Other conditions

Depression, anxiety, stress and insomnia
Digestion problems
Respiratory problems
Skin problems
Men’s health
Pain conditions

 

Depression, anxiety, stress and insomnia

When we experience a negative response to something in our environment, our body experiences this as danger. To get away from the danger, the “fight or flight” protection response turns on. This creates physical and mental changes that allow us to get away from danger. In the modern world, if we experience something stressful we will rarely run away (or physically fight). We simply experience this stress response internally.

One of the great benefits of acupuncture is that it can stimulate the opposite response – the parasympathetic nervous system or “relaxation response”. This creates the opposite situation in the body, where things can settle and calm, replenish, repair and restore.

We can’t have both the sympathetic system (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic system (relax and repair) dominant at the same time. Acupuncture can help to promote the experience of the relaxation state and, over time, this helps to create a foundation of a more settled and replenishing state of being.

Acupuncture treatments are very calming and relaxing.  People often notice one of the first things to change is improved sleep – regardless of why they have come for acupuncture.  Because of this general effect, acupuncture is naturally a good fit for anxiety, stress, insomnia and depression.

Hunyuan Chinese herbal medicine is an excellent therapy for promoting restorative sleep and general stability. People who are taking Hunyuan herbal medicine for any reason usually note that deeper and more refreshing sleep is one of the first noticeable changes, with clearer and calmer energy during the day.

Western medication

If you are already taking Western medication, such as anti-depressants, then acupuncture is very safe to use alongside your current medication.  Chinese Herbal Medicine is an excellent stand-alone therapy or it can be combined with acupuncture in a treatment program.  If you are taking medication then we can work out a schedule and herbal prescription so that the herbal medicine doesn’t affect your medication.

Treatment strategy

I can help you to put together a strategy that includes acupuncture treatments, Chinese Herbal Medicine, food-as-medicine diet advice, simple lifestyle changes utilising Chinese medical wisdom, and nutritional supplements (by external referral).  I will help you to do this at a pace that suits you, making very small changes if necessary – whatever works for you according to your energy levels.

Regular, ongoing treatment recommended

The key to success with these kinds of imbalances is regular treatment.  Please be prepared to commit to acupuncture treatments every week or at least every fortnight.  Allow yourself a decent period of time to expect to see changes.  Although your energy flow is improving and things are starting to move in healthier ways, your perceptions might sometimes remain fixed while your physical conditions improve.  In other words, sometimes there can be a time lag between your improved physical condition and your experience of feeling better.  Understandably, you are looking to be free from distress and start to enjoy your life again.  However, Chinese medicine is not band-aid medicine.  We are looking to address things from the root of the imbalance, all the way out to the level where you experience things.  This takes time, and it’s crucial to allow the process to take place.

Root cause of imbalance

One factor that will affect the rate of healing is your Chinese medicine diagnosis – the root imbalance that is causing your symptoms.

For example, anxiety can arise because of “Liver Qi Stagnation” – meaning that the free-flowing energetic movement of the body systems called “Liver” in Chinese medicine have become stuck, usually due to stress. For this diagnosis, acupuncture works very well and results can be felt quite quickly. Chinese herbal medicine is a very useful supportive therapy.

On the other hand, if your anxiety is related to “Heart and Kidney Yin Deficiency” then Chinese herbal medicine therapy would be a very important part of your treatment, and we would expect the rate of healing to be somewhat slower because building up Yin means building up moisture and substance in the body. As a healing process it is slower than clearing blocked energy flow.

This is how two people with “anxiety” can be expected to heal at different rates – it is due to the underlying root cause of imbalance.

Benefits of acupuncture

Acupuncture has been shown in scientific studies to have many beneficial effects, such as changing electrical flow in the brain, improving the nervous system and releasing endorphins – “feel-good” neurotransmitters that result in feelings of well-being and relief from pain.

Benefits of herbal medicine

There are many promising scientific studies released regularly about the benefits of Chinese herbal medicine for conditions such as anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder and so on.  Many herbal medicines have been shown to have sedative or tonic effects on the brain and nervous system.  Ginseng, one of the most famous Chinese herbs, is a special kind of plant that is “adaptogenic” which means it helps us to adapt to stress.

When you work with a qualified Chinese herbal medicine practitioner, these herbs are combined according to classical formulas that bring out the best qualities of the herbal substance while balancing any unwanted effects.  Herbal medicine is tailored to you and it changes as your condition improves.

 

 

Digestive problems

Digestion is a very important part of Chinese medicine.  Every time we make a diagnosis we always pay careful attention to areas such as:

  • Appetite (too little or too much)
  • Cravings
  • Food allergies and intolerance
  • Heartburn, nausea, reflux, belching, hiccups
  • Pain, bloating or gas
  • Loose stools or constipation
  • Haemorrhoids or prolapse

 

All of these areas are vital clues that point to what’s going on in the body.  Each person is different, so the cause of their health problem is different too.

