Amazing Acupuncture

Tuesday, February 28


Pic from Thetelegraph.co.uk
I first completed a 'Dry Needling' course in South Africa in 2006 and found it to be effective in reducing muscle spasm. When I came to the UK I had to  retake the British equivalent of the course to register here.  This course had a large emphasis on the traditional Chinese Medicine aspects of Acupuncture, and involved learning about ear acupuncture, moxa and cupping.  And although initially I was a little sceptical of the more holistic view associated with the Traditional Chinese aspect of acupuncture, I soon became fascinated by it!

I used to treat with Acupuncture by palpating for a trigger point and simply putting a needle in the affected muscle to reduce the spasm.  At the course I did here in England, I was introduced to the compelling world of energy meridians and specific acupuncture points used to treat particular conditions.  I also gained a very basic idea of the underlying principles of Chinese Medicine based on Yin and Yang.

On Saturday, my colleague Ilze and I went to the 14th Annual Research Symposium for Acupuncture.  This conference is open to anyone who practices acupuncture and so there were a mixture of Physio's, Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners, Doctors, Nurses and Researchers and there were a wide range of topics covered.

Typically, Chinese Medicine Practitioners aren't too enamoured by Physiotherapists who with 80 hours of training go on to practice "Acupuncture",  'Weekend Warrior is more like it' I read that a Chinese Medical Practitioner had said.  I contacted a Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncturist in Wimbledon two years ago to ask if I could work for him and learn anything from him regarding his acupuncture practice, and got a very firm NO in response.  I think I found this line from his email the most biting... "You may have the best intentions but you don't understand Traditional Chinese Medicine, you will not be able to provide your patients with holistic treatment, in fact you will just be blindly dabbling."  Fortunately, I have been lucky enough to work alongside some other health care professionals who have been more encouraging!

I think that previously, I had almost arrogantly concluded that as Physiotherapists we had conveniently stolen and copied the best and most effective aspect of Acupuncture practice by putting acupuncture needles into trigger points in muscles to reduce musle spasm.  Now I am by no means anything close to being an Acupuncturist with Traditional Chinese Medicine training, but I am fascinated by it.  The more that I learn about Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture, and Saturday's conference reiterated this further, the more that I recognise it as a powerful player in the treatment of pain and illness, and I try to include aspects of it in my own practice where possible.

Acupuncture, for muscular problems especially is now quite widely accepted in the Western world as being effective.  NICE, who define what is recommended by the NHS for the treatment of Patients in the UK according to evidence based research, currently only recommends Acupuncture for lower back pain.  Acupuncturists, continue to lobby for NICE to recognise Acupuncture as a recommended treatment for other conditions too.  Private insurance companies also agree to fund Physiotherapists practicing acupuncture as a form of treatment for musculoskeletal conditions.


Multiple Research and anecdotal studies have found Acupuncture to be effective in treating pain, musculoskeletal conditions, nausea and vomiting and mood, as well as other physiological functions.  The sceptics however remain difficult to please, especially those conducting the ever mighty Cochrane Reviews which have not always been able to significantly sway the thinking about the benefits of acupuncture.   The problem with conducting research into acupuncture; which was highlighted multiple times at the symposium, is that when you have a control group in an acupuncture study, it is very difficult for the control group to be completely blinded to the fact that they are the control group.  Where as in a medicinal trial, the control group can take a placebo sugar pill, reproducing 'sham acupuncture' is difficult.  Because, there is really nothing else that feels like a needle, looks like a needle, and yet is not a needle.  The other problem is the difficulty in acquiring funding to perform the research.  With so much of  Medical Research funding coming from Pharmaceutical companies, its understandable that Acupuncturists aren't being inundated with money from drug companies to prove that Acupuncture is as effective or more effective than any medication.  Because, at the end of the day, the great thing about Acupuncture is that it has none of the negative side effects that many medications do.


Amazing Acupuncture


Pic from Thetelegraph.co.uk
I first completed a 'Dry Needling' course in South Africa in 2006 and found it to be effective in reducing muscle spasm. When I came to the UK I had to  retake the British equivalent of the course to register here.  This course had a large emphasis on the traditional Chinese Medicine aspects of Acupuncture, and involved learning about ear acupuncture, moxa and cupping.  And although initially I was a little sceptical of the more holistic view associated with the Traditional Chinese aspect of acupuncture, I soon became fascinated by it!

