I get a lot of questions about what acupuncture can do to aid pregnancy and a lot of people are completely unaware that it can help at all. In fact, acupuncture works very well for morning sickness, turning a breach baby or even to induce and during labour. I created this fact sheet to help women make informed decisions about treatment and through my work with various Hypnobirthing groups in Bristol and Cornwall, this information is being distributed to women in those groups... I thought i may as well share it here too!
Acupuncture for all your pregnancy needs
Acupuncture is a centuries old, tried and tested medicine used to help women deliver millions upon millions of healthy babies. The difficulty is that during pregnancy, quick decisions often need to be made about which treatment is right & what treatments out there actually do work? It can be a very anxious time for an expectant mother and so this fact sheet is aimed at trying to give mothers some helpful advice so they can decide what is right for themselves and their baby.
Finding out the baby's sex
In China, the ancient diagnostic method of pulse-taking was used as the standard way to determine the sex of a baby with astounding accuracy. In fact, the tradition is still used today and your acupuncturist should be able to tell you the sex of the baby, especially by the third trimester (as long as the mother isn't expecting twins of different sexes).
Acupuncture for pregnancy nausea has long been recognised to help. In fact some NHS services offer acupuncture for just this depending on the area you live in. Travel sickness wristbands, which are often thought to double up as morning anti-sickness bands, work by putting pressure on an acupuncture point. The difficulty is, if you don't know exactly where that point is, the wristband will be useless. An acupuncturist will be able to accurately locate the correct area to apply pressure. They will also use needles to effectively stop nausea and sickness and often only one treatment is required.
Acupuncture to prevent miscarriage
It is important to say that if there is a defect in the foetus then unfortunately acupuncture will not be able to save the baby as miscarriage can be a natural process. However if you are habitually miscarrying then there is clearly a problem. Acupuncture is used to help bring the mother's body back to optimum health so that the foetus has the best possible chance to develop and grow, enabling the mother to carry the baby to full term.
Acupuncture to turn breech babies
It has long been a tradition to turn babies with this age old method. Many studies have been conducted which prove that this method has a very high success rate. An acupuncturist will use moxa, which is a herb made from the mugwort plant. The herb is moulded into a cigar-like stick and is set alight and smoulders near specific acupuncture points. The mother is given homework to do this herself every evening until the baby turns. It has instant effects and the mother will be able to feel the baby moving once the heat is applied.
Acupuncture to induce babies
Again, acupuncture to induce babies has a long tradition and is actually quite simple. All an acupuncturist needs to do is encourage the mother's energy to move downwards. Again, acupuncture treatment will not force nature and so if the baby needs a little more time then treatment will not start the birthing process immediately but it will get the body ready for imminent labour by starting to open and stretch the cervix. Once this begins the baby will too be preparing and birth will be shortly round the corner!
Verity Allen Acupuncture
Not had a chance to blog recently due to pressure of work but I felt motivated to talk about the limitations of treatment for stroke suffererers since I spend a good proportion of my time treating stroke patients long after the initial episode and find it frustrating that I can't get to them sooner.
Acupuncture is now proven to be effective in the treatment of back pain. NICE guidelines support the use of acupuncture for lower back pain - according to this guideline, acupuncture is significantly better than no intervention and also significantly better than standard/best medical care. So why then is it too difficult to believe that it would not work on any other part of the body? In China, they don't only suffer with back pain. Acupuncture is a complete system of medicine so it needed to be robust enough to treat any disorder, be it of mind or body.
The modern advances of Western medicine have been truly phenomenal in the last century, with keyhole surgery, heart bypasses and organ transplants to name a few of the wonders of what man and machine can achieve. However, in this bid to continually modernise and improve procedures, we have left behind some methods of medicine that have been tried and tested for centuries and by not accepting the failings as well as the triumphs of Western medicine we are failing patients.
For example, Western medicine is drastically falling behind the East in treating stroke. According to the 2010 China Connection Global Report, patients received better care in the Tianjin Hospital Program than patients in the U.S.
85 percent are able to walk without assistance (Only 51 percent of U.S. patients completing rehabilitation in the U.S. walk without assistance).
95 percent regain almost complete knee flexion compared with 50 percent in the U.S.
98 percent return to live in their homes instead of long term care facilities while only 68 percent of U.S. stroke patients are able to live in their own homes.
