Posted by & filed under Acupuncture, Insomnia, Stress.

According to NHS Choices, insomnia is the  ‘difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning, even though you’ve had enough opportunity to sleep.’
As much as 1 in 3 people in the UK have suffered from insomnia within the last 12 months. Common signs and symptoms of insomnia are:
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • waking up during the night
  • waking up early in the morning
  • feeling irritable and tired and finding it difficult to function during the day

Insomnia can be very debilitating and have some effects in all areas of life, such as work and relationship, as the tiredness get deeper….

6 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Sleep

1. Consider Acupuncture:

Acupuncture is generally a very relaxing therapy and will help you manage the stress of daily life so it doesn’t mess up with your sleep. Its other strength is that it will help treat the root cause of your problems rather than just knocking you out for the night.

Recent research has shown that acupuncture is efficient in treating insomnia and is superior to Trazodone with milder adverse reactions.  Similar results were found in another randomized controlled trial and in a systematic review.

2. Have a nice routine before going to bed:

Try and go to bed at about the same time every night, well before midnight to encourage a good quality sleep. Ensure that the environment you sleep in is conductive to sleep. No light, electronic devices or TV on standby, no mobile phone next to your bed.

On the other side, reading a book, having a relaxing bath can encourage sleep.

3. Avoid stimulants:

Some foods such as coffee, tea or chocolate can stops you from falling asleep. Alcohol can also disturb your sleep so a glass of wine to help you relax might not be the solution to your problem.

Be aware that exercise and watching TV can also act as a stimulant.
Eating late at night can keep you awake. It is better to avoid food after 7.00pm.

4. Have a look at your diet:

Nutrition is very important but just avoiding stimulants such as coffee might not be enough. Some foods can increase irritability and make us more sensitive to stress. This includes coffee but it might be that hot spicy foods aren’t suitable for you either. Sometimes, the reason for the insomnia is just plain tiredness. It is really the ‘too tired to get to sleep’ situation. In that case, a nourishing diet will help you recover your energy and solve your sleep issue at the same time.

Because this is such a personal thing, it is best to ask for some advice from a professional. Your acupuncturist will be able to offer you some guidance as to which diet would be more suitable for you.

5. Ensure your neither too hot nor too cold:

Feeling cold or being too hot can both prevent you from falling asleep or can wake you up at night. Ensure that the temperature on your room is suitable and that you have enough covers.

Be careful when you take a shower/bath in the evening that you don’t feel either too hot or too cold after it.

6. Learn to relax

Exercise during the day is a really good way to keep in shape and reduce stress levels.

You can also try yoga or TaiChi for a gentle exercise that will help you relax at the same time. Massage can also be really good. And some techniques such as meditation or visualization at bed time also work well.
As a general rule, if you have been  suffering from insomnia for a while and no self-help techniques is helping you, it is best to go and see your GP to check that there is no underlying medical condition at the root of your problem. Also remember that some medications, such as HRT, medication for high blood pressure or antidepressants, can cause insomnia so it might be worth checking those too.
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Image: janinieomg via Flickr.

Posted by & filed under Acupuncture, Headaches, Holistic Therapy, Migraines, Pain, Stress.

1. CAUSE

Researchers don’t know what really causes migraines even though we do know that it involves changes in the blood flow in the brain. There also seem to be some sort of genetic component involved too as more than half of the people suffering from migraines also have a family member who is a sufferer.
 

2. ACUPUNCTURE WORKS

Research shows that acupuncture is effective at treating migraines. A new researchshows that acupuncture is efficient at reducing pain due to migraines. Research also shows that acupuncture is better than drugs and that it has somelong lasting effects (maintained improvement over a 3 years period).
 

3. DIET

Diet has an important factor to play. Alcohol and coffee can both trigger migraines and so are strong spicy foods. But trigger foods can be different from one person to the other and you really need to check if any other foods such as cheese, chocolate or some fruits such as citrus fruits are also a trigger.
 

