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Why Acupuncture?

Why Acupuncture?

Many people have heard of acupuncture, but few know what it is good for treating or how it works. The idea of needles can seem off-putting and unhelpful Chinese terminology can make the whole thing sound mysterious or suspect. This is why, as an acupuncturist, a lot of my work involves demystifying acupuncture and helping people to see how it can benefit them and the conditions that it can help.

AltLogoLargeThe most common issue that acupuncture can help with is pain; in particular, chronic pain that has been an issue for some time, but also acute pain from sports injuries or accidents. How does acupuncture do this? Well that requires a little background science. Any pain we experience requires sensory nerves to transmit the signal from the problem area of our body to the brain. Two nerves are involved with this: nociceptors, which tell us what kind of pain it is (achy, burning, sharp etc.) and proprioceptors, which tell the body the location of the pain. It’s the proprioceptor signal to the brain that should kick start a healing response in the body: the release of painkilling chemicals, and an increase in blood flow to the area. As a child this happens very efficiently, hence children injure themselves all the time but don’t end up with a chronically achy back, shoulder issue etc. However, as we age this signalling system doesn’t work quite so well, such that, after experiencing an injury or trauma, the signal from the proprioceptor isn’t quite strong enough to initiate the healing response. Instead we get a chronic painful signal from the nociceptor, our muscles tighten up and get knotted, blood flow reduces and we lose range of motion. It’s hard to break out of this loop, and without good blood flow, very difficult to heal; hence we resort to taking painkillers to stop the nociceptor signal, but the problem remains.

AltLogoLargeAcupuncture to the rescue! Acupuncture needles jump start the proprioceptive nerve, boosting the signal to the brain so that it sends painkillers to the affected area and increases blood flow. It can also reset knotted muscles that have become tense and shortened by stimulating the motor nerve where it enters the muscle. This means pain is relieved, muscles range of motion is restored (great for everyone, but particularly sports injuries) and the area can actually heal. This process usually takes a course of treatments for permanent lasting results as the nerve signal needs to be boosted a few times. However, reduction in pain and improved range of motion should be very clearly felt within one to three sessions, so you will be in no doubt that it is working. In addition, this boosting of the nerve signal isn’t as scary as it may sound; acupuncture needles are incredibly fine, and any sensation they produce is like a small, dull ache, which disappears within a few seconds.

AltLogoLargeLike any therapy it has its limits. Structural issues where something is out of place in the body (like a bone spur) and continually pressing on a nerve won’t respond so well. But if it’s clear acupuncture isn’t changing your pain I will quickly refer you on to get the appropriate medical investigation. Fortunately, in most cases the pain will be responsive.  Conditions I successfully treat in clinic include pain of the back, neck, shoulders, knees, elbows, wrists, ankles, heels, sciatica etc. but also digestive problems, menstrual issues, headaches/migraines, to name but a few.

Get in touch to find out how acupuncture could help you.

Rob Veater,  Licensed Acupuncturist, BSc(Hons.)

Tel: 07814785987

Rob Veater Acupuncture: providing effective acupuncture services for Colne Engaine, Earls Colne, Pebmarsh, Halstead, Sudbury, Colchester and surrounding areas

How Acupuncture Works

Given that there seem to be a lot of preconceptions Chinese Medicine, I thought I would write about how acupuncture works and, hopefully, dispel some myths. Firstly, acupuncture works according to a proven, scientific basis. It is a physiological medicine that works to increase blood flow in the body thereby initiating a natural healing response. You don’t need to ‘believe’ in it for it to work, nor does it require subscribing to notions of energy or mysticism with which it is frequently misconstrued.

So how can needles stuck in the body possibly help it?

Chronic Pain:

Around 90 percent of chronic pain conditions are thought to be neuropathic, which means that there is an impairment in how the sensory nerves are communicating with the brain. This may start with a trauma to the nerve via an injury, bad posture or overuse, but rather than resolve naturally a vicious cycle starts in which the nerve that tells the body it is in pain (the nociceptor) keeps firing, while the nerve that tells the brain precisely where the problem is (the proprioceptor) sends a signal that is too weak for the brain to pinpoint the exact source of the problem. Without a strong proprioceptive nerve signal the brain can’t send natural painkilling chemicals to the area, and initiate a healing response. Instead, it reduces blood flow to the general area and tightens the muscles, making it very difficult to heal (as this would require good blood flow) and reduces range of motion.