The Tianjin Hospital patients also saw decreases in blood pressure and cholesterol with 46 percent of patients reducing their blood pressure and cholesterol lowering medications.
A stroke for somebody in the Western world often means paralysis or speech difficulty for the rest of that persons life. In China, stroke really isn't an issue. The patient would have intensive acupuncture treatment immediately after the stroke and they'd be able to return home fairly quickly with often barely any remnants of stroke left remaining.
So why then do we not adopt the Chinese approach and have acupuncture provided in specialist stroke units? It's very cheap to do and would save millions of pounds on anti-seizure drugs. I'm sure you don't need me to answer that one. I have several theories, all of which don't have the patients interests at heart, however I think the key thing here is that for acupuncture to be recognised to treat stroke in the UK, sufficient evidence must be gleaned under controlled trials, and who's willing to pay for these trials?
The fact is that acupuncture is successfully used to treat a wide range of ailments. It would take me a long time to list all the illnesses I've treated but I know that I have significantly improved every single one of them and patients will agree. I may not have been able to make them all 100% better but their symptoms have improved. However, because I don't have thousands of pounds to conduct a trial, I can't prove it. I urge everybody suffering with any kind of problem to seek out a qualified acupuncturist. You have absolutely nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain.
Shi Xuemin, "Diagnostic and therapeutic system of apoplexy with acupuncture therapy as its focus", Number 1 Teaching Hospital, Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tianjin, China
I'd like to welcome you to a new section of my blog where I share cases of patients that have experienced first-hand the wonders of acupuncture.
I suppose I should start by saying that this particular patient was referred to me by a GP after presenting with an "unexplained" pain running down the leg that was causing the patient to become momentarily paralysed & crippled with pain at the most random of times; when out walking or simply when rolling to get more comfy in bed. And when I say "unexplained", I mean it in the sense that there was no medical terminology for explaining the condition under Western medicine.
On visiting the GP, the patient was told that modern medicine wasn't well equipped for treating these kinds of "unexplained" pains and that they should visit an acupuncturist or osteopath. They put the patient on the waiting list for acupuncture but advised that it would take months to get an appointment and that private treatment would be the best option.
The patient sought me out and after one treatment reported that they felt 90% better and they could hardly feel any pain at all. After months of pain the patient is back walking the dog and rolling around in bed to their heart's content!
It's good to share such a straightforward case with you and I can think of countless others where the patients' symptoms have vastly improved after one session.
Of course, not all cases are always this straightforward but I have yet to treat a patient who says they felt no benefit at all. Even if the main complaint hasn’t been tackled completely, patients usually report improvements in their metabolism, feeling warmer or just feeling better in themselves.
So for any sceptics out there, you needn't think that to feel any benefit you need to sign yourself up for 12 treatments, remortgage the house and raffle off the family dog. Sometimes just a few quid should do it.
In fact autumn is exactly the time when you should be thinking about hayfever. Having acupuncture treatment during the autumn season is in fact the best possible way to guard against summer allergies.
From a Chinese medical perspective, hayfever occurs from a weakness of lung energy. This is why some people can develop hayfever as an adult. Late onset hayfever can usually be pinned on a particularly bad cold virus contracted during the previous winter which would only serve to damage lung energy or 'qi'. A person with strong lung qi is able to defend themselves against allergens but once it has been weakened, it's very hard to build the energy back up as hayfever will only further weaken the lungs.
What an acupuncturist needs to do is build the lung energy back up in the autumn time to defend against winter viruses. When the qi is strong and robust it will do its job properly during the summer and won't allow hayfever allergens to attack.
Having acupuncture treatment in the autumn time can put pay to any future summer allergies. So now is exactly the right time to be throwing away the antihistamines & trying something natural for a more decongested summer!
I can't tell you how happy I am to finally hear the doctors saying what us acupuncturists have known for years... Acupuncture relieves headaches and migraines!
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines say that painkillers can actually be the cause of tension headaches and that overuse of painkillers creates a vicious cycle. They are therefore recommending that patients choose acupuncture to help wean themselves off the painkillers to break the cycle and become headache free.
This is great news for the acupuncture community but also for patients as they are now getting helpful advice from their GPs to take a more holistic approach to their health instead of popping pills. Win win for everyone involved!
