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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

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