Having just finished the very first UK based post graduate Toyohari acupuncture course I'm now offering Japanese Toyohari treatments to those of you who are frightened of needles. The treatments are very gentle and involve the use of non insertive silver and gold needles that don't break the skin. How great is that. You can have amazing results from a very gentle, relaxing treatment.
You don’t have to be a superstar tennis player to suffer from tennis elbow. In fact you don’t have to be a tennis player at all. Most of my patients with lateral epicondylitis suffer as a result of some other cause such as carrying, lifting or repetitive actions at work or in the garden. This causes inflammation and microscopic tears of the muscles and tendons where they attach to the outside of the elbow. The result? Often burning pain and discomfort.
Research has shown that simple acupuncture can help resolve tennis elbow and the treatments can be remarkably relaxing. Very fine sterile needles are inserted around the elbow and in other parts of the body depending on each individual’s treatment needs. Some of the needles are inserted and removed immediately whilst others a left in place for 20 minutes or so whilst the patient relaxes or often falls asleep.
The treatment also often includes moxabustion (a type of heat therapy that uses the herb mugwort to warm an area and help relieve pain and inflammation) and sometimes a light massage of the area to relax the muscles.
Most of my patients find the pain reduces almost immediately but usually at least five treatments are needed to resolve the root problem.
It is essential that patients help the healing process themselves. Resting the injury if possible is invaluable, as is an anti inflammatory diet and strengthening exercises. A good acupuncturist will help you develop useful home treatment strategies to promote your healing.
Home in Leeds and have just treated my Dad. He doesn’t usually ask for acupuncture treatments but he’s been very poorly recently. His type 2 diabetes has been totally out of control. He has not been able to eat, has lost weight and is totally exhausted. I guess he’s always been pretty sceptical about traditional acupuncture and I’ve never wanted to force this issue with him.
I gave him an early afternoon treatment. As it was his first treatment ever it was very simple. A few points in the back, some moxibustion on a point called Rich for the Vitals and a couple of points in his feet. All done in 1/2 an hour as he sat at the table.
Later we had tea (dinner to all you south of Yorkshire) and he said he felt hungry for the first time in weeks. He was also still up and about at 10pm commenting that it was ages since he’d not collapsed by 8 o’clock.
My Dad is 82 years old and acupuncture won’t cure him but it can certainly contribute to an increase in his quality of life and make living with diabetes easier.
If you’re interested in how acupuncture can improve your quality of life get in touch with me or your local Acupuncturist or alternatively you can look at the research about diabetes and acupuncture on the BAcC website at
Having just spent the last few days walking in the sun, eating outside and meeting up with friends and family, it feels like Summer has finally arrived.
In the West summer formally starts on the summer solstice when the sun is the furthest north, this year it’s the 21st of June. But for Five Element Acupuncturists summer actually started on the 5th May, the turning point halfway between the solstices when the sun’s rays hit the earth at 45 degrees. This might seem a bit odd to us modern Westerners but the Gaelic calendar, which is also based on the needs of an agricultural society recognises that Summer starts in May. Good for Irish kids as they get a lovely long holiday from early in July.
So what does the Summer mean for our health?
According to traditional Five Element Chinese medicine, each season is ruled by an element. Summer is associated with the element of Fire and the energy of Heart, Small Intestine, and the tongue. Knowing which element relates to each season can provide knowledge about health at that time and in Summer special attention should be paid to these organs.
When the Fire element is working well within us, the heart is strong and healthy. If not balanced there can be too little joy (depression), or too much (chaos) or inappropriate exuberance. Agitation, nervousness, heartburn, and insomnia are symptoms that a person's Fire is out of balance.
To prevent these problems try the following
- take full advantage of the long summer days. Get up earlier in the morning, go to sleep later at night, and try to rest at midday.
- fluids are very important in summer months so drink plenty of water or fresh watermelon juice which is particularly cooling. Avoid drinks full of sugar and chemicals (like fizzy drinks) as these don't actually relieve thirst, and also inundate the body with more toxins to eventually clear.
