Menopause and Acupuncture

In my Acupuncture practice I help women with menopausal symptoms every day.  I’m not ‘curing’ them, as it’s a natural process that all women go through to one degree or another, but rather I help manage the symptoms.  Let me explain a little about what is happening and why, but also a little about how acupuncture can help.

Menopause is related to the Kidneys

In Chinese Medicine the menopause is seen as a Yin deficiency (which ties in nicely with our Winter/Kidney theme). Whether natural or medically induced, the symptoms will be much the same. The severity of these symptoms can vary from person to person. They might be very mild and barely noticeable, or they can be life changing. However, the good news is that Acupuncture can help with the symptoms.

What is the menopause? (A Western Medicine perspective)

The menopause usually spans 2 – 5 years and the average age is 51 all over the world. Below the age of 45, however, and it is considered premature. Menopause is not a sudden event, but a gradual physiological process throughout a woman’s lifetime. This means that the biological basis of the menopause is determined by her lifestyle and dietary habits right from childhood to the time of the cessation of menstruation. Menopause is not a disease but a normal physiological transition.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menopause

What is the menopause? (A Chinese Medicine perspective)

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, menopausal symptoms are generally due to a decline in Kidney essence in its Yin and Yang aspect. But this basic pathology is nearly always complicated by other imbalances – Dampness, Stagnation of Qi or Blood Stasis. Emotional stress is an extremely important cause of menopausal problems, building up over many years. Worry, anxiety and fear weaken the Kidneys and lead to Yin depletion, especially when these symptoms occur against a background of overwork. If you have been following my blogs you will know all about the importance of the Kidneys.  Water contains, controls and regulates the excesses of Fire. If Water is depleted than the affects of an out-of-control Fire will most certainly be felt.

Chinese Acupuncture

How can Acupuncture help?

The trouble with Western medicine protocols is that they do not take into account everything else that might be going on within an individual, e.g. lifestyle, diet, emotions, all of which have an effect on the body. And I suppose that’s the problem, Western medicine doesn’t take the ‘individual’ into account.

Acupuncture can help with the common symptoms of Menopause:

  •    Hot flushes
  •    Night sweats
  •    Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex
  •    Difficult sleeping
  •    Low mood or anxiety
  •    Reduced sex drive (libido)
  •    Problems with memory and concentration
  •    Urinary Tract Infection
  •    Frozen Shoulder

Acupuncture is able to readdress energetic imbalances and make a natural process much more bearable.

In Chinese medicine we look at the individual holistically; that is, we look at all signs and symptoms and evaluate the possible connections. Women with menopausal symptoms always have more going on than just heat, anxiety, insomnia, etc. You can’t put diseases into little boxes, because we are all different! Feeling unwell, or just out of sorts, is a sign of imbalance within the body. For instance, if you suffer with migraines but also have a terrible thirst that can’t be quenched and have a history of cystitis, then it is at least worthwhile investigating a possible relationship.

As one grows older, the Yin depletes in all of us. This is nature.  In the Spring there is birth and rebirth and life bursts forth; in the Summer the Sun is at it’s highest and hottest and growth is encouraged; in the Late Summer we reap the fruits of our efforts, and if we have done everything right we can enjoy the long evenings; in the Autumn the trees are letting go of their leaves and we must start to prepare for the Winter months; and then the Winter finally comes, the most Yin time of year when all things contract and rest; Then Spring returns and there is birth and rebirth…..and on and on.

In women, as the yin depletes, menstruation ceases, they become a little hairier and the voice deepens. In other words, as Yin depletes the Yang becomes more dominant. In men, as the Yang depletes and Yin becomes more dominant (andropause), we loose our hair and our voices getter higher!  However, it is not only a time of letting go of our youth, but also a time to take stock and prepare for the Winter.  But don’t… worry Spring will soon be here again!

If you would like to know more about how Acupuncture can help you manage the symptoms of your Menopause, I will be doing a talk at The Therapy Life Centre on 18th April.

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments  

A Case Study – Acupuncture for Shoulder Pain

Acupuncture for Shoulder Pain

Although strictly speaking not related to the Water element, but an Earth element issue, this is a great Acupuncture success story that I wanted to tell you all about straight away.

Why an Earth issue?

Well, primarily because all of the meridians related to digestion (Large intestine, small intestine and Stomach) run in and around the shoulder joint.  But also in the Summer, the Earth time of year, there is a real danger of drought and everything drying out.  In the body this could cause the tendons to dry out leading to a loss of flexibility.