I used to treat with Acupuncture by palpating for a trigger point and simply putting a needle in the affected muscle to reduce the spasm.  At the course I did here in England, I was introduced to the compelling world of energy meridians and specific acupuncture points used to treat particular conditions.  I also gained a very basic idea of the underlying principles of Chinese Medicine based on Yin and Yang.

On Saturday, my colleague Ilze and I went to the 14th Annual Research Symposium for Acupuncture.  This conference is open to anyone who practices acupuncture and so there were a mixture of Physio's, Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners, Doctors, Nurses and Researchers and there were a wide range of topics covered.

Typically, Chinese Medicine Practitioners aren't too enamoured by Physiotherapists who with 80 hours of training go on to practice "Acupuncture",  'Weekend Warrior is more like it' I read that a Chinese Medical Practitioner had said.  I contacted a Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncturist in Wimbledon two years ago to ask if I could work for him and learn anything from him regarding his acupuncture practice, and got a very firm NO in response.  I think I found this line from his email the most biting... "You may have the best intentions but you don't understand Traditional Chinese Medicine, you will not be able to provide your patients with holistic treatment, in fact you will just be blindly dabbling."  Fortunately, I have been lucky enough to work alongside some other health care professionals who have been more encouraging!

I think that previously, I had almost arrogantly concluded that as Physiotherapists we had conveniently stolen and copied the best and most effective aspect of Acupuncture practice by putting acupuncture needles into trigger points in muscles to reduce musle spasm.  Now I am by no means anything close to being an Acupuncturist with Traditional Chinese Medicine training, but I am fascinated by it.  The more that I learn about Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture, and Saturday's conference reiterated this further, the more that I recognise it as a powerful player in the treatment of pain and illness, and I try to include aspects of it in my own practice where possible.

Acupuncture, for muscular problems especially is now quite widely accepted in the Western world as being effective.  NICE, who define what is recommended by the NHS for the treatment of Patients in the UK according to evidence based research, currently only recommends Acupuncture for lower back pain.  Acupuncturists, continue to lobby for NICE to recognise Acupuncture as a recommended treatment for other conditions too.  Private insurance companies also agree to fund Physiotherapists practicing acupuncture as a form of treatment for musculoskeletal conditions.


Multiple Research and anecdotal studies have found Acupuncture to be effective in treating pain, musculoskeletal conditions, nausea and vomiting and mood, as well as other physiological functions.  The sceptics however remain difficult to please, especially those conducting the ever mighty Cochrane Reviews which have not always been able to significantly sway the thinking about the benefits of acupuncture.   The problem with conducting research into acupuncture; which was highlighted multiple times at the symposium, is that when you have a control group in an acupuncture study, it is very difficult for the control group to be completely blinded to the fact that they are the control group.  Where as in a medicinal trial, the control group can take a placebo sugar pill, reproducing 'sham acupuncture' is difficult.  Because, there is really nothing else that feels like a needle, looks like a needle, and yet is not a needle.  The other problem is the difficulty in acquiring funding to perform the research.  With so much of  Medical Research funding coming from Pharmaceutical companies, its understandable that Acupuncturists aren't being inundated with money from drug companies to prove that Acupuncture is as effective or more effective than any medication.  Because, at the end of the day, the great thing about Acupuncture is that it has none of the negative side effects that many medications do. 

So you may wonder just how acupuncture works anyway.  There are two schools of thought regarding how Acupuncture works, not suprisingly one is the ancient Chinese belief and the second is the more modern Western take on it.

According to Chinese philosophy, the body contains two opposing forces: yin and yang. When these forces are in balance, the body is healthy. Energy, called "qi" (pronounced "chee"), flows like rivers along pathways, or meridians, throughout the body. This constant flow of energy along these meridians keeps the yin and yang balanced. If the flow of this energy is obstructed at all, this harmony is disrupted. A disruption in the flow of energy along the meridians; can lead to illness.
Pic from Americanacupuncture.co
Approximately 2,000 different acupuncture points lie along the body's meridians. The idea behind Ancient Chinese acupuncture is that stimulating these points with acupuncture needles or pressure relieves obstructions in the flow of energy, enabling the body to heal.

