Monday, 31 October 2011

western acupuncture v traditional acupuncture.

The other week I was treating a GP and we got chatting about acupuncture - most of this conversation happened before I found out what she did for a living..

But I was explaining the difference between 'Western' and 'Traditional' Acupuncture as they have been coined.  For me the key difference is in the theoretical understanding.  Physios, osteopaths, nurses and doctors as well as many other 'health care professionals' have the opportunity to study acupuncture, but to my understanding they do not spend a lot of time understanding the theory behind it all...

In the Beijing International TCM Hospital, where I gained post graduate training I learned that Acupuncturists in China are at Uni for over 8 years (unlike our unis - only getting a few weeks a year off) where they learn the full theory behind acupuncture - that of the 5 Elements/Yin Yang and Qi, they learn about herbs and also get a full western medical degree while they are at it!   My training is not that comprehensive, however I spent the 1st half of my degree learning all about the TCM theory , the Western anatomy, physiology and pathology, before I got anywhere near a needle, in addition to over 400 hours hands on clinical experience whist at Uni.  I have done a little research - physiotherapists are completing 'approved training' with just 80 hours training. (

I have now been in practice for a full 4 years, and with 7 plus years of working with and getting to grips with Chinese Medicine Theory I can finally say i PRETTY much get it now.. but even still the odd person will pop up and will remind me of how much I still have to learn, so how someone can condense this into 80 hours and fully understand it, amazes me!!

What I am aware of is that the majority of these practitioners work with pain conditions, and for most people this is relatively simple: stagnation of Qi=pain and as such is relatively easy to treat, assuming that is all that is going on.. but what we as traditional acupuncturist do is look for why the Qi is stagnating, and treat the underlying cause.

My belief is that this simplification of acupuncture is very useful in alleviating pain conditions, mainly in the short term, , but that the traditional, all be it more complex, model of acupuncture is far more useful in improving quality of life.

I have recently read a beautiful book talking about traditional acupuncurists, and comparing them to gardeners.  Stating that it is my role as an acupuncturist to cultivate life, whilst western medics role is to prevent death..

Monday, 24 October 2011

YIn Yang...

As part of my talk I explained the Yin Yang symbol to which I think we are all familiar, but not sure how much its understood.  It is the basic foundation upon which Acupuncture, and traditional Chinese understanding on how the world works is based, it is dynamic.

The first thing to consider is that it is a contained circle - that one gets smaller and turns into the other.  It is also important to note that there is a little of one in the other, that they are NOT mutually exclusive.

Chinese characters are essentially pictures of what they are try to describe. The pictogram for Yin Yang shows a mountain.  One side facing the sun, and the other in the shade.

Yang is the bright side of the mountain, whilst yin in the dark and as such, in the very familiar image to the left: yang is white and yin is black.

Other things attributed to Yang include: the front of the body, day time, sunshine, warmth, heat, movement, Qi,
Those things attributed to Yin: The back of the body, night time, the moon, coolness, stillness, water, blood.

These things have been categorised as being either predominant in Yin or Yang, but they always have a little of both: for example the front of the body is yang relative to the back, but the upper body is yang compared to the lower body which is yin.

A lovely easy example to understand Yin Yang is to consider 24hours.  Midnight is considered upmost yin (so will be the big bit of the black), noon considered upmost Yang (the biggest white bit) and between is a mix of yin and yang.

What this means for our health.

For me this constant change is what gives us our routines, the fact that we get tired is a result of yang waining and yin increasing as well as explaining many many other patterns found in our bodies.  Women are considered Yin in nature due to the monthly period cycle and our ability to nourish and create life.  As such, Yin declines with age, and menopausal women often show signs of Yin deficiency in that they are overheating, especially at night, as Yin is not subduing Yang, it is incredibly common for women in China to take 'Yin tonics' as they age. 

This dynamic way of explaining the workings of us humans allows me to spot patterns in peoples symtoms and help to rebalance their out of sync Yin Yang and thereby optimise health.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

My work with John

I am in the very lucky position to work with some amazingly experienced and knowledgeable practitioners in the clinics I work in.

Over the month of October, John Williamson and Myself have been giving a course on acupressure.  John is a Zen Shiatsu practitioner and his understanding of how the elements relate in real life gives me such insight that I can then use to enhance my practice.

Today we were talking about emotions and how they affect our health.  The average 'lay person' would more than likely agree that emotions play a part in our physical health.  John was describing the metal element (the one i struggle to comprehend the most) and talking about how its all about barriers and how our interaction with others is about the formation of those barriers... and grief  the emotion related to the Metal Element .. is our way of helping to break down those previously understood barriers or Links as I was reinterpreting it.

Which is why when we are first bereaved of someone we love, to use that example, there are lots of these barriers/attachments/links that we have formed that remind us of that person, be it that they used to share a bed with us, or that they used to shout at the TV when a particular show is on, it reminds us of that relationship that is now lost...

and if we don't deal with it (as with any emotion) it will just keep reoccuring until such times as we figure out how to deal with them.

What I have also realised on this course is just how much I do know and do without thinking now.. especially in terms of locating points... it has become second nature to me.. and thats such a lovely thing to become aware of!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

my first solo talk!

Last night I did my first ever SOLO acupuncture talk.

Bizarrely enough I wasn't nervous at all about it, but I think that had a lot to do with locking myself out my flat and the ensuing chaos that caused to get back in (which I did by the by!)

A friend of mine provided refreshments in the form of THE most delicious cupcakes courtesy of Yumm! Bakery ( while I provided the entertainment!

I gave an brief introduction about me - who I am, what brought me to acupuncture (to follow in another blog), then going on to describe as best as i could, given the time limitations, the theory behind acupuncture.

Discussing Qi:
Which is also known as 'life force': it is Qi that gives us the impotus to move, to function, to grow.  It has 5 main roles within us:
1 To warm - in a similar way to Blood (which relys on Qi to ensure it moves).
2 To protect: it circulates within us to fend off external pathogenic factors
3. it transforms: turns foods into things we can use, e.g. glucose; our thoughts into actions/emotions etc.
4. it holds: the blood in the vessels, the organs in places
5. It moves: it creates our phyical movements, but also the involuntary ones, like our heart beating, the eb and flow of our thoughts and so forth.

We then went on to feel our Qi - not sure that i can explain that without visual cues!!

Then discussing the 5 elements and how we move within these elements and how they influence our lives.

Finally discussing the actual treatment, where everyone got to 'try a needle' if they wished and talked about the other modalities that I use e.g. cupping, moxibustion.

I was in the lucky position to have a couple of people who have previously tried acupuncture so asked for their input now and then too!

It was an evening I thoroughly enjoyed, and hope that I spread the word about acupuncture a bit more!!!   If you are interested in me coming along to do a talk, or perhaps seeking treatment yourself: then get in touch and we can try to arrange something.