Water water everywhere

From a Water element point of view (Kidneys and Bladder) doing too much with little rest can have an adverse effect on our tendons.  Think of the Meridians as being like rivers and streams; if there is not enough rain there is a real danger they will run dry.  In addition, as you will remember from my earlier posts on the Water element, the Kidneys are the most Yin of our organs, so if they become depleted, then so does the Yin and the Qi that supplies the Meridians.  Yin also controls Yang (and vice versa of course), so if Yang is out of control (which is heating) then the body can start to dry out.  You can learn more about Yin and Yang in my earlier post.

A Pain in the Shoulder for 15 Years!

Joe is 56 and of wiry build, which in Chinese Medicine is a good sign of Yin deficiency.  He came to see me for pain and numbness he was experiencing in his left arm.  It originated in Joe’s shoulder but radiated all the way down to his hand, which was now numb.  He was a builder and the pain and numbness was now affecting his work, so he was keen to get back to full health as soon as possible.  This was an injury that had been hanging around for 15 years!  It was a constant ache that was keeping him awake at night, which obviously had a knock on affect on his work.  Joe was generally in good health but did have a history of digestive problems (diverticulitis) and he was in recovery from throat cancer.  Remember I mentioned above about the relationship the digestive meridians have with the shoulder?  Well this was a classic case of how an imbalance elsewhere in the body can affect a seemingly unrelated part via the meridians.  In this case it seemed to me that the Water was not nourishing the Earth.

The Treatment

Just knowing the cause makes my job a whole lot easier.  So, by observation and palpation of Joe’s shoulder and arm, and based on what he had told me (as above), I placed a few needles in acupoints along the Large Intestine Meridian in his shoulder, arm and hand.  Because I knew the underlying weakness was related to Joe’s Water and Earth element, I also needled a few points to nourish his Yin and to get the Qi moving.  I also used a heat lamp on Joe’s shoulder, which is a really lovely way to slowly nourish the whole area.

The Result

From the first treatment Joe was in less pain.  By the sixth and last treatment he was totally pain free.  Joe told me that he played a round of golf expecting to have to quit after a few holes, but he completed 18 holes with no pain at all!

 

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.

A Case Study – Plantar Fasciitis

A Case Study – Plantar Fasciitis

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.

The Treatment

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.

Acupuncture and Lower Back Pain

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.

Pinpoint pain

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.

Reduces inflammation

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.

https://www.stevecosteracupuncture.co.uk/2018/08/08/how-many-sessions-is-enough/

Minimise medication

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.

Better outlook

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.

Cost-effective

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.

 Complementary

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 would like to know more about Lower Back Pain and Acupuncture, you can find more information here:  https://www.stevecosteracupuncture.co.uk/back-pain-relief/

I have helped many people with Lower Back Pain.  Find out more about me, or my treatments 

 

BPPV and the Epley Manoeuvre

Do you feel dizzy and nauseous when you

  • Turn over in bed
  • Make quick movements to the left or right
  • Make quick movements up or down?

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.

If you would like to know more about BPPV and Epley manoeuvre, this is a useful link

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.

 

Boost your Energy this Winter with Acupuncture

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.

Click here if you would like to know more about me, or my treatments

 

Bells Palsy

A case of Bell’s Palsy

Bell’s Palsy can be sudden, and frightening.  You could go to bed one night feeling fine, but wake up in the morning with one side of your face drooping.  And this is exactly what happened to my client, Lee.  He awoke with the right side of his face paralysed. His right eye was drooping, as was his mouth, and it was difficult for him to close his eye.  The whole side of his face was tingling and tender to the touch, and he had no taste.  Lee also reported that he had a light headache, as if he had a hangover.

A visit to the GP

The first thing Lee did, of course, was go to his GP. He was immediately referred for a scan to rule out stroke or TIA which proved all clear. Lee was then prescribed a course of Prednisolone and a course of antibiotics.  Prednisolone is the go-to medication for this type of thing.  It is a steroid medication that helps alleviate inflammation, but it also carries the possible side-effects of weight gain, indigestion, insomnia and sweating a lot. It can also make you more prone to infections such as chickenpox or shingles!

However, after 10 days and still no relief, Lee contacted me

Bell’s Palsy is a sudden weakness or paralysis of muscles on one side of the face, due to malfunction of the 7th cranial nerve.  This nerve moves the facial muscles, stimulates the salivary and tear glands, enables the front two thirds of the tongue to detect tastes. It also controls a muscle involved in hearing.  So, worse case scenario, not only is one side of your face paralysed, but you can’t close an eye, hear out of one ear or taste certain flavours!

