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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

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.

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.