- you can add stronger or spicier flavors to your diet at this time of year but avoid indegestion by choosing ligher foods over heavier foods.
- avoid dehydration and sunburn especially for small children and older people as they are
are especially susceptible to these downsides of the heat.
- take cool baths, seek the shade and wear lighter clothing.
Summer really is a great time to focus on changes in life, a time to grow and be more aware of yourself and others. The predominant nature of Summer is Yang and so excitement, assertiveness, and exuberance comes more naturally to us all. Truly a time to be open hearted, to enjoy the weather and each other's company.
If you are not feeling the joy of Summer good acupuncture from a qualified and registered acupuncturist can help. Please get in touch.
In order to maintain British Acupuncture Council membership all professional Acupuncturists have to undertake CPD (continuing professional development). In my previous life as a lawyer these CPD days were often the bane of my life, often dry and dull and sometimes that even when I was the one providing the training!
Definitely not so as an Acupuncturist. For a start I arranged for it to take place in my home. I then invited Linda Winstaley to lead the day and friends to attend. We had a lovely day exploring Five Element diagnostic techniques, talking over treatments and finding out what we are all doing in our practices around the region.
In our acupuncture circles you not only respect those with more experience but are generous with your own knowledge by sharing it with contemporaries and also mentoring those who follow on. It's a lovely way of working. It deepens our collective understanding of how acupuncture works and definitely improves our individual treatments and help our patients. Linda is an experienced acupuncturist and teacher and adopts wholeheartedly this centuries old tradition. During the day she generously passed on her knowledge to those of us with less experience.
It was also fun. By then end of the day we'd had a few laughs and quite a few exasperated groans, some good food and lots of tea. We all felt enriched by the day..........and Linda was so engaging that, as you can see from the photos, even the cat couldn't stay away.
If you are an Acupuncturist interested in knowing more about Five Element diagnosis please get in touch to join our CPD group for future training days.
A classical Five Element Acupuncturist doesn’t just look at your list of symptoms (tension headaches, fibromyalgia, pain, anxiety etc.) and pick your treatment from and a prescribed list of acupuncture points.
Your symptoms are seen as clues to your underlying dis-ease and the practitioner considers the overall picture of how your body is (or isn’t) working. The Acupuncturist uses all the information gathered to assess which of the Five Elements (and we all have all five) and which of the corresponding channels are the most in need of rebalancing. She then works out an individual treatment plan to alleviating your symptoms.
As an acupuncturist it is a bit like being the Chinese Medicine version of Sherlock Holmes. You follow the clues to find the culprits and then neutralise the 'threat'. It’s a totally fascinating process.
During your session there are many ‘clues’ that the Acupuncturist will be looking for in order to assess the root cause of your problem. Amongst these she will be assessing your colour, sound, odour and emotion. So don’t be surprised if she asks you to attend your appointments without wearing makeup or strong smelling products such as perfume, aftershave or body lotion. She will also be interested in aspects of your work and everyday life that don’t necessarily centre just on how you came by your symptom.
As strange as it seems this idea of using all the senses to diagnose isn't a totally alien concept to Western Medicine. As just two examples, a yellow skin colour (jaundice) is recognised as an indication of possible liver problems and a sweet odour is seen as a possible indication of uncontrolled diabetes. A GP would never ignore these obvious symptoms and your Acupuncturist is just using a more practiced and sensitive sense diagnosis system to help her work out the best treatment for you.
In actual fact diagnosing the root cause of your problem can be a lovely rewarding process for the patient and the Acupuncturist especially when it’s in a calm and relaxing treatment space, with the time you need to explore all the issues together.
So there are no set in stone acupuncture point prescriptions for certain symptoms. Each person is treated as an individual with a unique diagnosis and treatment plan. That doesn’t mean that there are no general rules and order to treatment. As sure as night follows day and Spring follows Winter our bodies change, grow and decline according to patterns set by nature. A Five Element Acupuncturist will just be detecting and rebalancing (via acupuncture points and channels) how you respond to these inevitable changes.