The Western world believes that acupuncture is likely to work by stimulating the central nervous system to release chemicals in the form of neurotransmitters and hormones. These chemicals dull pain, boost the immune system and regulate various body functions.  Acupuncture needles also increase the local blood flow to the area and thus promote local healing by more nutrition and oxygen being able to reach the affected area and cell wastes being removed more efficiently.


I know from my own experience in treating people with Acupuncture that it is very effective.  I treated a lady last year who has suffered from migraines her whole life.  She has always managed these with medication, but she was not allowed to take any medication during her pregnancy.  I first saw her when she was five months pregnant and she was experiencing migraines every ten days that were confining her to a dark room for two to three days at a time.  I treated her weekly until the end of her pregnancy and she didn't have another migraine for the rest of her pregnancy! She is now seeing me every two to three weeks and she still no longer needs to take any migraine medication!


Working in Women's Health I have also heard lots of anecdotal eveidence from my patients who have had Acupuncture to aid them falling pregnant or as an adjunctive treatment during IVF.  A number of patients have also sworn by having acupuncture to aid morning sickness.   However, Acupuncture is not recommended in the first three months of pregnancy. I have a read an excellent book by an Acupuncturist based in Central London who specialises in fertility and I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking of or trying to fall pregnant.  The book is called The Baby Making Bible by Emma Cannon and she has lots of good lifestyle advice to adhere too even if you aren't in a position to be having any acupuncture.

A few of  my patients have also found acupuncture for nausea and xerostomia (dry mouth) very effective during chemotherapy, as well as for shortness of breath with treatment with lung cancer.

I hope that this has helped you to consider Acupuncture as an adjunctive or alternative therapy for any health problems that you may be experiencing!  Especially considering the fact that Acupuncture has none of the side effects that many medications do:)

-------------------------

Brocolli is a superfood that is often mentioned and I'm going to focus on it this week.

Brocolli
Pic from worldcommunitycookbook.org

According to Pratt and Matthews in "Superfoods":

Brocolli is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables.  Cruciferous comes from the latin root, crucifer, meaning bearing a cross, which refers to the cross shaped flowers of vegetables in this family.

Brocolli consumption has DOUBLED in the past ten years, following news of its cancer fighting abilities.

Brocolli is the vegetable with the strongest links as being anti colon cancer, especially in those younger than 65 with a history of smoking.  So if you have ever smoked--EAT BROCOLLI!

Health Benefits:
Reinhard, "Superfoods"
-High in flavonoid quercetin and in sulforaphane which protect against cancer.
-Reduces risk of ovarian cancer.
-Reduces forms of agressive prostate cancer.
-Helps protect against cardiovascular disease.

Raw Versus Cooked:
Recommended to eat a mixture of both raw and cooked brocolli, as raw brocolli is higher in Vitamin C, and cooked brocolli makes the carotenoids more bioavailable.  Frozen brocolli is also high in nutrients.

Tonia Reinhard in her book Superfoods, states:
"Brocolli's phytochemicalas and heat-sensitive nutrients are best retained by either not cooking or lightly sauteing.  Steaming does not work well with cruciferous vegetables, as covering during cooking causes retention of sulfurous smelling compunds."



What’s in a cup of Brocolli?
Calories: 55 (231 kJ)
Protein: 3.7g
Total Fat: 0.6g
Saturated Fat: 0.1g
Carbohydrates: 11.2 g
Fibre: 5.1g

P. S Look out for Part two of this blog...looking more closely at Ear Acupuncture:)

What Makes you Happy?

Monday, February 20


One of my Patients recommended that I read "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin.  After Pete spoilt me and gave me a Kindle for Valentines day this week, I made this my first Kindle purchase.  I am loving the book and I was going to write about something else this week, but decided to rather write about a few points from her book.

Gretchen is a lawyer turned writer from New York who dedicates a year to try to make herself happier.  She starts by saying that prior to beginning the project, she is not unhappy, she has a great life, family and job, she just wants to see of she can become happier.  I think that why I am enjoying her book so much, is because I think that so many of us are at this point and can relate to her story quite well.  Not unhappy, but perhaps with some room for improvement on the happiness front.  She is also quick to say that she is exploring happiness versus unhappiness and that depression is in a spectrum of it's own.