Acupuncture jumpstarts the proprioceptive nerve, providing a signal to the brain telling it exactly where the problem is, it will then release natural painkilling chemicals, restore healthy blood flow to the area and relax the surrounding muscles. As a consequence, pain relief occurs very quickly and, if you have a nagging pain when you are being treated, you will feel it rapidly diminish or disappear once the needles are inserted. In order to make this happen, you will feel some sensation when the needles are inserted, usually a dull ache or tingling, which will quickly dissipate. After the first session, pain relief should last between a few hours to a few days, and then may begin to return. This is why repeat sessions are necessary to jumpstart the proprioceptive nerve until it restores normal communication with the brain and the problem fully resolves. Over the course of this process, the pain relief will last for longer and longer, so less frequent sessions will be needed. So rather than mask a chronic pain condition with painkillers, acupuncture provides a way of allowing a chronic condition to be naturally overcome.

Stress and internal issues:

Apart from treating pain, acupuncture is great for reducing stress and increasing wellbeing. Again, this is because of blood flow. Chronic stress or habitual negative thoughts have been proven to create a variety of undesirable biochemical effects in the body. Chronic worrying about the future can flood the body with adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol, leading to a feeling of edginess, always waiting for something to go wrong and poor sleep. Equally, stress and frustration can restrict internal musculature reducing blood supply to the liver, so that stress hormones are no longer being removed from the blood efficiently, causing a general feeling of irritability and reactivity.

As with chronic pain, acupuncture can also target the organs, relaxing the surrounding musculature and increasing blood flow. By doing this it promotes the natural, efficient removal from the bloodstream of the biochemicals associated with stress. Through the same process, it can also help to regulate other internal organ processes such as digestion and menstruation.

Fortunately, this doesn’t require needling around the organs. The nervous system is intricately interrelated so that a needle placed in a certain point on a limb can have a corresponding effect on an internal organ and the surrounding musculature.

Beyond needling:

In addition to acupuncture, Chinese Medicine can offer insights into self-management of health and wellbeing, through dietary advice, simple breathing exercises and other stress management techniques. Where necessary, other techniques such a Chinese Massage (Tuina) and heating therapies (Moxibustion) can also be employed. I also like to discuss the role that our thinking plays in shaping our perspective and our reality.  A deep understanding of this can lead to a profound increase in wellbeing and avoid falling back into the same mental habits that caused much of the biochemical imbalance in the body in the first place (see www.threeprinciplesmovies.com/ and http://innatewellbeing.co.uk/ for more info)

The net result is that pain can be relieved and stress reduced, leaving you feeling calmer, more energised and more resilient. So, if that sounds appealing please come in for an appointment or have a chat with me to find out what acupuncture can do for you.

Rob Veater

Licensed Acupuncturist, BSc (Hons.)

Rob Veater Acupuncture: providing effective acupuncture services for Colne Engaine, Earls Colne, Pebmarsh, Halstead, Sudbury, Colchester and surrounding areas

Back in Balance

Two of the fundamental principles of Chinese Medicine are balance and harmony. In this system of medicine, the body is conceived of as a complex network, with each part reflecting the whole and connected to every other part via the neurovascular and fascial vessel systems that I have discussed previously. Beyond this, each person is also seen as a part of a wider network formed by the outside environment, a part of nature, receiving nourishment and support from the various external sources like food, water and the warmth of the sun, but also from personal relationships and social group interactions.

All of these interconnected networks exist in a state of dynamic balance, fluctuating according to our actions, emotions, activities and events that befall us. When disease or dysfunction occurs, it could be seen as a disruption affecting this state of balance leading to an imbalance. However, another way to look at it is that the state of dynamic balance has simply shifted to a new state that represents the body’s best attempt to cope with the various circumstances. Let’s take the case, for example, of an office worker, who has a particularly stressful job, with constant deadlines and performance markers to attain. This person might also work at a computer for large portions of the day, breathing shallowly and hunched over. They may also come back to a home life filled with family responsibilities, looking after the needs of young children etc. Over the past few months it may not come as a huge surprise that this person has developed very tight, painful shoulders and a stiff neck. It may be tempting for them to see their body as ‘letting them down’, and ‘going wrong’, but in fact, with all the stress that is going on and the poor posture the body is simply finding the best way to maintain balance and function given the demands placed upon it. Unfortunately the longer the body stays in this less desirable state of balance the more it becomes ingrained. Also, a vicious cycle can occur whereby an already poor posture is worsened in attempts to relieve the tension, and the chronic pain can lead to irritability which tends to make personal and work relationships suffer leading to yet more stress and tension…