And don't worry, during diagnosis and treatment you are free to talk as much or as little as you want and everything you do say is totally confidential. Making sure your Acupuncturist is a member of The British Acupuncture Council will ensure she is bound by and follows the Code of Professional Conduct and Code of Safe Practice. Further details can be found here at www.acupuncture.org.uk
Lots of patients are suprised by how often their treatments include techniques other than needling. After all a needle is just a tool in the hands of the acupuncturist, a tool to help the patient's body balance it's own energy by redistribute qi and blood in the organs, channels, muscles, tendons and skin.
So what else might your acupuncturist do during treatment?
They might use:
This is a technique where oil is spread on the skin and a gua sha tool (like a small spatula or spoon) is used to stroke and scrap the skin. Not much pressure is used but the stroking brings 'sha' (blood or light petechiae) to the surface. This is a great treatment for muscle tension particularly on the back and shoulders and migraines and tension headaches. It's a gentle technique and doesn't damage the underying tissue but in some people it can produce quite alarmingly red marks. These always fade over a couple of days. Many patients experience almost instant relief from tense muscles.
Cupping (moving and static)
Oil is spread over the skin and a glass cup with a suction device on the top is used to create a vacuuum on the patient's skin. This helps to dispell stagnant blood and lymph and improve the movement of blood and fluids in the body. I generally use this technique on the back and shoulders and it's great for nipping colds in the bud before they really get going, improving lung function and gently relieving aches and pains from tension and overwork. Again the treatment is entirely painless and most people find it very relaxing.
Skin and muscles are massaged, pushed, lifted, rolled, pressed, brushed. shaken or rubbed. This can be a gentle technique or can be more vigorous depending on the needs of the patient. It can be used for chronic and acute musculoarskeletal problems and is a great treatment for older people and children. Tui na performed on a child's back can help relive asthma and cold symptoms and on an older person it can relieve chronic headaches and neck pain. Animals always generally respond calmly to tui na and my poor cat who had a narrow escape with a car couldn't get enough of it to relieve her sore muscles and straighten her skeleton.
Press Tacks and Ear Seeds
These are very small plasters that have a seed from the vaccaria plant or small metal ball or micro needle in the middle. They are placed on the skin over an area of tenderness or an acupuncture point to improve circulation of qi and blood. They are often used in the ear but can be used on any part of the body. They have a huge amount of uses including helping with pain, anxiety, hot flushes, nausea....the list goes on.
All of these techniques when performed properly by a professional trained practitioner are safe and virtually risk free.
So don't be suprised if your acupuncturist doesn't just insert a needle into your skin. She has many more tools at her disposal to make your body relax, release tension and disipate dis-ease
Most acupuncturists are also moxabustionists but it's just too long a title to use every day. Most people know that acupuncture treatments involve the use of very fine needles either inserted just into the skin or resting on the surface. What comes as a suprise to virtually all new patients is that the use of moxa is as important a tool as a needle. Moxibustion has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years and in fact, the actual Chinese character for acupuncture actually means 'acupuncture-moxibustion.'
What does moxabustion involve?
Treatment with moxibustion involves the burning of mugwort, a small, spongy herb, to facilitate healing.
There are two types of moxibustion: direct and indirect.
In direct moxibustion, a small, cone-shaped amount of moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point and lit. It's removed before it burns down and reaches the skin. The patient feels a lovely warming sensation that penetrates the skin and muscle. It's never left long enough to burn or mark the skin.
In indirect moxibustion, one end of a moxa stick is lit (it's roughly the shape and size of a cigar) and it is held close to the area being treated until the area becomes heated.
So what does moxabustion do for you?
The purpose of moxibustion is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and thereby maintain general health. Moxa is particularly good for cold or stagnant condition as it is believed to expel cold and nourish and warm the body. This leads to a smoother flow of blood and qi in the skin, muscles and organs.