The cause is unknown

The cause is not really known, but it is thought that it could be a viral infection or an immune disorder that causes the facial nerve to swell.  If doctors can find a cause, such as Lyme Disease or Sarcoidosis, they call this facial nerve palsy.  But if they can find no cause, then they diagnose Bell’s Palsy.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), however, Bell’s palsy is diagnosed as an  “External Wind-Cold attacking the channels of the face”. According to TCM principles, one of the main implications of this condition is an underlying qi (a person’s inherent energy) deficiency. In China, acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to assist in Bell’s palsy recovery, and the initial treatment goal according to TCM would be to expel Wind and resolve Damp, as well as to invigorate qi and promote blood circulation to the face. Consistent acupuncture treatments (usually recommended once or twice per week) can help soothe a patient and expedite resolution of paralysis, and enhance nerve function.

Bell’s Palsy is a great deal more common in China where a huge proportion of the population still work in the fields, and the Chinese were very clear that it was exposure to the wind or to a sudden burst of wind bringing a different air temperature, especially hot to cold, which could cause this often distressing condition. In modern times, before air conditioning became more common it was not unusual to see patients who managed to bring it on by motorway driving on hot days with a window open on the driver’s side. However, the increasing amount of stress in modern life means that it is now possible for mental and emotional factors to come into play.

Acupuncture has an immediate affect

So Lee contacted me, and after an initial consultation I diagnosed a Wind Invasion, and we commenced treatment immediately.  I used electro-acupuncture, which is a technique where a light electric current is put through the acupuncture needles.  This stimulates nerve endings and the facial muscles on the affected side.   Currently your GP will advice that most people (but not everyone) will make a full recovery in 3 – 4 months.  However, after seeing me twice weekly for just 2 weeks, Lee was greatly improved, and by the 5th session he had made a full recovery.  Lee was able to close his eye, taste food, and smile again!

See these before and after photos

At Session One

Bells Palsy

At Session Five

 

I have helped many people with Bell’s Palsy, and you can find out more about me, or my treatments.

 

I just don’t feel well

I just don’t feel well! 

Some times illness, or the feeling of being unwell, just can’t be explained.  All the tests come back clear and the doctor has no idea; they call it a ‘syndrome’ and pack you off with some pills, all of which leaves you feeling frustrated and with the terrible thought that everyone thinks you are making it up!

There is no denying the effectiveness of Western biomedicine; for instance, if I broke my arm the first place I would go is A&E! But who do you turn to when you just don’t feel right and there is no label that fits what you are feeling?

Acupuncture can help.

In Chinese Medicine we see illness as a dysfunction of the body’s qi, blood and fluids.  For instance, if stomach qi goes up instead of down, vomiting or nausea will ensue.  Similarly, if there is insufficient blood being produced by the body, you may suffer menstrual problems, digestive problems or headaches.  All symtoms, however, such as insomnia, indegestion, constipation, pain, etc. all are  signs of a dysfunction of the bodily processes, and they need to be identified and addressed.  A feeling of unwellness may start as just a vague ‘feeling’, but left unattended it can turn into something more serious.  Yes, we need to help with the symptoms, but also what might be causing the unwell feeling: our emotions, diet, overwork, living conditions, the weather; all are relevant.

Acupuncture is not new, it’s just relatively new to the West.  The key to it’s popularity is its effectiveness, its ability to restore the normal functioning of the human body.  This very effectiveness, however, is the fruit of the practicality and flexibility of its theoretical approach, which, in turn, is based squarely on a human being’s experience of him or herself.  Physical sensations, emotions, the oberservation of the various substances that flow out of the body; all of these are the tools with which an Acupuncturist works to observe patterns in human functioning.

If you would like to know more about Acupuncture and how it could help you, please give me a call.

Qi Gong exercises by the sea

Qi Gong …10 things you didn’t know

If you are looking for an exercise regime that addresses mind, body and soul, then Qi Gong is ideal! I run a weekly class in Southend, just give me a call if you would like to know more.

What is Qi Gong?

Qi Gong literally translates as ‘Breath Work’ or ‘Cultivating Breath’. It concentrates on posture (whether moving or stationary), breathing techniques and mental focus. Qi Gong can be soft, like Tai Chi, or it can be more vigorous, like kung fu, so it is suitable for all levels of fitness and can be practiced by all age groups.

What is the History?

The documented history of qigong goes back approximately 2,500 years. However Chinese archaeologists and historians have found references to qigong-like techniques at least five thousand years old.

How does it help?

Frequent practice harmonizes and strengthens the body, and has a healing effect on the functioning of all the internal organs and bodily systems.

It increases the flow of blood and energy, which helps to fully nourish all parts of the body. Initially many movements focus on gently opening and stretching the joints and muscles of the body, releasing tension that could have been there for years.

