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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

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 III

As the final part of this series of posts, i’m going to talk about an understanding that i’ve found to be highly effective for  generating profound and lasting insights into the nature of how we experience the world. This understanding is called the 3 Principles, and was uncovered by the late Sydney Banks in the 1970s. It has since been introduced in hospitals, correctional institutions, social services, juvenile justice programs, community housing, drug and alcohol prevention and treatment programs, schools, and multi-national corporations throughout the world.

I was introduced to the understanding by two friends, Jenny and Rudi Kennard, who have developed an incredible resource for learning about the 3 Principle via their website Three Principles Movies. They are also fantastic facilitators of the understanding, offering training via their company Innate Wellbeing. I won’t say too much here about the details of the 3 Principles, as there are far more eloquent speakers and facilitators that you can listen to for free on their site, but I will at least highlight some of what I currently understand.

What appeals to me about this understanding is that it is free of any ‘baggage’, it doesn’t require any particular faith or religion and can be embraced by anybody regardless of belief system. It doesn’t teach any complex techniques or theory, in essence, it simply talks about how we are creating our experience of life from the inside-out – with our thoughts being the lens via which we perceive quite literally everything. Our thoughts are intimately connected with our feeling state, indeed this simple yet profound statement offers a huge amount of wisdom – “our feelings are always coming from thought in any given moment”. We don’t need to try and control or manage our thoughts, we simply recognise that whatever we are thinking, even though it can seem to be the absolute truth in that moment, is really just a perception, one of many possibilities. So by not getting caught up in thought as being so substantial, we allow for new perceptions to arise. A simple example of this is the intuitive notion that it may be more beneficial when annoyed with someone to sleep on it rather than act straight away- in the morning we often find that our perceptions have shifted. Fundamental to this understanding is the notion that we all have psychological wellbeing as our default setting; the implication being that no one is psychologically broken beyond repair. Our state of wellbeing can certainly be lowered by negative thoughts, but these are like clouds in the sky, obscuring the sun; the sun is still there, just as our innate wellbeing is everpresent behind any negative thinking. This may seem fanciful until you take a look at the transformations that this understanding has generated in correctional institutions and mental health services.

The real key to getting what is being talked about here is through personal insight. For a long time I thought I ‘got’ what was being described, but it wasn’t until I had an internal insight that went beyond an intellectual comprehension that I really started to appreciate how this understanding can radically change perceptions, behaviours and sense of wellbeing without needing to employ specific techniques. For me, sharing this understanding, together with providing acupuncture and Qigong, is a wonderful way to correct imbalances that have arisen via mental, emotional and physical stress and offers a path to maintaining health and harmony at all levels of our being.

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.