Amazing Acupuncture

Tuesday, February 28

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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.
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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.

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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:)

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