4. STRESS

Reduce STRESS in your life. Granted, this is not as easy as it looks but finding some time during the day, every day, to do an activity you enjoy is a very good start. And if you are happy with that, you can also try yoga, TaiChi or mediation to release all the stress accumulated during the day.
 

5. EXERCISE

Exercise helps releasing stress which can be a strong contributor to migraines (and headaches in general). Moderate exercise routine is usually enough.
 

6. SLEEP

Sleep and good quality sleep is essential. Be careful to go to bed early enough (10.00pm is a good time) and avoid going to bed after midnight.
Migraines can be particularly painful and can render a patient unable to participate in daily activities or go to school or work. Acupuncture can offer powerful relief with very few side effects.
Acupuncture treatments are customized to each patient’s needs by working with the patient to determine their headache profile, migraine triggers, optimal diet and the most effective treatment approach.
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Image Klearchos via Flickr.

Posted by & filed under Back Pain, Pain, Pregnancy, Women's Health.

Back pain, along with sciatica, rib pain or pelvic pain, is quite often seen as ‘part of the parcel’ in pregnancy. Due to hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, ligaments are getting softer which can put a strain on the joints of your lower back. The expanding uterus also moves your center of gravity and accentuates the arching of your back.
All this explains why as many as three quarter of women experience lower back pain at some stage in their pregnancy.
However, whilst this is a minor inconvenience for some women, for others it means a complete disruption to their life as they are struggling to walk, go up the stairs or have a much disrupted sleep.
NICE (The National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence) is already advising GPs to offer a course of 10 sessions of acupuncture as a first line treatment for persistent, non-specific low back pain.
 And research is now showing that acupuncture is also beneficial for back pain during pregnancy. A Brazilian study (2004) showed that ‘acupuncture seems to alleviate low back and pelvic pain during pregnancy, as well as to increase the capacity for some physical activities and to diminish the need for drugs, which is a great advantage during this period’.

6 Things you can do to relieve back pain:

  1. Have some acupuncture. Pregnant women seem to be reacting even better to acupuncture and nearly women I have treated for lower back pain during pregnancy have reported some improvements right from the first treatment.
  2. Take special care of your back. Don’t bend to pick up something. This includes being careful of any twisting movement, for example when helping a young child in and out of his car seat or avoiding carrying your 3 year old up the stairs
  3. Wear flat shoes. That seems to go without saying but good shoes can make all the difference.
  4. REST. A lot of women will find that their backache is getting worse as the day goes on, after a walk, doing too much or more than usual. Rest is crucial to recovery.
  5. Keep warm. In winter in particular, be sure that whatever you are doing, your lower back stays covered and protected. Don’t stand in wet swimming costume either.
  6. Try a massage but be sure that the person has been specifically trained in massage during pregnancy.

 

For more information about Sabine Acupuncture, click here.
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Posted by & filed under Acupuncture, Holistic Therapy, Needles, Prevention.

Acupuncture has been used in China for thousands of years but it is still a recent addition to the way we try and heal ourselves. Recently we’ve heard about Andy Murray using acupuncture to help with pain and recovery before Wimbledon. And also about Claire Nasir as she was going through fertility issues.
But even if acupuncture is better known now than it was 10 or 15 years ago, there are still lots of myths surrounding acupuncture. Here is a top 5 of the most common myths about acupuncture.

Image CugaGallery via Flickr

1- Acupuncture needles hurt!

This is possibly the most wide spread misconception about acupuncture. That acupuncture hurts in the same way that it hurts when you have an immunization or you have your blood taken.
The reality is very different. I have talked about acupuncture needles and how thin they are before and the reality is that when needles are inserted, most people will not feel more than a little prick.
However, it would be wrong to say that people will not feel anything at all. Once the needle is in, the acupuncturist will adjust the needle gently. Some people will then feel like a heaviness, a dull feeling around the needle. Some report a ‘ticklish feeling’ and others a strange feeling that they can’t quite describe.
Whatever the feeling, this is one of the signs that acupuncture is starting to have some effect on the body.