For example, one person may experience constipation because they have too much Heat in the digestive organs.  It creates blockage and we need cooling and moving herbs to clear out the Heat and blockage to bring things back to normal.  We could also talk about which foods are Hot in Chinese medicine theory, and how lifestyle factors might lead to Heat buildup.

On the other hand, another person might have constipation because they don’t have enough Yin.  Yin in the body refers to coolness, moisture and substance.  For this person, we need much gentler herbs that nourish the Yin and restore the body’s internal moisture balance.  It would be normal for this condition to take longer to treat, because building up Yin takes time.  Lifestyle factors that lead to “burning up” the Yin are very important.  The advantage of making changes to take care of the Yin is that this person will likely feel more settled and sleep better once their Yin improves.

The link between stress and digestion

One of the main factors influencing digestion according to Chinese medicine is stress.  The “Liver” energy system easily becomes stuck when we experience even a small amount of stress.  As the stuck flow turns into blockages, the energy that is trying to flow starts to build up behind the blockage.  Finally all of that built-up energy needs to go somewhere, and one of the most common places that it affects is the digestive system.  There is simple Chinese medicine theory that explains why it happens in this way.

So the general relaxation effect of acupuncture is very useful for a lot of digestive disorders.  Then in addition to this, we have very specific points that help to reduce inflammation, regulate bowel movement, stimulate digestive enzymes and so on.  Acupoints and herbal formulas are prescribed according to your Chinese medicine diagnosis.

Other therapies

Many people who come to the clinic are already taking products such as probiotics or following nutritional plans.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine work well alongside other therapies you are doing, or if you are interested I can refer you to practitioners who can help you in these areas.

 

 

Respiratory problems

Chinese medicine is an excellent approach for many respiratory problems.  It was the main form of health care in China for thousands of years. Now it is still very much a part of public health care in China, with Western medicine integrated alongside Chinese medicine.

Because Chinese medicine was at the frontline of public health care, treatment of respiratory diseases such as cold, flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma and so on is very highly developed. As well as treatment of acute diseases, there is a detailed system of knowledge to diagnose and treat more chronic problems such as hayfever, sinus problems, chronic cough and wheezing (or what we would call asthma).

If you have chronic respiratory problems, then treatment will often progress something like this:

  • First of all, clear any Phlegm, Heat and other build-up
  • Develop a strategy for prompt treatment of new respiratory infections
  • Between infections, strengthen the immune system
  • Assess immune system dysfuction – what we call “Lingering Pathogen” in Chinese medicine, and restore function
  • Continue to alternate between treating active infections, and strengthening the immune system between infections, while starting to address the root causes of imbalance
  • As periods of infection become milder, shorter and less frequent, focus more on the root causes of imbalance
  • Throughout the treatment period, monitor medication use with GP
  • Discuss diet and lifestyle factors that will enhance treatment and encourage prevention of further issues

 

As you can see, paying close attention to new infections is an important part of treatment for many respiratory problems.  If infections are not your main problem, then your treatment strategy will still be something like the one outlined above:  Firstly clear away blockages and toxins, then regulate the immune system, then strengthen weakness and address the root cause.

 

 

Skin problems

Skin in Western medicine is the largest organ of the body.  In Chinese medicine, skin most often reflects the condition of the Lung organ energy system.  However, because of the complex relationships between body systems, it can also reflect other issues.  For example:

  • A build-up of Heat in the body can lead to red-coloured skin blemishes or lesions – the treatment is to clear Heat
  • A build-up of Toxic Heat leads to skin problems that are hot, very red, swollen and may contain pus – the treatment is to clear Toxic Heat
  • A build-up of Dampness, usually from digestive issues, leads to skin blemishes that are filled with white secretions such as cycts or acne – the treatment is to resolve Dampness
  • If Blood flow is not able to nourish the skin then dryness or flaking arise – the treatment is to nourish Blood directly or to detect and fix the problem that is blocking correct Blood flow
  • Itching skin usually arises from “Wind” beneath the outer layers – treatment is to quell the Wind while addressing the causes that lead to the Wind
  • Skin that doesn’t heal well usually reflects weak “Middle energy” – the treatment is to strengthen the Middle energy and use specific herbal ingredients that have been scientifically shown to stimulate skin healing
  • Unusual rashes, skin problems that started after an illness or a shock, skin problems connected to unknown or suspected “allergies” – these can be clues to a dysfunction in the immune system. If other symptoms fit the picture, then the treatment is to clear Lingering Pathogen and then repair energy levels and fluid balance

 

Some skin problems respond well to external therapies such as herbal washes, patches, creams or ointments.  You need to follow an individual program to address your unique situation, and the program needs to adapt as you change and improve.  One of the great benefits of choosing Chinese medicine to treat skin issues is that the root cause of the imbalance is addressed, so your overall health often improves as your skin problems are treated.

