  Regular practice develops a connection to ones body, something that many of us have lost.  And by being fully present and mentally absorbed in our exercise and our breathing, we can become  emotionally centred, with a clear and open mind.

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.

Exercise and Acupuncture Steve Coster

I was a running junkie!

The Yin & Yang of Running

When it comes to health, exercise is a lot like food.  What I mean is, we know greens are good for us but if that was all we ate, then they would soon become bad for us.  And I think that is true of exercise.  In the acupuncture clinic I see a lot of sports injuries caused not necessarily by the type of exercise (unless you consider darts to be exercise), but the amount.  I’m talking about running.  If you are into running then you know how addictive it can be.  You start off just jogging around the block, and before you know it you are signing up for your first ultra!  But maybe that was just me…..

Unlike activities like martial arts or dancing which take an element of skill, running is much more accessible.  It is literally just putting one foot in front of the over,  or controlled falling over.  You don’t need to spend loads of money on equipment and clothing.  You don’t even have to join a club. A good quality pair of running shoes is probably the only thing that will set you back a bit.  And no one needs to show you how to run, we’ve been doing it for a long time!

running Steve Coster acupuncture

There is nothing new about running of course. 

There is evidence that ancient man used to run for long periods in order to track and wear out prey, known as persistence hunting.  The idea being that animals cannot regulate their body heat by sweating as man can, so they eventually cannot flee any further and so succumb to the hunters.  In fact it is a method still used by bushmen in the Kalahari desert and Rarámuri people in Mexico.  It has also been hypothesised that the gluteus maximus muscle evolved to enable man to run.  So it’s not just for sitting on.

What is new, however, is running for fun.  It was Jim Fixx who started the craze of jogging in the 1970’s.  Unfortunately he died of a heart attack at the age of 52 while out jogging.  Despite this irony, there is no doubt that jogging is better than sitting around smoking and eating crisps.  Most probably Mr. Fixx would have died at 47 if he hadn’t started jogging. 

So when does running become not so good for you?

Basically, doing too much exercise is as bad as doing none.  I used to run a lot.  At the height of my training I was running 75 miles a week.  I thought nothing about getting up at 5am on a Sunday and running for 5 hours.  I loved running, but looking back I can see I was mostly chasing the fix.  Like any addiction, the pleasurable part is satisfying the cravings, not the actual thing itself.  

Steve Coster acupuncture running injury

A used hinge does not rust.

There is no doubt that exercise is good for us, and there is much evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, to support this.  But little is mentioned about the negative aspects of exercise; not only over-doing it, but the emotions associated with it too – fear, shame and guilt.  If you’ve been following my blogs, you’ll know what these emotions can do to your Qi.  Shame and guilt tangles Qi up and stops it from moving, and Fear descends Qi.  Joy (or more accurately lack of Joy) needs something out of the ordinary to move it – like running 26.2 miles.  And finally, Anger, which can be the result of Qi not moving (which we call Qi stagnation).  We all know that runner who is unbearable to be around if for whatever reason they can’t get out for their run.  It might even be you.

anger Steve Coster acupuncture

Exercise is important in Chinese Medicine.  It keeps the qi moving which is good for body and Mind.  It also prevents the accumulation of Dampness.  Think of a wet tea towel that has just been screwed up and left in a corner.  After a while it becomes a bit stinky; it needs to be hung out to let the air circulate.  Your body is the same –  the cells need oxygenating.  

It is important to keep moving, whatever age you are.   But balance is key: Chinese Medical theory makes it clear that any type of extreme is not a good thing.  The ancient Taoist masters state that people should not only avoid overindulging, but also over exertion, which they say exhausts the sinews and bones.  

When running goes bad

Which brings us to the tale of Pheidippides, who you probably would have only heard of for two reasons, 1. If you are into ancient Greek literature, or 2. If you have ever run a marathon.  Pheidippides was a professional runner (or a courier on foot) who in 490 BC ran 280 miles over a period of 2 days (the actual mileage and period differs depending on what you read, but we can safely say he ran a long way in a short time) and then an additional 40km from Marathon to Athens to announce the news of the Greek victory over Persia.  Unsurprisingly, after delivering his message he dropped dead.  The marathon is of course named after this incredible feat.

running Steve Coster acupuncture

While there is evidence that jogging (that is, running between 1 and 2.5 hours a week at a slow or average pace) can increase your lifespan by 6.2 years for men and 5.6 for women, the reverse is true for more running.  Studies suggest that by doing more doesn’t mean more benefit, in fact it can mean the reverse.  Excessive exercise can cause damage to the heart and coronary arteries, increasing the risk of heart problems and risk of stroke.  Although a slow resting heart beat (as low as 40 bpm in some athletes) is considered to be a sign of good health, this may not be the case once they stop engaging in high levels of exercise.  Other studies have also shown that endurance athletes have weak immune systems and are more prone to colds and asthma.  Over-exercising in young women can also cause amenorrhoea (periods stopping) and other menstrual disorders, as well as reduced bone density.

Exercise addiction  

For some people exercise can become more and more important in their routine, to a point where it disrupts their work and personal relationships.  They feel frustrated and depressed when they can’t get their ‘fix’.  As I stated above, this is related to Qi and Blood stagnation.  The more hooked we become, the more we need to move our Qi and Blood and so feel invigorated.  

The free flow of energy can be blocked by emotions and stress, which is why running can feel so good for our mental health.  But although you feel good for a short time after exercising, it doesn’t deal with whatever is causing your Qi to be blocked.  So it is a vicious circle of depletion.  And it’s tough physically on those who have to run 30 or 40 miles a week to get their qi moving.  

Running can become an addiction.  Just the same as having to use caffeine, alcohol or drugs to get moving, running is the same.  Although I’ve focused on running, the same applies equally to any endurance sport.  But whatever your fix is, it’s deceptive.  These things provide an initial high, but then an immediate slump.  So at risk of repeating myself, it’s all about balance, just as Yin and Yang informs us that one extreme will only ever lead to its opposite extreme.  Somewhere in the middle is needed.

Next week – What is considered ‘good’ exercise? 

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.