As the energy relating to the internal organs flows around the extremities of the body (hands and feet), stretching the arms and legs in specific movements also improves the health of the internal organs.

Qi Gong is not just postures and movement, but also includes self-massage, breathing techniques and meditation. It can also be performed standing, seated or supine.

There is no need for special equipment or a large workout space.

Anyone can practice Qi Gong. There are techniques suitable for every age and physical condition.

People who exercise a lot and whose bodies are externally strong are not necessarily healthier or happier than the average person. In order to have true good health you must have a healthy body, a healthy mind, and also smooth and balanced Qi circulation. Qi Gong addresses mind and body!

 

How important to your health is the place you live?

I was chatting to a client the other day who happened to mention how only the poor people lived on the shady side of Sugarloaf mountain in Cape Town, while only the rich could afford to live on the sunny side.

Ignoring the sociopolitical reasons for why this might be, and how true it is (!)…anyway, it got me thinking: Chinese Medicine tells us that where we live has an affect on our health, so surely always being in the shade can’t be healthy. And I suppose being in the shade is equally true on an emotional level too. And what does it say about a person who prefers to live on the shady side of the street?

Yin and Yang

To understand this, we need to look at Yin and Yang theory. Put simply, we need both to survive. The sunny side of the mountain is Yang, while the shady side is Yin, and as the sun moves across the sky throughout the day, the degrees of Yin and Yang on each side of the mountain increase and decrease. And this is the same in every aspect of nature, including what goes on inside of us. But if this balance is disturbed, then problems will ensue. On a global scale we see global warming and the consequences of climate change, and in the human body we see illness.

We need sunshine to flourish. However, too much and we dry out, and too little and we become Vitamin D deficient. In Chinese Medicine another result of this imbalance could be Dampness. In fact, low mood and weight gain, both signs of Vitamin D deficiency, are also symptoms of Dampness.

​The Acupuncturist said I’m Damp!

If you’ve had Acupuncture before, you might have heard this! Like the Yang of sunshine, we need the Yin of moisture. But too much and we can become Damp.
Dampness is basically the impairment of fluid metabolism in the body as a result of an internal imbalance. This could be caused by overthinking or overeating (which puts pressure on the bodily processes), or working/living in an overly damp environment. And once you have Damp it can affect every part of the body. It is sticky and heavy, it infuses downwards and it causes repeated attacks.
It is like sugar; a little is ok, perhaps even good for you, but the more you have, the more you crave it, and it does more and more damage, but you just can’t stop eating it!

Cold and Damp

Cold often goes hand in hand with Dampness. Cold causes stiffness and pain. So we need the heat (either from the Sun, but most probably in the UK, artificial heat) to keep the cold and the damp out. This is of course not a new idea. It is a primal need. The Yang must stay in balance with the Yin.

How can Acupuncture help?

Acupuncture, like other therapies, can be very powerful. But sometimes it can be frustratingly slow to take affect. Why is this? Well, the following case study shows how just a little bit of understanding of where the client lives can greatly increase the potency of the treatment.

It reminds me of a client who came to see me for acupuncture when I was working in London. I will call her Jane, although this is not her real name. Jane complained of a low mood and weight gain, as well as lower back pain. Observing her, she always wore black and dark clothes, and she looked tired. She had moved to London from overseas because of her husband’s work, and now found herself feeling bored and homesick. Jane tried to eat properly and exercise, but found herself unable to exercise because of her low energy and back pain, and as a consequence her diet suffered too.

She was in a vicious circle, and this is the nature of Dampness – it pulls you down and clouds the Mind, classic symptoms of Dampness….like mental quicksand. We began an acupuncture programme, but frustratingly every time she showed progress, she would slump back into her mire. But one day she just happened to mention that she was living in a basement flat that had constant damp issues filtering up from the earth. The landlord was doing very little to help and a dehumidifier was sucking the moisture from the air 24 hours a day. So this, I believe, coupled with the fact that she was lonely, bored and homesick, was the cause of much of her distress.

Illness, like life, however, is not simple; Jane couldn’t just up sticks and return to her home country. However, the acupuncture helped with Jane’s back pain and helped clear her Mind enabling her to think more clearly. But I felt the root of her problem was being somewhere she didn’t want to be, and to top it all that place was damp!

I encouraged her to get the damp problem at home sorted out as soon as possible. And slowly, over just a few weeks, her symptoms began to improve. Her back pain was no longer an issue; she was feeling more motivated and she was losing weight. Until finally, wearing a bright summer dress, Jane felt like she had moved on and was her old self again.

If you would like to know more about how Chinese Medicine could help you, please do contact me

Steve