My recent health dramas have made me really re evaluate my every day and how much I enjoy it. Part of me thinks 'cliche cliche' as I type these words, 'life changing realisations', 'exploring and finding yourself' blah blah blah.  But I am honestly enjoying my days more.  I am getting more satisfaction from work and spending more time doing what I like and what makes me happy.  I think that so often we are only just keeping our heads above water and surviving each weeks work and domestic commitments.  We are so busy completing the tasks that society expects of us, that we forget to take a moment to assess if we really are living life at our optimal happiness level.

Anyway, back to Gretchen's book.  She says that studies have proven that an individual's happiness is determined by three different things.  50% is down to their genetics.  I think we all know people that are just more cheery and optimistic than others and that's how they were born.  She says that the next 10-20% of someone's happiness is down to their life situation; including income, ethnicity, gender, marital status, occupation and religious affiliation.  The remaining 30 to 40% of how happy one is, is a product of how one thinks or acts. So everyone has an inborn disposition that is set within a certain range but you can boost yourself up or down the happiness scales by your actions.

Each month she takes on different tasks, behaviours or attitudes that she thinks may make her happier.  She continuously acknowledges that her own happiness directly affects her family's happiness too.  Gretchen also says that everyone's happiness project would be totally unique as we all enjoy different things and naturally perform better in contrasting areas.

In the month of May, part of her mission is to find more fun.  This made me really think.  She talks of doing something that brings you happiness, something that you look forward to, enjoy doing and then afterwards when you reflect back you fondly remember that you enjoyed the activity.

I called one of my best friends - Jen, "Name five things that make you really happy," I said to her.   "Something that you eagerly anticipate, enjoy doing, and then think back on it as having made you happy.  And tell me if you have done any of these in the last week, month or year".
"I'll think about it and call you back," she said.

I then thought about a few things that make me happy and listed some of them here and when I last did them;
(In no Particular order)


Mighty Ginger

Monday, February 13

Before I moved into a house share with my friends Ross and Steve in London in February 2009, the closest I had come to eating fresh ginger was a ginger nut biscuit.  It was Steve who introduced me to the powers of rooibos tea with freshly sliced ginger.  Having grown up drinking copious amounts of very milky regular tea, this was quite a revelation to me.  I wasn't entirely convinced by the smell nor pieces of the ginger floating in the brew that he handed me, but my head cold was so severe that I was ready to try anything rather than face another sache of Medi lemon in hot water.  The first few sips were slightly unusual but after my third cup of the day I felt remarkably better.  I am not sure if it was the power of the tea, or if I was already on the mend anyway-but I was sold.  Rooibos, or Red Bush, as the tea is more commonly called in the UK, is currently being researched further for its health benefits.  Rooibosteabenefits.org says that rooibos is rich in anti oxidants, has no preservatives, additives nor caffeine, and is low in tannin.  It is thought to help with indigestion, stomach ulcers and constipation and has anti spasmodic properties that help with stomach cramps and colic in children especially.  It is safe for children to drink and also safe to drink whilst pregnant. 



















I treated a patient a few years ago who had prostate cancer, who said that his Doctor had advised him to drink rooibos daily in conjunction with his cancer treatment.  I have been unable to find any studies that have been done on Rooibos tea and prostate cancer, however rooibos has been found to be high in antioxidants.   We know that antioxidants are helpful in reducing free radicals which can cause cancer, and so I presume that that that is why this man was advised to drink rooibos tea. 

The power of ginger however, has been widely proven and recorded.  Superfoods by Tonia Reinhard lists multiple studies which have given further credit to the might of ginger.  A 2010 review  found that 6-gingerol found in ginger can inhibit tumours.  Another study found that 6-DGE, also found in ginger, was found to suppress cancer cell growth in breast cancer by making the cancer cells undergo 'apoptosis' or cell suicide.  Gingers effectiveness in reducing nausea in patients having chemotherapy for ovarian cancer was named as one of the 9 'major clinical clinical advances in gynaecology in 2009.'  Other studies have also found ginger to contain compounds that inhibit the growth of human lung and colon cancer cells.  Ginger has also proven to be effective in reducing cholestrol.

I was suprised when researching this article at how good both rooibos tea and ginger are for you!  By combining the two, you are getting some of the healthy benefits of both and drinking a delicious brew.  If you find it a little overwhelming at first, put a tea spoon of honey in to sweeten it up a little.