2- Acupuncture works only if you believe in it.

Another way to say that is that acupuncture is only placebo effect.
Well it is true that for any therapy, including using drugs such as ibuprofene, having a positive attitude will make a difference.
However, research has now shown that acupuncture is much more than that. We now know that acupuncture has some effects on hormones levels, it affects the brain in specific ways and alters blood flow. We also know that it can help for some specific conditions such as arthritis, nausea, headaches and migraines or back pain.

3- Acupuncture is not rooted in science

Well there are two parts in this question. First of all, now that we have some research available on acupuncture, we know a lot more about the effects of acupuncture on the body and we are starting to have a good  idea of how well acupuncture is doing for different type of conditions. Based on that, the WHO has actually listed some conditions that can be helped with acupuncture here.
But most of all, in the history of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, we know that Chinese doctors actually conducted very thorough and meticulous investigations on the body (including dissections etc…), on illnesses and on the effects of treatment on the patients.  Many stand up very well to our modern scrutiny despite the fact they have been written more than 1500 years ago.
A good example is the description, in the 6th century, of diabetes in terms not dissimilar to the ones we would now find in modern biomedical textbook. Around the same time, another doctor recommended the use of pig’s pancreas to control the disease, which we still use nowadays.

4- Acupuncture is only good for treating pain.

Well yes acupuncture is good at treating pain. Back pain is probably what it is the best known for but also headaches and migraines, arthritis etc… 
However, acupuncture can do much more than that. It can be an excellent treatment for nausea, anxiety and depression, stress, fertility issues, support during IVF or cancer treatment, digestive problems, menopausal symptoms amongst others.
The reason is that acupuncture works on the whole body and aim to re-establish balance. You will find more about acupuncture as holistic therapy here.

5- The effects of acupuncture are only short lived

This is actually a worry for quite a few people. They are afraid that to sustain the effects, they will need to carry on getting weekly treatments for the rest of their lives.
The reality is that how long it will take to get the desired results vary greatly depending on the person and the condition. Most people will see some results within 5~6 treatments.
Whether you want to stop there because you reach your goal or whether you decide to continue using acupuncture as a preventive treatment (something that the Chinese doctors were strongly recommending) is then up to you.

Posted by & filed under Anxiety, Diet, Prevention, Tiredness, Women's Health.

Do you remember your gran telling you as a child ‘What you really need now is a nice chicken soup. That will perk you up.’?  Well she might have been right.
In Chinese medicine, tiredness can be due to different factors. One of those is what we call ‘Blood deficiency’. Symptoms of Blood deficiency can include:
  • Tiredness
  • Being pale and pale lips
  • Dry skin and dry hair
  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness or tingling
  • A diagnosis of anaemia from your GP.
There are different ways to support the Blood and one of those is a good home-made chicken broth.

As simple as it might look, it is a really fantastic and efficient way to regain some energy. In particular, I would recommend that recipe to women who feel  tired just after their periods or if, for one reason or another, you have been feeling particularly tired for a while.

 

A GOOD HOME-MADE CHICKEN BROTH

 

Ingredients:

The carcass of a chicken (perhaps the one of a roast chicken), all the meat taken away.
A few chunks of carrots, onions and celery
A couple of peppercorns
1 bay leave
1 tsp of mixed dried herbs
Method:
Put the chicken in a casserole and cover with water.
Add the vegetables, the herbs and peppercorn.
Bring to the boil and then lower the temperature so that it is gently bubbling away. Cover with a lid.
Leave to boil for 8 to 12 hours.
At the end of the cooking, pour the liquid through a sieve to remove any bones, bits of vegetables etc…
That’s it! Pour it in a cup and enjoy.
Just a few more bits of advice: 

  • If you see that during the water is running low, you can add some more water during the cooking.
  • Very quickly, the liquid will become opaque. If it isn’t, it’s probably because the temperature is too low. You will need to turn to heat up a bit.
  • You can use a slow cooker as long as the temperature is high enough.
  • Or you can also ‘stop and start again’ at any point during the process, so you don’t have to spend the whole day at home!
  • Once the broth cools down, it will probably look like jelly. This is perfectly normal.
  • This broth can also be very easily used as a home-made stock and added to a soup, casserole etc…

ENJOY!