So how can acupuncture help with this? Firstly, by placing needles in certain parts of the body, we can help to move the body into a different, more desirable state of balance, relieving the tension that has accumulated in one region by stimulating a complementary region. When this region has been correctly chosen, patients will usually know pretty quickly, as they will feel the pain and tension ease. As the tension eases, that person then has a chance to reverse the vicious cycle. Using insights into their condition that can be offered from a Chinese Medicine perspective, they can make changes to posture and perhaps engage in some simple breathing exercises to help reduce stress. These lifestyle changes combined with the acupuncture can quickly help to bring long-lasting relief from the condition and minimise the chance of recurrence.

Rob Veater Acupuncture: providing effective acupuncture services for Colne Engaine, Earls Colne, Pebmarsh, Halstead, Sudbury, Colchester and surrounding areas

Balance Method Success Story

The following post is a copy of a letter written by one of my patients for the December 2013/January 2014  edition of the Colne Engaine Parish Magazine:

Following on from Rob Veater’s last article, I would just like to let people know that this has worked for me.

Those of you who know me, know that I have undergone 17 operations of my right knee and suffer severe pain and walk with a stick. However, since meeting Rob I can quite honestly say my life has changed. The Dr. Tan Balance Method of Acupuncture has helped me enormously.

Over the last 4-6 weeks I have been seeing Rob twice weekly for treatment, it gives virtually instant pain relief, which is something I never thought would happen for me. We are currently reducing the treatment to once a week to monitor and see what effect this has, but to date all is going well. I know it is not going to cure my knee problem but to have relief from the pain is fantastic!

I would highly recommend this treatment to anyone who has long or short term severe pain issues, it has worked for me thus far!

Rita Prior

Rob Veater Acupuncture: providing effective acupuncture services for Colne Engaine, Earls Colne, Pebmarsh, Halstead, Sudbury, Colchester and surrounding areas

Autumnal Acupuncture

The following post is an article I wrote for the October 2013 Edition of the Colne Engaine Parish Magazine:

The seasons have turned and autumn has arrived in the Colne Valley. The ancient Chinese placed a good deal of importance on the seasons and their effect on people’s health and wellbeing. In particular, the changeover between seasons was seen as a powerful time during which we should take care to adjust our lifestyle to the shifting climate or run the risk of developing illness.

According to Chinese Medical 5 Element theory, autumn is seen as the season of the Metal element. After the expansive growth and heat of Summer (represented by the Fire Element) reaches its peak, there must inevitably be a turnaround and decline. Metal represents this process; it has a quality of drawing inwards in preparation for winter. We can see this manifesting in the world around us, as the nights draw in and the trees begin the process of shedding their leaves and drawing nutrients in and down to their roots. The ancient Chinese saw the human body as small-scale representation of the wider environment and, as a part of nature, perceived that our biology is also subject to the changes of the Metal element. They formulated exercises and lifestyle suggestions to help us make the transition to autumn smoothly and to help harmonise and strengthen our system to maximise health and wellbeing.

In the human body, the Metal element is represented by the Lung and Large Intestine meridians. I should add a note here to explain that the meridians are a system of vessels running through the body, each named for a major organ. In the Chinese Medical view these meridians encompass a variety of physiological functions that may be different or broader than the Western Medical understanding of the organ for which they are named (more on this another time).

The Lung meridian is seen as being intimately involved with the immune system; it is believed to be the first defence against pathogens and, therefore, also often the first place to develop problems when an illness invades. In order to keep the Lung meridian healthy and avoid falling victim to autumn and winter colds and flu, Chinese Medicine advises that we should pay attention to our breathing. Spending 5-10 minutes a day sitting relaxed and upright while breathing gently down to the lower belly, will maximise air intake, reduce stress and help strengthen the Lung meridian. We should also avoid sitting hunched over, which is thought to close off the Lung meridian, and take care to keep the neck warm and shielded from exposure to cold and wind.

Acupuncture was used for centuries by the Chinese to help to harmonise people with the changing seasons. Using acupuncture points on the Lung meridian, acupuncturists can help to regulate and strengthen the immune system to help to guard against illness. Alternatively, in cases where an illness has invaded, the points can also be used to help the body to expel the pathogen and make a quick and complete recovery.

