Acupuncture – evidence from my practice

During lockdown I analysed all of my acupuncture notes for the last 5yrs – who I treated, what problems, number and types of treatment, and to what extent they did, or didn’t, benefit. I have treated 134 patients in my Clifton practice. Two thirds of them were women and nearly half of them were over 60 years old. Most people had less than ten treatments, but I see a third of them more often than this – over a longer period for long-term illness. People come to me with all sorts of problems but the most common are pain in the muscles and joints, and/or mental and emotional difficulties. Peoples’ problems have usually been present for over three months and 60% of patients had suffered them for many years.

So how do they get on? My detailed notes suggest that: – only 1 person got worse, – a quarter were unchanged; a quarter felt a bit or moderately better; half of my patients were either much better or their symptoms had disappeared.

There is no proof that this change is all due to acupuncture, but it gives a flavour of what to expect.

Late summer on the Somerset levels

“People come to me with all sorts of problems”

The question I am most often asked is “what sort of things do you treat?” and the first thing I say is that I treat people, not just particular problems. My analysis confirmed that many people come with more than one health problem and that physical and emotional problems are often closely intertwined. In addition to painful problems with muscles and joints, people seek treatment for chronic respiratory problems, headaches/migraine, digestive and bowel problems, genito-urinary problems , fatigue, and a wide variety of symptoms that Western Medicine find difficult to categorise and to treat. Mental and emotional problems include anxiety, low mood, lack of motivation, and difficulties with sleep.

Chinese medicine does not view each of these problems as needing separate treatment – rather they all result from the Qi (energy/lifeforce) needing strengthening, balancing and helped to flow smoothly round the body. I begin by looking for a common root or basis to the problems and start my acupuncture treatment there. It is fine to be sceptical at the start but being open to a new way of understanding your illness may lead to opportunities for you to take a more active role in the treatment.

The analysis of my practice notes put numbers to some aspects of my everyday experience. Giving and receiving acupuncture is, however, much more than numbers can describe – good communication, a respectful relationship and a focus on each person as an individual are all a vital and enjoyable part of treatment.

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Long Covid – acupuncture treatment and insights

 ‘Long Covid’, or ongoing severe symptoms following an acute Covid infection, remains a distressing problem and one that Western Medicine struggles to understand and treat. Recent research  suggests that it may be due to an over-reaction of our immune system, which produces persistent antibodies that attack our own body systems rather than the virus . These ‘autoantibodies’ are a feature of other diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, so their effects are something that I am used to treating. Chinese medicine views these problems as being due to a blockage in the flow of Qi (or energy) and I use particular acupuncture treatments to clear blockages and help the body systems to strengthen and rebalance themselves.

Struggling up to full health

See my previous blog for more details of Long Covid symptoms and your acupuncture treatment.

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Recovering from Covid-19 – acupuncture can help restore your strength and balance

Are you one of the people who are finding it hard to recover from Covid-19 – maybe with many variable symptoms and extreme exhaustion? What a confusing infection! Some people barely know they have it, others become critically ill and now a different group of people are describing severe longer-term symptoms. While Covid-19 is new to us, I regularly use acupuncture to treat people with similar longer term illness, characterised by low physical and mental energy and a confusing jumble of symptoms. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine treats each person as an individual and focuses on rebuilding physical and emotional balance and strong and dependable energy.

Winifred Nicholson

Kate’s Flowers (1936) by Winifred Nicholson.

The Covid-19 virus is capable of infecting not only our lungs, but also many of our other body systems – such as our digestive system, muscles and joints, nerves etc. In terms of Chinese medicine this invasion gives rise to phlegm, damp, heat, or cold, all of which interfere with the normal circulation of energy, blood and body fluids. Without the normal circulation, the body systems cannot work smoothly and cannot stay in balance with one another. As an acupuncture practitioner I begin treatment by listening carefully to your own experience, asking questions about it and your previous health, and observing you and your pulse and tongue carefully. Then I can piece together how the virus has affected your body, mind and spirit and plan a course of treatment. By combining acupuncture treatment with self-help advice and repeated feedback and adjustment to the plan, we can influence and support the natural healing powers of your body. Not an instant cure – but a road to recovery.

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Defend yourself against coronavirus, Covid-19 – help from Chinese medicine

Chinese medicine has a recorded history of over two thousand years of combating epidemics in China and beyond, with acupuncture playing a vital role alongside herbal medicine. Today in China it is used alongside Western medicine in most hospitals and evidence from Wuhan and elsewhere suggests it still has an important part to play.

Chinese medicine understands the health effects of an infection by a virus such as coronavirus in terms of the balance between your own energy and constitutional strength and the potential harmful effects of the virus. In other words, we should not only focus on the virus itself but also on our own general health, in terms of body, mind and spirit. This is why the virus has different effects in different people. It means that although we cannot change the virus, we can reduce the harm it does us by building our own vitality and health. We are not passive victims, but can mount our own defence. Although here in the UK, Chinese medicine practitioners such as myself are at present unable to treat people who are facing infection or recovering from it, I would urge all of us to heed the following self-care advice . It is taken from a blog by Bryan McMahon, (https://www.thewanderingcloud.com/the-archives/understanding-the-epidemic) . It is based on the theories underlying Chinese medicine, in which terms such as ‘damp’ and ‘stagnant’ have a particular meaning.