Posted by & filed under Acupuncture, Anxiety, Digestion, Pain, Stress.

A few weeks ago, some news caught my eye. The Royal College of Obstetricians had released an opinion paper which supports the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the treatment chronic pelvic pain, so for conditions such as dysmenorrhoea, endometriosis, IBS and pelvic inflammatory disease.

IBS AND CHINESE MEDICINE

Patients regularly come to see me with digestive issues, including IBS. This isn’t surprising as more than 20% of the population suffers from IBS. It is a chronic, recurring condition that can be very debilitating for the sufferer.
Symptoms of IBS include abdominal cramping and pain, and constipation and/or diarrhoea. Symptoms are almost always aggravated by stress but may also be aggravated by eating, and are frequently relieved after a bowel movement.
In Chinese medicine, IBS is seen as an imbalance between the digestive system (what we call the Spleen) and the smooth flow of energy (under the control of the Liver). The digestive system might be imbalanced due to overwork, too much worry, eating foods that are too sweet, too greasy or simply too much food. Energy can become stagnant because of stress, some emotions and lack of exercise.

MY 5 TIPS TO EASE THE DISCOMFORT OF IBS

  1. Exercise regularly. 30 min of a moderately strenuous exercise will help regulate bowel movements, move the energy in the body and reduce stress.
  2. Drink peppermint tea, especially if you experience an alternance of constipation and diarrhoea. It helps the energy flow more smoothly, and support the digestive system too.
  3. Avoid dairy products and wheat and eat your vegetable cooked. Dairy products and wheat are both very hard on the digestive system and can trigger a new episode. Cooking vegetables also makes it easier for the digestive system to process them
  4. Have some relaxing time during your day. This is time to go back within, time when you spend doing something that you like and be 100% present. It can be doing some gardening, some yoga, some crafts, singing… The list is endless as long as it helps you relax. Of course, you can also do some meditation, some breathing exercise such as abdominal breathing or some TaiChi.
  5. Adequate rest is essential and especially being careful to have enough sleep and to go to bed before midnight. This will help the body recover from the tiredness of the day


If these tips do not work, I would really recommend going and seeing an acupuncturist. Apart from the very relaxing nature of the treatment and the fact that it does help regulate the digestive system, your acupuncturist will also be able to guide you and advise the best life-style changes for you, based on the Chinese Medicine diagnosis. My experience with my patients tells me that it does work but most importantly that, by making any remaining symptoms manageable, it is giving them their life back.

Posted by & filed under Acupuncture, Stress.

So the weather seems to get a little bit warmer and the daffodils are now passed their best. Spring is well on its way and with a bit of chance, we will see the first signs of summer soon.

 

In Chinese Medicine, Spring is associated with the Wood Element. Wood is a very active energy with a forward, outward and expansive movement, an explosion of rebirth and vibrancy. It is time for progress and to get moving with new project. 

Whereas Winter was the time of the year to go back inwards and to consolidate what you had learnt or done, preserving your resources, Spring is the time of the year where you should stretch yourself and start new endeavours.

 

Spring is the season of the Liver (the organ associated with the Wood and Spring). The Liver is responsible for the free flow of energy in the body. When constrained, Wood is the energy of anger and frustration. Inflexible wood will quickly break when it’s stressed. Likewise, flexible people are better able to handle stress and take life’s bumps and bruises in stride whereas anger can make us hard and unbendable. 

As Spring is associated with the Liver, it is also the best season to review of our diet and give it a nice boost and cleanse. It is also associated with the colour green and with our eyes.

