Category: Blog

Acupuncture & TCM: Body and mind

When I first had acupuncture many years ago, it made total sense to me that it worked equally on my physical body as well as my emotions. Body and mind. Mind and body. Of course they were interconnected….

 

As a simple example, if a client comes to see me for sore muscles then of course that’s what I will treat them for. However, if I look closer, I may find that they are also someone who worries and overthinks, which in Chinese medicine is a deficiency of the spleen. Which is responsible for muscle health. This adds another dimension to my understanding of their condition and therefore directs their treatment.

 

Western science however, tends to see them as separate. Yes, emotions can affect physical symptoms, but no, they don’t operate synergistically. However, there is a shift change among some scientists and doctors who recognise the need to understand why drugs may work on one person but not another with exactly the same condition. And from this develop drugs that work for individuals, not conditions. As such, phrases like ‘personalised medicine’ are starting to emerge. Which is good news for patients.

 

The principle of personalized medicine is intrinsic to the way we diagnose and treat clients. So when a client comes in with seemingly random symptoms, that don’t make much sense to their doctor, they will most often make complete sense to an acupuncturist!

 

It’s why we ask odd questions like whether you’re someone who feels hot or cold all the time, or what time you experience your headache, or whether you feel sad, or anxious.

 

Because we’re treating you. Not just your condition.

 

Read Michael’s story http://peachyacupuncture.com/2016/05/03/michaels-story/

Runners … will just keep on running

It’s hard to believe just how many people now choose running as a way of staying fit and working off stress. Training for marathons has almost become commonplace… I remember when the thought of running ‘cross country’ at school would fill us with dread (yes I am showing my age). Miles and miles running with what felt like a permanent stitch and pleading with the PE teacher to let us rest. Sprained ankles, muscle spasms and torn ligaments weren’t unusual leading to an avalanche of parent letters requesting little Susan be let off because of her ‘delicate disposition’.

 

London is literally teeming with runners and running clubs are massively popular all over the city.   I went through a period of running 5 times a week and I felt great – but like many people I had an injury that took ages to heal and really put me back in terms of training.  Eddie Izzard ran 27 marathons in 27 days for Sport Relief – I can’t imagine the state of his body when he finally stopped!

 

There are a number of potential injuries that runners might experience…. Achilles tendinitis, IT Band Syndrome, plantar fasciitis, knee cartilage and ligament issues, stress fractures, sprained ankles and pulled muscles. But these issues will often start as simpler strains or tightness. My experience of runners is that niggling symptoms are largely ignored, and they will continue running until they find they can’t walk, never mind run. Then they’ve got a real problem.

 

Runners need to be monitoring their bodies along with their run times and get treatment before small injuries turn into much larger ones. One small injury can result in other parts of the body compensating and before you know it, that tight achilles is preventing you doing what you love. Permanently. It seems crazy to run in order to be fit and healthy but not pay attention to what it might be doing to your body.

 

How can Acupuncture, TuiNa and Cupping help?

 

knee acupuncture

 

All these therapies increase blood flow and reduce inflammation and tightness. Many physiotherapists and osteopaths use dry needling now alongside their given approaches, because they find it works so well. But it shouldn’t be confused with acupuncture because they also happen to use needles. Dry needling works on trigger points or areas where the patient experiences pain, whereas acupuncture works on the entire musculo-skeletal and neurological system. I use both in my clinic.

 

TuiNa is a dynamic form of Chinese remedial bodywork that uses the same principles as acupuncture but applies quite different deep tissue techniques to that of western massage. Incredibly effective at releasing muscle tension, reducing inflammation and along with acupuncture, boosting the body’s own healing mechanisms.

 

Cupping draws blood to the surface of the skin, helps to eliminate toxins, enables lymphatic drainage and is also commonly used for massage. Clients love it!

 

These three complementary approaches serve to deliver a powerful, yet holistic punch.

 

Runners, I find, just want to keep on running…. Ideally, since prevention is better than cure, whether you run for fun or are training for a marathon, it’s worth getting regular treatment. See a practitioner, say, once a month to remain supple and mobile and nip those injuries in the bud.

 

But if you find you’re already in pain, then start receiving treatment sooner rather than later, or running up that hill might just be a step too far.

Tok Sen – Tapping The Body to Health

Tok Sen is a 5000 year old Northern Thai body therapy developed by monks. It is a rhythmic  method of tapping using a special wooden hammer and wedge (called a ‘Limb’ and ‘Khone’) combined with Thai acu-points that creates a healing vibration working deeply through the fascia and muscles of the body. It’s totally pain free and incredibly effective in relaxing body and mind, and reducing musculoskeletal pain and tension.

I discovered it during a recent trip to Asia. I travel regularly to continue my professional training but this particular journey to Thailand was a holiday. I came across it by chance, had a treatment and was immediately hooked. I was travelling to Chiang Mai where it originated and so immediately booked myself on a course to learn it.

Because it is also a form of energy therapy, it perfectly complements TCM: acupuncture and tuina massage. What’s particularly interesting and sets it apart from any other therapy I’ve come across is that it appears to work very deeply, much more so than any body therapy I’ve come across. Clients say that they feel it’s continuing to work after the treatment is finished and ‘opens’ the body in a way they’ve not experienced before.

