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Acupuncture for dealing with stress

There are times when stress takes us places we really do not wish to go.  It makes us feel unpleasant, make poorer decisions and significantly reduces our quality of life.  Over long periods of time it can cause physical illnesses and lead to depression and anxiety attacks.

Stress is not cool!

Or is it?

In a very simple physiological way, stress is an indicator that things need to change.  Its’ purpose in the ‘animal kingdom’ is to protect us from harm by making us act.  We’ve all heard of the ‘fight or flight’ theory that is natures’ method of making us run like hell from danger or make us beat the day lights out of our aggressor.

Modern day causes of stress generally mean it’s not socially appropriate to do either.  So this stress can build, go unchecked and wreak havoc.

However, what if we used stress in a different way?  If when we encountered it, we thought about the things that were causing it and then changed them or the way we react to them.

Controversial!

One of the many things that I admire about my patients is the fact that they have asked for help, from me, to help them move forward.  That motivates me enormously.   I believe that by asking for help 75% of the problem has already been tackled.  So, the last 25% becomes a shared problem, which apparently is a problem halved!

This final 12.5% problem is generally helped by the very nature of an acupuncture treatment.

Acupuncture treatments are generally calm, relaxing and fun.  No matter how heavy things get, humour tends to play a role.  I find this helps keep a light shining even when times are dark.  Do not think that it’s one round of one-liners, it’s not, but some gentle reflection on life can help keep things in perspective.

It is also time to talk.  Verbalising our fears, concerns and worries somehow lifts a weight.  The fact that these conversations are with a practitioner that is bound by strict confidentiality and ethical principals is helpful, as you can say what you like.  That’s not always possible with friends, family and colleagues.

Another important aspect is that you are made to stop, be still and rest.  Few folks do that.  It is during this restful period that we can clearly hear what we have going on inside.  It is once we have this clarity that it’s time to act.  Together we can plan changes to lifestyle, career, relationships, whatever needs addressing.  I was surprised when I trained in acupuncture how much time was spent on listening, understanding, reflecting and enabling others to find a path.  I must admit it did frustrate me back then as we never came in contact with a needle!  This is one of the things I am now most grateful for because they were preparing us for working with others in a truly compassionate manner.

Finally, the needles.  There’s many explanations about what the needles achieve.  Everything from shifting ‘qi’ to making changes in the brain.  Frankly, no one knows the exact action they have on the body.  However, when used by a trained acupuncturist (and preferably one who is a member of the British Acupuncture Council) something transformational can happen.  I know, I’ve been lucky enough to see it, regularly.

One transformation which often is mentioned is the feeling that after the treatment the problems that were carried in the room have abated.  Even if this is for a few moments this helps us achieve some clear vision.  It is this peace, no matter how momentary that can make the world of difference in allowing us to find a path that suits us better than the one that brought us here.

Thank you for reading this.  I hope you are able to find some time to relax, heal and enjoy your life and if you are someone who struggles with stress, have a think about what your path could be.  Who can help you pave the way to peace?

Working with the Five Seasons* – Spring

Many of my patients talk about feeling tired and run down at this time of the year.  When the season starts to turn, some of us have trouble keeping up.  Before human life changed as a result of the electric light we lived life more in tune with the seasons.  When living by the seasons, winter is a restful period, almost a semi hibernation, when we replenish our energy reserves.  Now, we spend winter fussing over Christmas and New Year, when really we should be gearing down a little and storing some energy for the next season.  As a result we often struggle when there is a seasonal shift, especially one that naturally calls on us to do more, such as spring.  Here are some simple tips for moving into spring and getting the best out of arguably, the best season.

 

Get out in the sun.  During early spring many of us miss the sunshine because we are at work.  However, we do have breaks and lunchtime to get outdoors.  It’s a natural energy booster and mood enhancer and even a few minutes can make a difference.  If your employer allows cigarette breaks then, in my opinion they also allow sunshine breaks!  Go get some.

Move.  Get your blood pumping and go for a walk, run, dance, anything that lifts the heart rate. Always make sure you warm up first by stretching your muscles, gently.  Do whatever feels good for your body.

Dump the expensive multivitamins and get some fresh fruit and veg.  Powders and pills purporting to act as diet supplements are, in my opinion, a waste of time and money.  As a nation we spend millions on them each year.  However, we did not evolve to eat dust, so ditch them.  Fresh fruit and vegetables are by far the superior option. Add this seasons’ produce to your plate; even sow a few seeds for salad crops.  Give the vitamin aisle a swerve and reach for the seed packet.