 

 

Men’s health

We see a lot of men in the clinic for fertility issues. The most common reasons for  treatment with Chinese medicine include:

  • Routine cleansing, nourishing and strengthening treatments to enhance sperm quality, for healthy male partners, as part of the Preconception Program
  • Low sperm count
    (ideal count is >48 million, infertility is <13.5 million, with fertility problems likely between 13.5 and 40 million)
  • Low semen volume
    (should be >1ml)
  • Poor sperm motility
    (ideally >63% moving well for natural fertility, WHO standards >50% moving vigorously and purposefully, infertility likely at <32% moving)
  • Abnormal sperm morphology
    (ideally >12-14% normal forms, with infertility likely at <9% normal forms)
  • Anti-sperm antibodies
    (immune response to sperm, either in male or female partner)
  • Low libido
    (in male and/or female partner)
  • Erectile dysfunction

 

Other male conditions commonly treated with Chinese medicine include urinary issues (such as frequency or hesitancy) and prostate issues such as enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia).

 

 

Pain conditions

Pain is one of the most common reasons that people seek treatment with Chinese medicine, especially acupuncture.

There are several ways that acupuncture helps with pain conditions, such as:

  • releasing knots and trigger points that create referral pains
  • relaxing tight muscles
  • reducing inflammation
  • reducing nerve transmission of pain
  • releasing pain-stopping hormones
  • stimulating healthy blood flow
  • triggering the “relaxation response” that tells the body to switch to “repair mode” and heal problem areas

 

Acupuncture is very commonly used to treat a wide variety of pain conditions such as:

  • sciatica
  • lower back pain, including acute lumbar sprain
  • back pain
  • twisted ankle
  • golf elbow and tennis elbow
  • frozen shoulder
  • rotator cuff tear or sprains
  • knee problems eg ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) sprain
  • healing from tendon or ligament tears or sprains
  • plantar fasciitis
  • heel spur
  • bursitis of hip or shoulder
  • carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive strain injuries
  • tension headache
  • migraine
  • abdominal pain
  • osteoathritis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • pain associated with cancer
  • pain associated with surgery recovery

 

Treatment of acute pain

If your pain is acute – either recent onset and/or resulting from recent injury – then regular treatment is very helpful in the early stages.  Scientific studies have found that the effect of acupuncture at the site of treatment – the acupoint – continues to be active for about three to four days after the acupuncture session.

So receiving acupuncture twice a week in the early stages – every three to four days – keeps your recovery moving in the right direction.  Not only does this make you more comfortable, it is also very important to prevent chronic pain from developing.

Chronic pain can arise when the nerve pathways in the brain become stimuated by acute pain and create long-lasting pathways so that you may feel the sensations even if the local area has started to heal.  (Of course, this is not the only cause of chronic pain.)

Therefore, in the early stages of acute pain, please commit to regular and frequent acupuncture, and perhaps other therapies where appropriate such as osteopathy, physiotherapy, chiropractic, Rolfing or remedial massage.

I also recommend that for injuries or strong pain such as acute lumbar sprain, that you follow your doctor’s advice on appropriate pain relief and/or anti-infammatory medication.  It is wise to be mindful of becoming dependent on any medication, but at the same time the risk of developing chronic pain syndrome is reason enough to take all helpful therapies at the acute stage. Once pain becomes chronic, it often becomes more difficult to tease apart the contributing factors.

 

Treatment of chronic pain

Chronic pain, as mentioned above, can be a complex problem.

If you have a chronic painful condition and feel like you have “tried everything” but nothing has given you lasting relief, then it is likely that you have a multi-factor pain condition that will need a multi-layered approach.

You probably have not tried acupuncture AND nutritional supplements AND appropriate graded exercise AND osteopathy AND meditation and breathing AND appropriate Western medication, for example.  I think there is a temptation to try one therapy at a time so that we can gauge its effect.  A lot of us are natural scientists in this regard – we want to keep all things constant, make one change and measure the effect.

If you have been trying this for some time, however, without lasting results, then it could be time to gather those therapies that have given you SOME relief, and start adding them together.  If you start feeling better, your inner scientist will be frustrated that they never found the “one” thing that “worked”!

But you will be feeling better, which means you will be reversing the pain pathways in the brain and laying down pathways of feeling healthier and happier.  This will propel your recovery forward.

Acupuncture is very useful in a program of chronic pain recovery.  If you would like to know more about how chronic pain develops and how a multi-level approach can help, I recommend The Pain Cure by Dr Dharma Singh Khalse, a pain specialist. He illustrates how acupuncture fits within a wholistic and integrated Western and complementary medicine program.