If any readers would like to know more about anything that I’ve mentioned in this article, please do get in touch.

Rob Veater LicAc BSc(Hons.)

Rob Veater Acupuncture: providing effective acupuncture services for Colne Engaine, Earls Colne, Pebmarsh, Halstead, Sudbury, Colchester and surrounding areas

Chinese Medicine Comes to Colne Engaine

The following post is an article I wrote for the July/August 2013 Edition of the Colne Engaine Parish Magazine:

Chinese Medicine Comes to Colne Engaine

After spending the winter in Scotland, I’m very pleased to have returned to Colne Engaine, the village in which I grew up, and to be re-opening the doors to my acupuncture clinic. As there seems to be a degree of mystery and misunderstanding surrounding acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, I thought I would present a brief introduction to my fellow villagers and try to share a little of why, to me at least, it is such an interesting and valuable system.

Chinese Medicine is rooted in Daoism. Don’t let the ‘ism’ mislead you, Daoism isn’t so much of a religion as a philosophy. It offers simple, practical principles to help promote a happy, healthy and harmonious existence that can be embraced by anybody. Indeed, the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, was fascinated by Daoism and produced an excellent translation of a key Daoist text, ‘The Way of Chuang Tzu’.

Central to Daoism is the notion that human beings exist as part of nature. So, by living in accordance with natural cycles, we can promote good health and wellbeing, while, conversely, ignoring our connection to the natural world invites disharmony and illness. Much of Daoist wisdom is simply common sense that will be self-evident to older generations. For example, Daoism recommends living according to the seasons, being more active in spring/summer, and more restful in autumn/winter. On an evolutionary timescale, we are not as far removed from the rest of the animal kingdom as we may think, so following the examples of animals, which reduce activity and store their energy during the winter, is biologically beneficial for us too.

Daoism also recognises that there are daily cycles that we should pay attention to; in the morning, when the warmth of the sun is building, we should be more active, engaging in physical work or exercise. While in the evening, as the sun’s warmth diminishes, we should be more restful, avoiding exertion and sweating (so no gym workouts or jogging at this time).

The Daoists discovered that when someone has gone too far out of balance, acupuncture and other Chinese medical therapies such as moxibustion (more about this another time) can be used to restore health and wellbeing. Rather than trying to simply eradicate symptoms, treating disease as an enemy to be conquered, Chinese Medicine’s approach is to work with the root cause behind the apparent symptoms, re-establishing equilibrium to help bring about full resolution of the condition.  It is this focus on restoring harmony and homeostasis that makes Chinese Medicine able to effectively treat such a wide range of conditions. A review by the World Health Organisation lists 91 diseases, symptoms or conditions where acupuncture has been demonstrated to have a therapeutic effect†.

I hope that this brief introduction has been of interest. If any readers would like to know more, please do get in touch.

†WHO. (2003) Acupuncture: review and analysis of reports on controlled clinical trials. 1–87. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js4926e/

Rob Veater Acupuncture: providing effective acupuncture services for Colne Engaine, Earls Colne, Pebmarsh, Halstead, Sudbury, Colchester and surrounding areas

Thoughts, Emotions and Wellbeing – Part II


Hand in hand with the positive effects of acupuncture, there are many other ways to improve one’s emotional and mental balance. Qigong is an ancient Chinese exercise that uses slow, meditative movements and mindfulness to gain awareness of the inner state of one’s body and mind and can help to clear the body of biochemicals associated with chronic stress by increasing blood and lymphatic flow and reducing muscular tension. The Chinese have dedicated a huge amount of research into the therapeutic effects of qigong, and exercises are routinely prescribed for patients with a variety of conditions, including cancer, as an adjucnt to standard treatment.

There is a bewildering array of information available regarding qigong exercises, and this can seem overwhelming for somebody who wants to start learning. Undoubtedly, practical tuition with an experienced practitioner is the best way to go, and a Google search will often find a class in your local area. If qigong isn’t explicitly available, a tai chi class will often include qigong exercises as the two practices are very similar.