A quick way to power up your diet is fruit water.  Simply steep some chopped fruit in a jug over night, in the fridge and drink up during the following day.  All kinds of great flavours can work.  Even try using herbs such as lemongrass, parsley or mint.  Ginger root is also good with apple or melon.

Make plans.  Spring is naturally a time to start making plans.  What is your focus for the summer ahead?  Set yourself some goals and go get started.

Think better.  Spend some time training yourself to have a positive outlook.  Again, this doesn’t require special courses, training and years of meditation.  Just be more aware of what you are spending time thinking about.  If it focuses on problems or negativity, switch it around.  Think about positive solutions.  Use positive language when talking or thinking.  Look for the good, fun, exciting and uplifting people and things around you.

Let go of dead wood.  Clear out old clothes, give the cupboard under the stairs a sort, avoid the pessimistic neighbour.  Anything that weighs you down, try to dispense of.  If you can’t give it the push, then minimise its’ impact in your head.  Focus elsewhere, a place where you can make changes.

Breathe.  Take a few moments and remember your breathing.  So many of us hold our breath or breathe very shallowly when concentrating on our tasks.  I notice that when taking a patients’ pulse in clinic I stop breathing.  Then wonder why I feel light headed!  A few deep inhalations send a great pulse of oxygenated blood around your body as well as releasing waste gas like carbon dioxide.  Make sure you breathe right down to your belly for best effect.

Finally, remember my practice mantra Relax, Heal, Enjoy and make sure you make time for each this spring.

* In Chinese medical theory there are five seasons….’late summer’ is classed as a distinct, yet short, period when time appears to stand still at the end of summer before the decline into autumn.

Good-bye Winter Soup

I spend a great deal of my time in treatments talking about food.  Initially, it’s to assess how well a patients’ diet is contributing to their health….or illness.  Food should be fun and never a chore.  Healthy food can be quick, easy and affordable and this little beauty of a soup is amazing on all these fronts.   Plus, it’s supercharged ingredients will contribute to excellent health.

If you need a pick-me-up, something to shake off colds and sniffles or just a warm hearty meal with added punch then let me introduce you to ‘Good-bye Winter Soup’.

Now, I’m no Delia and I see cooking as an art rather than a science.  I’m not going to labour over quantities, this is simple cooking by eye with rough amounts.

You will need:

  • A butternut Squash
  • A large carrot
  • Vegetable stock of your choice – I used one of those new ‘jelly’ pots
  • Olive oil or Raw Coconut Oil
  • Coconut milk – optional as it is high fat!
  • Red lentils – I used about half a cup full
  • Quinoa – an excellent grain to be found in the ‘health food’ aisle.  Please note it is pronounced ‘Keen-Wa’.  It’s an ancient grain with a full complement of protein, the building block for the body.  Again, I used half a cup
  • Red curry paste

Putting the soup together is easy and goes as follows:

Heat your oven to 180°C.

Bring a pan of water (about 1 litre) to the boil and rinse the quinoa and lentils under the tap in a sieve.

Once on the boil add the lentils and quinoa to the pan and pop in the stock.  If you are using liquid stock, reduce the amount of water in the pan.  Cook the lentils according to their instructions.  It is normally around half an hour at a slow boil.  The quinoa will easily cook in this time.

Chop your required amount of Butternut Squash and Carrot into similar sized chunks.  The Squash will cook quickest so you may wish to make the carrot pieces slightly smaller.   Throw these onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Place in the oven for twenty minutes.

When the veg is ready, simply transfer it to the pan of boiling lentils.  I did not transfer the oil that was on the baking sheet to lower to calorie content.

Add a good tablespoon of Red Curry Paste to the pan.  If you want it more ‘scorchio’ add two!  Let the pan simmer for a further 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

After this time transfer the whole contents of the pan to a blender (or use a hand blende

Patient’s Questions 4 – Do you give yourself acupuncture?

In short, no.

I have self-treated on a couple of occasions in the past.  One was for shock and the other  for a headache.  Thankfully, I don’t generally suffer with either, so it’s not a regular occurrence.

If I was to use acupuncture for a semi regular complaint it would be shoulder pain, but i find it impossible to reach the points required on my own body.  I could use ‘distal’ points.  These are points at the other end of the meridian to where a problem exists, which are easier to reach.  In this case, they would be on my hands.  However, I find a blend of regular exercise, Bowen Technique and Osteopathy keep me pain free and mobile.

One huge perk of this kind of work is fellow practitioners are often keen to exchange treatments.  Owing to the fact that the two practitioners working downstairs at York Natural Health offer these therapies, my shoulders are happy as Larry.