 

So, on a more practical point of view, what can you do to make the best of Spring?
1-     Start a new project. Whether you are thinking of doing some much needed home improvements or if you want to make some life style changes, now is the time to do it. The energy of the Wood will help you planning your project and most importantly to carry it out.
2-      Eat plenty of green vegetables such as green beans, broccoli or spinach and avoid sugary foods.
3-      Work on your flexibility, with your muscles (why not trying Yoga?) but also with your mind. Try to be assertive (not angry), flexible (not rigid), and remain engaged with our eyes on the important people and projects in your life.
4-      Keep your energy flowing by taking on a physical activity. This doesn’t need to be one or two hours of a very energetic activity. A 15 minutes walk with the dog or a gentle exercise such as Yoga or Tai Chi can be just as efficient.
5-      Go outside and get in touch with all the changes that Spring brings.
And most of all, ENJOY!

Photo: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1058

Posted by & filed under Acupuncture, Holistic Therapy.

A recent article about the mind-body connection made me think. In this study, researchers have been able to show a link between doing some yoga (poses and meditation) and improving a very physical symptom (Atrial fibrillation).
As an acupuncturist, this sounds obvious to me. Emotions, mind, the physical body, all this is connected together and part of the same entity. But what are the implications of that idea?

Most people know that when they are stressed, one of their complains can get worse. Some people suddenly get very bad tummy aches and diarrhoea just before doing an important talk.
Some patients know that when they are stressed their IBS is getting worse, others that they are getting more headaches.
But this is not just about stress. One patient was having very bad skin problems which started just after the death of her husband. Her grief had weaken the Lungs which also controls the skin (or in other words, the skin and the emotion grief are related to the same organ in Chinese Medicine). This other person stops eating when she is worried (worry is linked with the digestive system).
There are countless more examples.

What a lot of people haven’t realised is that it is also working the other way around. If you can calm your mind and your emotions, you can also help very physical complaints.

What does it mean practically?
Very simply that by taking care of our emotional well being, we can help our physical complaints.
Now the article I was reading was talking about yoga and meditation. Whilst this is certainly one way to calm the mind, I know of few people that will entertain the idea of doing half an hour meditation everyday. Doing some yoga isn’t always everybody’s cup of tea either. And it certainly doesn’t have to.

It is about listening to some music and truly enjoying it, really listening to it instead of merely having it in the background whilst thinking about whatever is going on in our life. It’s about taking some time to do some gardening. Or singing or doing some cross-stitch. Or walking the dog late at night.
It is about taking time to go back within, an Yin activity, switching of from our busy lives that are all about ‘doing things’ (a very Yang activity).
We all need some time for ourselves when we can stop doing things, thinking and planning. And we all have an idea of what would be a nice way to do it.

So book some time with yourself for that special activity. Plan in your day that you will walk the dog before breakfast time. Write in your diary ‘Wednesday 6.00pm choir’ or ‘Saturday afternoon, gardening’. You might be surprised by the effect it can have on your body (and mind!).

Posted by & filed under Acupuncture, Holistic Therapy, Nausea, Pregnancy.

Morning sickness…. It can be a vague feeling of nausea at the start of the pregnancy or being physically sick several times a day. It can disappear after the famous 12 weeks mark or it can go on for months afterwards, up to 20 weeks, sometimes for even longer.
Research has shown that between 50% and 80% of women experience nausea at the start of their pregnancy and about 50% do get physically sick. For some women, vomiting is so bad that it leads to dehydration, weight loss and a possible ‘small for date’ baby.

Research and acupuncture for morning sickness

Several studies have been done on acupuncture and morning sickness. A meta analysis on electro-acupuncture and acupuncture in pregnancy has shown that electro-acupuncture and acupressure reduced nausea and vomiting. And a 2011 literature review by Freels shows that acupressure on P6 reduces the nausea symptoms.