Adjusting your diet.

A virus must find the appropriate terrain within which to take hold and replicate. This particular one seems to prefer damp, stagnant conditions. This means adjusting dietary choices by eating lighter, easy to digest, mostly warm, cooked foods.

Cut back on or completely avoid processed foods, sweets, beer, and any cold and frozen items from the refrigerator. Augment meal preparation with plenty of fresh herbs and fragrant spices (such as cumin, cardamom, nutmeg etc).

If juicing is part of your daily health regimen, stick mostly to vegetable juices and supplement with fresh ginger, turmeric, pepper, parsley, coriander and small amounts of garlic.

potager re covid-19

Maintain appropriate daily exercise. 

Exercise helps alleviate all forms of stagnation, dispel constrained heat through sweating and keep the surface open to alleviate pressure on the respiratory system. Exercise according to your ability – there are plenty of ideas available on YouTube, including seated exercises. Do not overdo vigorous exercise – avoid pushing yourself to your limit and feeling exhausted.

Make time for at least one extra hour of sleep every day.

Sleep is the foundation of immunity; aim for 8-9 hours of good quality sleep each night, and schedule in a short nap period during the day. Adjust this advice to suit your own sleeping patterns.

Lastly, remain present and grounded in the face of generalized anxiety and unrest.

When we are calmly present and attuned to our life situation, immunity will flourish. Our body will clearly distinguish what is you from what is not and your immune system will take action accordingly. The clarity of this integration of mind and body is badly disturbed by the adrenal stimulation brought on by fear and panic. News and social media rely largely on a negative emotional response in order to keep their audience engaged; try not to get caught up in this circle of fear and frustration.

 

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Strengthening our lungs: self-help and acupuncture

Autumn – the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness – is also the time when our lungs need our help the most. Maybe you have a tendency for colds to go onto your chest, or have asthma or other chronic lung disease. Or maybe you just want to stay well and be able to get on with life. For all of us, the following information about breathing exercises and diet will help us understand how to care for ourselves. Self-care, backed up by acupuncture when necessary, is a fundamental aspect of Chinese medicine.

autumn pic 1

My thanks to the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine in Reading for the following information.

Breath and the Lungs 

In Chinese Medicine the Lungs are one of the main ways we get Qi, or energy, into the body. They are said to ‘govern’ Qi.
When we breathe in, the Lungs take Qi from the world and bring it into the body. Qi is the active energy needed for all the body’s processes. It is like the electricity that allows the light to shine.
If the Lungs are strong they can take in more Qi and distribute it around the body to maintain healthy and vital functions.
If the Lungs are weak we can feel tired and prone to difficulty coping with loss and change.

Our skin and immunity also reflect the strength of our Lung Qi. Good Qi protects us from external weather and pathogens and allows the skin to release toxins. Weak Lung Qi can make us susceptible to catching colds, flu and asthma. Our sense of smell might be weaker and we might get congested easily.

The Lungs are instrumental in helping us relax and be emotionally balanced. We can deal with loss and grief in a balanced and healthy way.

Autumn is the time our Lungs need our help the most.

 
Qigong breathing practice

We can breathe when sitting, standing or moving. It takes time to learn to breathe properly so this should be done slowly without strain.

Breathing should be done in a relaxed way and the breath should not be held or be jerky.

  1. Breathe in through the nose into the lower abdomen so that it expands and fills out like a balloon. Be careful that you feel no physical pressure below the top of your pubic bone.
  2. Keeping the breathing smooth exhale and let the balloon in the abdomen deflate.
  3. Allow these breathing movements to be rhythmic, slow and even.
  4. As you practice you can also learn to breathe into your sides and back and kidneys. Later you can learn to breathe into the upper sides and upper back as well.”

From: Principles of Chinese Medicine by Angela Hicks (available from: http://www.acupuncturecollege.org.uk/books)

Helpful seasonal nutrition

From: Danny Blyth and Greg Lampert, Chinese Dietary Wisdom (available from: http://www.acupuncturecollege.org.uk/books)
In the autumn and winter, our system needs a richer diet, with more protein, to keep our bodies warm and energised. To help us digest these richer foods, we also need more digestives, such as herbs and gentle spices. Warming cooking methods such as casseroles, stews, roasting and soups should be chosen, and salads and cold foods should be reduced.

Here is a list of foods beneficial and strengthening for the Lungs:

~ Garlic                                     ~ Sweet potato
~ Ginger                                    ~ Onion
~ Cabbage                                ~ Pears
~ Walnuts                                  ~ Black pepper
~ Radish                                    ~ Rice
~ Chilli                                       ~ Cinnamon
~ Cardamom                             ~ Leek
~ Miso                                       ~ Navy Beans
~ Soy Beans                             ~ Almonds
~ Asparagus                             ~ Broccoli
~ Cucumber                              ~ Celery
~ Mustard Greens                     ~ Apricot
~ Banana                                   ~ Eggs

And lastly, from me, if you would like to read the whole autumnal poem that starts ‘The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, here it is

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