Another aspect that doesn’t bode well for self treatment is patient-practitioner rapport.  Acupuncturists believe that this is a fundamental aspect of the healing process which is distinctly absent in a self treatment.  Rapport is a ‘chemistry’ between the patient and the acupuncturist.  It’s a difficult subject to describe, but be assured it’s presence or lack of means the world of difference to the patients’ experience.  Traditional acupuncturists are trained in many ‘soft’ skills such as active listening and body language that help form the foundations of good rapport.

We use rapport building as an effective method of connecting with a patient.   It creates an open atmosphere where information gathering can be done quickly and effectively, even about very difficult and sensitive issues.  In many senses the practitioner needs to be in a ‘neutral’ gear where they can go where the patient feels safe, yet get all the necessary information required to put together an appropriate treatment plan.  The patient should not feel rushed or pressured, yet the session should move forward so that there is a good blend of talking, needling, explanation, planning and advice-giving.  All of this should feel seamless and natural.

This neutral space for the practitioner is essential.  It is a time when our concentration and focus is 100% on our patient.  At this point, nothing else matters.  This focus brings trust and in turn, trust can take the healing relationship to a new level.  Often I hear patients say ‘I’ve never told anyone that’ or ‘ I can’t believe I’ve shared that and only known you ten minutes’.

This kind of structured relationship can fast-forward the removal of many obstacles that patients may face and deliver an improved feeling of wellbeing.

By treating oneself with needles a whole portion of the magic of acupuncture is absent.

Patients Questions 3 – What’s involved in an acupuncture treatment?

The headings below illustrate the varied types of treatment techniques you may expect to experience.  Depending on your acupuncture treatment plan, these techniques will be employed to help you move forward and heal.

Needling

Needling forms the bedrock of your acupuncture treatment.  Very fine, sterile needles are used to activate acupuncture points located along meridains spanning the body.  In general, Five Element Acupuncture uses very gentle needling techniques, with as few needles as possible.  Each needle is used only once and then discarded in the sharps bin.

The needles act to either boost the body’s energy flow or to calm it down, depending on the condition and the patients’ underlying energetic profile.

Intra dermal needling

Intra dermal needles are used to help ease pain and for facial acupuncture.  They are very, very fine and much shorter than normal needles.  They have a circular loop which helps hold the needle in place on the surface of the skin.  It is usual to leave these needles in place for a number of days to help ease pain.  They are taped down with micro-gauze tape and the patient leaves the treatment room with them in situ.  This form of treatment enables the powerful action of the acupuncture needle to continue beyond the treatment session.  The patient is taught how to care for these needles and what to do when it is time to remove them.

Intra dermal needles cannot be felt by the patient once they are in situ.

For facial acupuncture they are used on deep wrinkles and lines and are removed before the patient leaves the treatment room.

Moxibustion

Moxa is a dried herb from the East that when lit with a burning taper, produces a consistent heat that is used to enhance the action of the acupuncture needle.  It is rolled into small cones or into a cigar shaped roll so that it can be used to gently warm the acupuncture point.  Patients find it very soothing and relaxing.

Cupping

Cup shaped instruments are placed on the skin and the air pressure within them is reduced using a small hand pump.  This helps create a demi-vacuum on the surface of the skin.  The cups are sometimes left in position for a few minutes or they are moved around on the surface of the skin to give a massage effect.

Cupping is generally used to relieve stress and sooth aches and pains, similar to massage.

Gua Sha

Gua sha is an ancient form of folk medicine that is traditionally used to treat pain.  It involves using a fish shaped spatula to deeply massage the flesh.  It is thought to help move blood and body fluid to detoxify muscles and promote healing.

Acupressure

Acupressure massage is used in situations where needling is not appropriate.  Instead of needling the acupuncture point it is massaged with a blunt probe until a gentle aching sensation is felt.  This form of treatment is often used with young children.

Patients Questions 2 – What should I do after my acupuncture treatmen

 Having acupuncture treatment is just one method of taking care of yourself.  Giving your treatment it’s very best chance is important in terms of maximising the healing capacity of your body and getting the most out of your investment.

Here are a few ideas on getting the most from your acupuncture session.  This advice is especially relevant after an initial consultation and treatment, whilst we assess how you respond to acupuncture.  Often, the greatest changes take place after the first session.  Being prepared for these changes and giving your body time to ‘develop’ the treatment is crucial in your healing success.