Steve's Rooibos and Fresh Ginger Tea:

Slice 2 to 3 slivers of fresh ginger and place in a cup with a rooibos tea bag and pour boilng water over.  Add honey as preferred.

Alternatively if making for a few people:
Put 2 to 3 rooibos tea bags in a pot of water with 6 or 7 slices of ginger, bring to the boil on the stove.
Add honey as preferred.









Make it an Americano

Sunday, February 5



It has now been 5 weeks since my surgery and I have just completed my second week back at work.  My shoulder is no longer as painful and so I have been able to see more of my own Physio Patients again. The majority of the Cancer patients that I see are women who have had breast cancer and so a lot of my daily chatter with my patients is about breast cancer.  However, I have also seen patients this week who have completed treatment for ovarian and throat cancers.  Now that I am on my super food campaign-the discussion has naturally drifted towards diet and nutrition even more than usual!


All of the patients that I have seen this week have made a number of significant dietary changes since their diagnosis and cancer treatment.  The common thing that they have all said is that the changes that they have had to make have often been very overwhelming and they also regularly felt confused by the varying advice and literature available.  Along with these changes comes the guilt of knowing that one should be trying to make all these lifestyle changes and then not doing so. 

Let's be honest, we all know we should eat breakfast, even if we don't. We know that we really should order the fish and salad, but the burger/curry/fries are so much more tempting. We should exercise more, especially as we often have that pricey gym membership that we hardly use and that summer holiday is coming up.  We know that microwave meals and take aways aren't that healthy but they are cheap in the UK and its been such a long day and you have a headache and you really can't be bothered to cook.  But usually, the reason that most of us are concerned about these things that we know we should do but we don't because we are too tired/busy/poor or stressed, is because we wish we were thinner. Because if we weighed a little less then life would be a lot better and we would be nicer looking and happier. There are very few people that I know that are 100 percent happy with their bodies.  This for me is certainly the first time that I have worried about what I eat - not because of how it may affect my waistline, but because if I'm not careful about what I put into my body I may be further putting myself at risk of more cancer in the future.

  
And here's the thing - you should all be worried about what you eat for the same reason that I now am.  Cancer Research UK says that 1 in 3 people will get cancer in their lives.  That means that there is a very good chance that it could be you, and it is pretty much guaranteed that cancer will affect someone close to you, if it hasn't already.  The good news is that cancer is still primarily a disease of the elderly.  The bad news is that if you look at this table on the Cancer Research UK website, things aren't looking all that rosy for the under 65's either.  When looking at life time risks of cancers, Women have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer, a 1 in 19 chance for lung or colorectal cancer and 1 in 46 chance for uterine cancer.  Malignant Melanoma like I've had is in at 1 in 60.  For the guys, prostate cancer is at the top of the charts at 1 in 9, lung cancer is 1 in 14 and colorectum cancer for men comes in at 1 in 15.

  
Patrick Holford in his book Say No to Cancer says that at least 75% of cancers are associated with environment and lifestyle. There is more good news though- the World Cancer Research Fund says that eating the right diet can reduce your chances of getting cancer by up to 40%. 


So we can influence our own cancer odds by improving what we eat one bite at a time.  I'm trying to adopt one more healthy practice at a time.  I think it’s a good idea, every two to four weeks, to try to take up one of those things that you know you should do but you don't do.  Don't feel overwhelmed and try to change everything at once, as you will be likely to be setting yourself up to fail.  One of my first changes has been to stop drinking lattes.  We all know that lots of coffee is bad for you and that milk can be fattening.  What I didn't know though was that in the countries where milk consumption is the highest, they have highest rate of breast and prostate cancer.  I will go into this further another day, but one of my first changes has been to try and reduce my milk consumption and so the lattes have had to go.  I have started to have Americano coffees instead and I'm trying to not have more than 2 -3 per week.  Ideally I should be aiming to drink black coffee, but that is too much of a transition to deal with right now so I have to add some milk!  And I'm also helping my waistline at the same time as according to the Starbucks website, a whole milk latte comes in at 176 calories. A skinny (skimmed milk) latte is 126 calories, and an Americano with a dash of skinny milk is at a lovely low 11 for the coffee and 17 for the dash of milk which makes it only 28 calories!  And just in case you needed reminding- the general recommendation as can be seen on the NHS choices website is that females have 2000 calories a day and that men have 2500.



 
template design by Studio Mommy (© copyright 2015)