Grace (I’ve changed her name to protect patient confidentiality) came for acupuncture treatment a few weeks ago because she was anxious and couldn’t sleep. When she was 12 years old she underwent a shockingly painful and hugely traumatic medical procedure. It wasn’t a necessary operation in that it didn’t save her life or make her more comfortable but it was required for all girls in her culture, to make her marriageable and clean. It was an operation that has had long term physical and emotional consequences for her.
Grace told me she is now 33 years old and she hasn’t slept through the night since. In fact she woke up every hour. Understandably she was generally exhausted, anxious and depressed. She relied on medications to keep the physical pain and the emotional turmoil manageable but nothing was allowing her to sleep well.
As usual for the first acupuncture appointment we sat and chatted about her medical history, her life then and now, her hopes and fears, her understanding of what Five Element Acupuncture (5EA) could do for her and how we might achieve that.
I then did what I do with all patients. I looked at her tongue, I took her pulses in both wrists, I lightly palpate around her belly button and I lightly pressed certain acupuncture points called Mu points. All the time we chatted and Grace gave me feedback on how things felt as I lightly palpated her acupuncture points and channels. I started to get to know her and how her body and Qi were working and she got to know me and how I worked in the treatment room.
I’ve probably met dozens of women who have undergone the various procedures encompassed by FGM (female genital mutilation) after all I was a family lawer in the West Midlands for many years and I’ve treated many other Muslim women with 5EA. But I’ve never met a patient who has so obviously suffered so devestatingly from the consequences and at first I was unsure what to do and what should we tackle first.
But in the end I did what I always try to do, I ask myself what my patient’s priorities are for improvements in the quality of their lives over the timescale they identify and then treat what I see.
There is much research about how to treat sleep disorders with acupuncture. You can read about a recent example in Sleep Medicine Volume 37, September 2017, Pages 193-200. Although I always take on board the most up to date research, I consider each person I treat individually and then I decide what treatment is best just for them. In Grace’s case we kept it simple.
And these first few simple 5EA treatments have made such a difference. After the first treatment Grace reported sleeping through the night for the first time since she was 12 years old. After a few more treatments anxiety, muscle tension, niggly aches and pains, stomach and period pains have all reduced and Grace says she feels ‘relieved’ and ‘unblocked’ in her body and her mind.
Nothing will reverse the trauma Grace has experienced but she is now sleeping through the night for the first time since she was 12 years old, She has amazingly healthy genes (from a Chinese medicine perspective she has strong Jing), her mother is 85 and her Gran 104 years young. Living a good, long life as healthily as possible both physically and mentally is a priority for her. Hopefully her acupuncture treatments and her newly acquired sleep pattern have helped with that.
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.