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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

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.