It has also been shown that moxabustion can stimulate the immune system, promote blood clotting and the regeneration of tissues. In effect it can help improve the quality of the blood by helping to regulate the production of white and red blood cells, platelets and improvr blood calcium levels.
What conditions can it help?
There are very few patients who can't be helped by the use of moxa. I've used it on patients with muscle tension, back and knee pain, to help recover from the side effects of cancer treatmments, blood disorders such as aplastic anemia, arthritis, fertility issues, chronic or acute coughs and colds and the list goes on.
I love using moxa to help my patients and virtually all my patients appreciate the benefits of a moxa treatment once they get over the strangeness of the idea of this wonderfull burning herb.
It feels like Spring or at least that it's just around the corner. One day it's bright, sunny and warmish and the next there's frost on the plants and we are expecting snow. It's the time of year when Winter and Spring are playing a game of tag.
Westerners think of the Spring Equinox (this year the 20th March) as the start of the new season but according to the Chinese solar calendar Spring started on the 3rd February which is midway between the the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
So what you might ask, we still need the central heating on and we still have to scrape the car before setting out. But if you carefully watch the plants, birds and animals in your garden or parks you see the unstoppable pushing, expanding energy and vitality of Spring growth. In the Nei Jing Spring is called 'the period of the beginning and development of life when the breaths of Heaven and Earth are preparing to give birth' and even in the centre of the city of Birmingham the plants, birds and animals know it.
But we as people know that it's never a smooth trajectory from one season to another and at the moment it does feel that the season is unpredictable. The stop start feeling of our UK Spring can cause all sorts of issues in the smooth flow of a person’s energy and Five Element and Toyohari acupuncturist all around the country are treating their patients with this in mind.
None of our patients come in to our clinics and tell us that they are having a difficult transition from Winter to Spring. What they do tell us is that their aches and pains have intensified, that their chronic conditions such as arthritis or migraines have got worse, that their partners/kids/colleagues are out of sorts, they are getting road raged more or they themselves are lacking their usual patience. They tell us that they can't seem to decide how to move forward, that they feel depressed, blocked, confused and feel unaccountably angry or frustrated and irritable.
All these and many more issues are signs that the inevitable change that comes with the cycle of the year is being blocked and the expanding Spring energy is having difficulty getting going. This isn't just happening in in nature around us but also in us, the urban living humans who make up our cities, neighbourhoods and workplaces.
So what can you do to make the transition from Winter to Spring smoother for yourself and those around you?
Well you can take regular gentle exercise such as walking, dancing, yoga, tai chi and qi gong. You can keep your body nice and warm by eating simple nourishing, unprocessed foods and not taking off your winter jumper and scarf too soon. And of course you can have good acupuncture from a qualified acupuncturist to help your body and mind transition smoothly.
We all love the lighter evenings and in this way you can make the most of the longer days and snatches of bright sunshine without leaving yourself vulnerable to the chills, winds, pains and frustrations of early Spring.
I’ve just spent a lovely few days with friends in West Cork and as usual overindulged in the fabulous food and drink available there. Time to get back to more moderate eating. But that doesn’t mean boring.
This morning’s smoothie is a bit more fruity than usual as I wanted to use up the fruit left over from last week so added a ripe pear and wrinkly little apple to my usual blueberries and raspberries. Here’s the recipe
A few raspberries and blueberries
A small apple
A small pear
1 desertspoon or chia seeds
2 desertspoons of oats
1 teaspoon of cocoa powder
1 desertspoon of supper sprout mix
Topped up with coconut water
Whizz up and drink slowly. Yum. Sweet but nutritious as it’s of magnesium, protein, slow release carbohydrates and vitamins.
Acupuncture can help keep a woman healthy but good organic home made food fuels the system too.
Gaynor Hollis is a Classical Five Element Acupuncturist with a thriving practice in Birmingham. She is interested in all things healthy and life style related not just Chinese and Japanese acupuncture.