Please consider this simple, yet effective advice:

  • Take time to rest.  Ideally after your treatment.  If this is not possible, at some point during the day.
  • If you feel sleepy, taking time to nap can be very beneficial.  This gives your body time off and provides some quality healing time.  I often think that getting a short nap after treatment is as effective as having another treatment on the same day!
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Keep hydrated.  Plain water is great.
  • Try to follow your body’s signals.  Feel sleepy, rest.  Hungry, eat.  Thirsty, drink.
  • Should you get an energy rush, which sometimes happens, avoid over exerting yourself as you may get an energy ‘hang-over’ the next day.  Try to take some gentle exercise, then rest.
  • Eat lightly, not a ten course banquet.
  • Follow any advice that you have been given as part of your treatment plan.  This advice is aimed at boosting your healing potential.
  • Sometimes patients feel slightly dizzy or they describe feeling ‘space-cadet’ or woozy.  Avoid driving straight after a treatment if this happens.  Maybe take a walk around the block whilst you adjust.
  • Very, very occasionally needling may cause a bruise.  This will normally pass after a day or two.  If this bothers you try rubbing with Arnica gel or cream from the chemist.  However, ALWAYS READ THE LABEL FIRST.
  • Sometimes there may be an itchy sensation during or after needling.  This is common.  It will pass.  Avoid scratching, this will make it worse.  Dabbing with water normally speeds settling of this sensation.

I hope this advice proves useful in giving you a superb acupuncture experience.

Relax, Heal, Enjoy!

Alex

A Five Element Acupuncture lifestyle

 

Acupuncture treatment is more than just needles.

As a traditional medicine acupuncture has taken millennia to evolve. Practitioners commit to a lifetime of learning, reflection and application. Acupuncture treatment is about achieving and maintaining a positive-health lifestyle. So, when you come for treatment some of the following areas will be considered, as appropriate to you:

Diet, nutrition and eating
Exercise, activity and mobility
Self care regimes
Stress management and relaxation
Sleep and rest patterns
Cosmetic and anti ageing
Goal coaching and choosing health

Your treatment plan will encompass those areas which are relevant to your health success. This means mental and spiritual health as well as achieving your best physical health.

Acupuncture is a positive health choice that extends far beyond any treatment room.  Choosing acupuncture can mean making changes in many different areas of your life.  Often, these are small changes, but they are incredibly beneficial.  Together we will look broadly at your lifestyle and see where we can make the most positive impact.  True acupuncture is participatory.  That’s a flash phrase for involving some effort and motivation on your part.

Relaxing with the needles in is only the start.  It’s also probably the easiest bit too!

Acupuncture is all about looking after what we have and making the most of it.  Each of us will get something different out of it depending on our perspective and point in life.  We can take as little or as much as we want depending on what we need.

Consider treatment in terms of the following key words and this may help you decide if the time is right to begin an acupuncture lifestyle for yourself:

Time – a tranquil time to touch base with yourself and dedicate to improving health and wellbeing. You can choose between hourly or half hourly sessions depending on need.

Understanding – spending time with a healthcare professional who listens and prioritises you. This is your opportunity to share feelings, emotions and experiences in a safe space. A problem shared!

Confidentiality – you are free to discuss areas in your life that require attention. This is a safe, stable and importantly, non-judgemental environment that allows honesty, a vital step in nourishing health and freeing your spirit.

Support – a foundation upon which to build a positive approach to your health. See it as a steadying, nourishing force that builds over time. It should also be a fun and enjoyable experience.

Your questions are always welcomed!

Remember, it’s all about:

Relaxing, Healing, Enjoying!

Best wishes blog buddies

Alex

Amazing nutrition for acupuncture

Hello Acupuncture Buddies

I had to update my blog with this amazing discovery I made in the kitchen this morning!  If, like me, you love chocolate and all things sweet but want to swerve the processed foods, empty calories and other waste-of-space edibles, this little recipe might just be for you.  It may seem like a bit of a faff at first, but once you taste it and appreciate the good it’s doing you, then hopefully it will become part of your health routine.

It’s these type of life style adjustments that can really help super-charge your acupuncture treatments.  Trust me, I’ve seen it happen!

So, here it is:

Mind Blowing Chocolate Smoothie

Throw this lot in the blender and blitz until smooth and creamy.  Then punch the air and whoop at the good it’s going to do you!

One frozen Banana – learn from my mistake – peel the banana before freezing.  Use up all those bananas that are going black this way, they are perfect.

Small handful of raw almonds – rich in vitamin E, amazing for skin.

Handful of raw, rolled oats – good old fashioned breakfast oats soak up cholesterol and add soluble fibre to your diet, helping keep Mr or Mrs Bowel happy.

One teaspoon of raw cacao powder – I ordered mine via amazon, a bit of an inconvenience, but this stuff will rock your world.  It’s full of antioxidants that help tidy up the waste from our cells.