It’s certainly a lovely experience to receive a treatment, the rhythm of the tapping is meditative, even soporific. Muscle tension is reduced without resorting to deep tissue work, yet you feel the muscles almost melt away and it’s altogether a very relaxing experience.

There are only a handful of people in the UK offering this treatment, indeed it isn’t widely available even in Thailand where it comes from. But it’s now here in Crouch End.

Here’s what people have to say about it:

“What a beautiful treatment! Relaxing, soothing and relieving. Made my day!” Nicolette
“Very relaxing – shoulders feel better than they have even after a massage!” Pippa
“a 10 minute blast of bliss!!” Eva
“Absolutely fabulous. I think I’ll have to go back for more!” Claudia
“What a treat, energising and invigorating. Perfect for a new mama with a heavy baby!” Nicky
“just had the most amazing treatment I didn’t even know existed – Tok Sen! I am still vibrating from the wonderful energy it has connected with” Lizzie
“Loved the vibration and the sound as well. I feel like it worked so well on so many levels” Danielle
“warming and relaxing – I feel lighter after just 10 minutes, feels very good.” Paul
Try it for yourself. Alone or with acupuncture and tuina. You won’t regret it.

TuiNa – Chinese Medical Massage

What is TuiNa?

TuiNa (pronounced ‘tweenah’) is a therapeutic, Chinese medical massage that is an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which comprises of acupuncture, herbs, TuiNa and Qi Gong. There are few practitioners in the UK but it’s reputation and availability is growing.

 

TuiNa is a strong and dynamic form of remedial bodywork, which can have a significant therapeutic effect. Many clients say they feel energized by it and feel significant improvements within a relatively short period of time. It is more akin to osteopathy or physiotherapy in it’s purpose, although it’s referred to as a massage.

In China, it is seen as a primary therapy, comparable in effectiveness as acupuncture and herbal medicine in treating a range of health issues. When I was training at a Chinese hospital, there was a entire department dedicated to TuiNa including a gentler form for paediatric care. Unlike many hands on massage techniques, which support relaxation and help with deep tissue strain, TuiNa practitioners aim to treat more than musculo-skeletal conditions, and also look at other health issues they can resolve.

Clinical trials in China have shown that Tuina is effective for a wide range of problems of a musculo-skeletal and neurological origin, such as tension headaches, stiff neck, frozen shoulder, back pain, sciatica, RSI and arthritis. It is also helps with hypertension, asthma and many abdominal problems such as IBS, especially where tension and stress are causative factors.

Tuina medical Chinese massage

TuiNa Techniques

TuiNa practitioners use a number of different techniques: deep tissue work to release fascia, and enhance the flow of blood and lymph, pressing on specific acupuncture points and additionally joint mobilization and stretching. TuiNa does not require you to disrobe as you are treated through clothes or with a sheet over you. You may also be treated when you are seated as well as on the treatment couch depending what the issue is.

In my practice I also combine acupuncture with TuiNa because they complement each other so well. I may also use cupping (the use of glass cups to provide suction) a technique that looks awful but feels great as many of my clients (and many celebs) will attest – it isn’t at all painful!

 

The great thing about TCM is that it offers a variety of therapeutic tools to support wellbeing, each of them complementing each other. As a practitioner, that means I can help my client feel better, sooner.

As a client of mine said to me ‘once you’ve had TuiNa, its hard to go back to any other kind of massage’.

Yin and Yang. Balance – in acupuncture and in life

Most people will recognise the iconic yin yang circular symbol with an inverted ‘S’ separating each half. Black on one side (yin) with a small white circle (yang) and the reverse on the opposite side. It’s used a lot but it’s meaning is often misunderstood.

It could be defined as two halves of a whole. Nothing is completely Yin or completely Yang. Yin and Yang are interdependent so they never stand alone. They are opposing yet complementary. There is always some yang in yin (the white dot in the black) and vice versa. The nature of yin and yang constantly changes over time, and is influenced by many external factors. In relation to a person’s health, the acupuncturists job is to bring it back into balance.

But what is yin? And what is yang?

The word Yin is translated as the “shady side” and Yang “sunny side”. In TCM the yin element is cool, calm, slow, dark and feminine, the yang is warm, dynamic, moving and bright. As an example this concept is especially important for Chinese healing practices. So while it’s great to be warm, dynamic and moving, an excess of Yang can results in a fever and a deficiency would leave you shivering. And it’s wonderful if you’re feeling calm, cool and zen-like but an excess of Yin could mean suffering from water retention or a deficiency with night sweats. It’s all about balance.

When it comes to life, we can tend to think in absolutes: I’m always like this or never like that… But the balance of Yin and Yang can be skewed in relation to outside influences, so if the sun shines or you have a less stressful day at work, life can feel quite different. We are in constant flux and so is our health.

So while Yin and Yang aren’t the only factors in reaching a diagnosis, your acupuncturist is looking to achieve a level of homeostasis in relation to you as an individual. Neither too much nor too little yin or yang. So for example, maintain enough yang to keep you moving forward but not so much that you’re manic. And strengthen your yin so you’re calm but not so that you’re comatose!

Life offers many challenges and it can be hard to keep it all together. Acupuncture can help to keep you in balance. After a few treatments, clients often report feeling lighter and more grounded.

And we could all do with a bit of that.