Nausea and Chinese medicine

It is interesting that most of the research has been done using one specific acupuncture point P6. Situated on the inside of the arm, this point is well known for its anti-nausea properties. It is also very easy to find. That’s one of the reason why it is used with travel sickness bands. However, there are many more points combinations that can be used in Chinese Medicine to help and support pregnant women.
As it is usually the case, there is no direct relationship between the Western diagnosis of ‘morning sickness’ and one single Chinese Medicine diagnosis. A full history will allow the acupuncturist to make his diagnosis and establish the points prescription specific to that particular woman. The practitioner will also be able to give some dietary advice depending on the diagnosis.

Once you are on the road of recovery, there are simple things you can do to ease of the nausea.

  1. Keep hydrated. Be sure that, even if you have some nausea, you still drink water on a regular basis. More often than not, little and often works best and a whole glass in one go.
  2. Choose your drink and start with water, water and water. Try and experiment with herbal teas too such as ginger tea, chamomile or peppermint tea. Ask your practitioner if some of those are perhaps more suitable for you. Someone with some ‘heat signs’ will do better with peppermint tea whereas someone with ‘cold signs’ or suffering from tiredness might do better with ginger tea.
  3. Eat small portions regularly and keep to simple, bland foods. Porridge, rice or soups are easier to digest but still very nutritious. Keep some crackers with you so can snack easily. Some people find  eating ginger biscuits helps or eating a little before getting up in the morning.
  4. Be weary of smells. You will probably find that you have become much more sensitive to smells. If possible, stay away from the offensive odours.

Finally don’t forget that if you really cannot keep any food or drink down, you need to contact your GP or midwife. Excess vomiting can be a serious issue during pregnancy and you would need to be followed by a health care professional.

Posted by & filed under Acupuncture, Holistic Therapy, Needles.

There is nothing more difficult than choosing a new  health practitioner. You want someone that you can trust and will be competent enough to help you with your complaint. So when choosing an acupuncturist, a lot of people rely on word of mouth.
Whilst this is a good way to do a first ‘screaning’, there are a lot of other things to take into account.

First of all, it is worth remembering that, as acupuncture isn’t regulated in the UK, anyone can set up an acupuncture clinic and start seeing patients. The training that people have in this field varies greatly.

  • Some people have had some extensive training in the UK. The basic training would now be a 3 year full time course at degree level (validated by a University such as the Middlesex University).
  • Health professional such as doctors, or physiotherapists can choose to do a few weekends course on acupuncture. They usually use acupuncture as an adjunct to the therapy they already use. This is quite often the case with health professionals practising medical acupuncture.
  • Some people have trained solely in China, sometimes extensively. This is often the case for Chinese practitioners who have emigrated to the UK.

Then there are different type of acupuncture. I am just listing a few below.

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine and Five Element Acupuncture originate from China and are based on the same principles (Yin and Yang, Qi etc…). These practitioners have an emphasis on treating the whole person (whilst also treating the symptoms) and re-establishing balance in the body.
  • Auricular Acupuncture consists in putting needles in the ear of the person. The ear is seen as a micro system where each part of the body is represented. So putting a needle in the shoulder area of the ear will help with shoulder pain. The most well known use of auricular acupuncture is the NADA protocol used  in the treatment of addictions.
  • Medical Acupuncture is a more westernized way of using needles. It came about when some practitioners realized they could bring pain relief to patients by using (injection) needles without injecting anything. This was also called dry needling. The emphasis is on muscles and trigger points, mainly to help with musculo-skeletal conditions.

Acupuncture is a very safe therapy but it can only be if you are treated by someone who is properly trained.
So when choosing your acupuncturist, it is very important that your practitioner is safe and competent. I would recommend that you ask:

  1. What sort of training they’ve had and the length of the training
  2. What sort of acupuncture they are practicing
  3. If they have an insurance including full medical malpractice and public/products liability insurance cover.
  4. If they are part of an organisation such as the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), which will ensure that the practitioner is following a Code of Safe Practice and a Code of Professional Conduct.

Finally, remember that it is important that you feel comfortable with that practitioner. If, for whatever reason, it doesn’t feel right, you can still try and find a more suitable practitioner for you.