Failing all that, from my own experience I have found both Bruce Frantzis’ Dragon and Tiger Qigong and Lam Kam Chuen’s teaching of his version of Zhan Zhuang (or ‘standing like a tree’ posture) to be easy to learn and very effective. Both practices can be learned from the books: ‘Dragon and Tiger Qigong’ and ‘The Way of Energy’ (the latter being out of print but available second-hand at quite reasonable prices on Abebooks or Amazon. The Dragon and Tiger system also has a DVD available, and there are probably clips floating about on YouTube. Zhan Zhuang instructions are certainly widely available on YouTube. For those in the vicinity of Colne Engaine, Earls Colne, Halstead. Colchester or Sudbury, Nick and Liz Cahill offer Dragon and Tiger Qigong tuition (see www.nextsteptaichi.com)

Despite the gentle movements, qigong practice isn’t easy; it takes dedication and perseverance to see results. Zhan Zhuang practice, from the outside, simply looks like you are standing still. Yet with the correct alignments and mindfulness it becomes incredibly challenging. Try following this routine  and see how you find it.

In contrast to Western exercises, a fundamental principle of qigong is to use less effort to bring about greater results. When doing the Zhan Zhuang standing practice and other qigong forms, you aim to continually try to let go of unnecessary tension held in the body and mind. As you practice, within the stillness, all the built up mental and emotional stress will start to manifest, often with sudden feelings of irritation and restlessness; ‘what is the point of doing this?’ ‘I’m probably doing it wrong anyway’ types of internal dialogue frequently occur. Take all this as a symptom of how much nervous tension you have been carrying around unaware; it is a clear sign that you really need to be doing qigong to clear it out. After a few weeks of daily practice for 10 or 15 minutes that physical, emotional and mental tension will have begun to dissipate and your energy and wellbeing will be greatly enhanced.

Finding 10 spare minutes a day isn’t all that difficult considering the potential benefits of qigong exercise, though I appreciate it might not seem worth it without any proof of its positive effects beyond taking my word for it. So I guess to start with you could do Zhan Zhuang while doing other routine activities such as watching TV, listening to the radio or to music, and then you haven’t lost any time and you can begin to see if it is useful to you.

Acupuncture and qigong can both do wonders for enhancing wellbeing; however, I generally find that the most long-lasting transformations for patients occur when they have an insight into the patterns of thought and emotion that have contributed to the manifestation of their health complaint. While there is no failsafe way to provide such an insight, there are certainly ways in which it can be facilitated. In the final part of this blog post, I will discuss one such method, which doesn’t require learning any techniques, but instead offers an understanding of the mechanism by which we perceive and interact with the world.

Thoughts, Emotions and Wellbeing – Part I


As my first post, I thought I would say a little about the link between emotional and mental wellbeing and physical health. Most people have an appreciation of the many negative influences that result from ‘stress’,  but how many of us really consider the potential impact of our day-to-day fluctuating emotional states on our health? Chinese Medicine recognises that our emotional state plays a major role in determining both our physical and mental wellbeing. Excessive or supressed emotional responses, such as fear, anger and worry, over a prolonged period cause significant physiological imbalances that may eventually lead to disease. This notion is one of growing acceptance in the West, with fields such as psychoneuroimmunology demonstrating a clear physiological link between our emotional and mental states and the health of our body.

While this concept may be interesting, it doesn’t offer much in the way of practical advice for managing one’s thoughts and emotions. Fortunately, there are several things that we can do to help achieve this and thereby lead a happier, healthier life. Obviously, as an acupuncturist, my first recommendation would be acupuncture! However, the reason that this is my chosen profession is that I have seen its effectiveness time and time again in transforming people’s lives, sometimes dramatically, other times more slowly and subtly but, nonetheless, significantly.

So how does the seemingly mechanical act of acupuncture influence someone’s emotional and mental wellbeing? We know that the organs of the body contain the same neurotransmitters as found in the brain, in particular the gut. We also know that stress hormones are released from thoughts of fear, stress, worry etc. If these thoughts are habitual these stress biochemicals may lead to a chronic feeling of insecurity, edginess or irritability. Over time blood flow to the organs can be restricted by muscular tension so that, for example, the liver is less able to remove stress hormones from the blood efficiently.

By releasing muscle tension and increasing blood flow acupuncture can help to restore a sense of wellbeing by helping to naturally correct biochemical imbalances. In addition, this can help resolve physical complaints that may have been caused by these same chemicals. As the person’s health improves, their mental wellbeing rises and they are better able to see how their thoughts and emotions have contributed to their condition. They can then make healthier choices, both in terms of physical activities like work, diet and exercise, but also in terms of their responses to stressful situations and their inner outlook on life.

In Part II, I’ll be talking about some of the other interventions that I’ve found effective for improving mental and emotional wellbeing alongside acupuncture.