Two Medjool Dates – take the stones out.  Depending on your level of sugar love, you may need to only use one, they are very sweet.  They are also great fibre providers and introduce natural as opposed to refined sugar into our smoothie.

Finally, you need some ‘milk’ to add the liquid to the smoothie.  I’m right off milk at the moment, so I’m using Kara Dairy Free which is based on coconut flesh and found at most good sized supermarkets.  You could use just water, but all things coconut are impressing me at present as they contain Lauric Acid which is a natural chemical thought to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

 

All that is left to say is, ENJOY.

Patient’s Questions 1 : How many acupuncture treatments will I need?

There are many variables that determine how many acupuncture treatments you will need before you experience a significant improvement in your health and wellbeing.

These are just some of the issues that require consideration:

  • The length of time you have experienced the symptom or condition.
  • The severity of the symtom or condition when you first present for acupuncture treatment.
  • Your overall general health and the present capacity your body has to heal itself.
  • Your willingness to take on board lifestyle recommendations, such as dietary changes, hydrations levels, exercises, rest, supplements and other self care suggestions as deemed necessary.

As a general rule of thumb, a short course of regular treatments, such as weekly, will enable us to discover how you respond to acupuncture.  Healing rates vary in each of us.  It is usual for new patients to have in the region of four to five weekly treatments to start their course.  I then aim to draw out the time between treatments so that health can stabilise.  At each session we will evaluate the rate of change and decide, together, the best options for further treatments.

We will work together to achieve improvements as soon as possible.  Afterall, it is in my interest to get you back to feeling great as soon as possible and telling your friends and family how acupuncture treatment worked for you.

Many patients decide upon having semi-regular top up sessions to help maintain their health and wellbeing.  We will discuss if this is a suitable option for you and look at the timings of future treatments.

I am always happy to discuss acupuncture treatment and answer any questions you may have. If you would like to get in touch to talk about anything raised in this blog, I’d love to hear from you for a no obligation chat.

Best wishes!

Alex

 

Season of Extremes

We are now into a season of extremes, extreme weather, eating habits and spending to name but a few.  Christmas can be a great deal of fun but it can take it’s toll, not least with our health.

Feasting, drinking, partying, power-shopping and then when the New Year hits the guilt sets in and everywhere you look there’s a detox diet or excercise regime looking at you with judgemental eyes.

A few tiny health habits introduced now can really help reduce the stress on your body and mind and will pay huge dividends over time.  There’s no huge commitment to make, no extra expense and all will help you balance the extremities of  Christmas 2012.

Have a look and consider introducing two or three of these simple activities on a regular basis from now onwards:

  • Drink an extra glass of water a day – couldn’t be any simpler but most of us drink less than we think and it makes a huge difference to the effectiveness of the body and mind.
  • Drop the salt and freeze a lemon – by grating frozen lemon over your food it gives it a great lift and reduces blood pressure boosting salt levels.  Plus, it prevents waste as we often have bits of lemon left over from the G&T!
  • Get some sunlight – every now and again we get a cold crisp day.  Get out in it!  Whether Fido gets an extra walk or walking instead of using the car are great ways to boost Vitamin D levels, boost circulation and lift the spirits.  Don’t see it as a chore, see it as an investment in your future health.
  • Get on down!  – hit the kitchen dance floor once in a while.  Consider pumping up the bass when doing boring tasks and build up a sweat to your favourite tunes.  It will help make the housework pass quicker and will lift your heart rate.  No gym membership required!
  • Mix a green smoothie cocktail – a fast, efficient route to brilliant digestion, hair, skin, energy levels, clear thinking and is far, far superior to chalky vitamin supplements that the body often cannot absorb.  Have a look a Diane Kidman’s book on Amazon called ‘Smoothie Power’.  This is an insanely good read and will change your life – guaranteed!!
  • And finally….spend some time in the now!  Stop concentrating on what tomorrow may bring, don’t brood over the past, just enjoy the now.  Whether it’s taking time to look at the sky, birdwatch in your own garden or enjoy a cup of tea, spend time in the present moment.  When your mind starts to wander, just think ‘stop, my mind’s wandering, think of now!’

All of these are super simple, yet super good news for your health when done regularly.  There’s no great sacrifice and no expense, other than time.  Treat yourself this festive season and most of all, have a fun time doing it.

The Relax, Heal, Enjoy checklist:

More water

Replace salt with grated lemon

Get out in the winter sun

Dance the domestic shuffle!

Try Green Smoothies

Think now!

Have a Merry and Simple Christmas!

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