Read the story for yourselves by clicking this link:
Endometriosis UK garden party this Sunday
After gaining interest from my entry about heavy periods a couple of weeks of ago, I have been invited to attend a charity event this Sunday 23rd September at Lower Treculliacks House, Constantine, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 5QW from 12 - 4:30pm.
There'll be all sorts of entertainment including a Samba parade, live music, and a raffle in which you might be the lucky winner of a free acupuncture treatment with me!
Come and find me at the event to grab an information pack on how acupuncture can be effective in helping to relieve the painful effects of endometriosis. It will also be a good opportunity to ask me whether acupuncture might be able to help you, whether you have endometriosis or are suffering with another ailment, I'll be there to talk through any health issues you may have.
Donations of £3 will be gratefully received at the door.
Don't forget your wellies if it's raining and I look forward to seeing you there!
For further information please contact Sara on 07814 885 141
After my first blog, I received a comment asking what the requirements are to become an acupuncturist. I thought the response might be of interest to everyone in that actually no formal training is required whatsoever since acupuncture is an unregulated medicine. This means that anybody seeking out an acupuncturist might find themselves having needles administered by somebody with no formal training at all and this is completely legal under the current laws. This is exactly why the British Acupuncture Council (http://www.acupuncture.org.uk) has been set up, so that trained acupuncturists have a presence whereby they can push for change and encourage the powers that be to help regulate the industry.
Acupuncturists who have been accepted as members of the BAcC have been deemed responsible and trained to a good standard to administer acupuncture.
I trained at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine for 4 years to achieve a BSc degree level qualification accredited by Kingston University. It was a very tough course to complete with only a dozen colleagues qualifying at the end of it. The course was run over weekends and included a mixture of coursework and exams as part of the assessments. About half of the course was taken up learning Western Medical approaches to disease. This is important as an acupuncturist needs to be able to distinguish the seriousness of the patient's condition and whether that patient should be referred to their GP for further tests. It also gives us a greater understanding of what types of tests and procedures the patient has had to encounter as part of their condition.
The final year was split between lessons and practicing in the College clinic. A nerve-racking time where we treated the public under direct supervision from our senior lecturers. This was fantastic as we were able to glean years of experience from our supervisors and put our 3 years of study to practice.
However, I think what ought to be stressed, and I'm sure my fellow graduates would agree, that embarking on this particular course at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine is no mean feat. It involved a huge amount of study, cramming for exams and furiously writing up coursework into the night. Friends and loved ones endlessly being told we don't have time to see them and even when we do, spending that time covering them in dots as we practised locating the 365 acupuncture points we needed to know to the millimetre to pass our exams.
Alongside coursework and exam pressures, I had to hold down a full-time job whilst maintaining the full-time degree in order to fund the £17,500 course fees. Having already obtained a Journalism degree, government funding was not an option for me, although I believe there are some grant schemes that can help with that side of things.
But enough of the doom and gloom... Becoming an acupuncturist was the best thing I ever did! Making people feel better is the best job in the world, I feel so honoured and privileged that I was able to study with some of the best acupuncturists in the country and to have learnt a form of medicine that has been practised for thousands of years and to carry on the long tradition of curing people with acupuncture.
So all I will say is that if you are considering a career in acupuncture, look long and hard at your work, social, financial and childcare commitments as these will definitely suffer for that 4 year period. Then look at your life now and weigh up how badly you want to change it. And finally take the leap, knuckle down, become a recluse, and after 4 years you'll be an acupuncturist. You'll never have much money, but you'll have the best job in world!
It seems everybody's got "a little bit of sciatica"
I hear the same comment in so many consultations. I get to the question "any other aches & pains" and the answer's always the same. So they've all got a little bit of a nerve, getting impinged or trapped but only a little bit, and causing a little bit of intermittent pain down the leg. I'm sorry if I sound a little bit sarcastic but in most cases it's rarely sciatica that's the problem. I'm sure a lot of my colleagues would agree that it does seem to be one of the most misdiagnosed problems that we come across.
In Chinese Medicine, this type of pain running down the leg is most commonly born out of stress. Stress affects us in so many ways. It can be responsible for headaches, sore neck & shoulders, digestive problems, bloating, insomnia, and not forgetting that "little bit of sciatica".
A large number of my patients wanting treatment for their leg pain usually tell me that during treatment other aspects of their health has improved. This is because an acupuncturist will tackle the root of the problem and relieve it.
Just call us the stress busters!
I'm seeing a couple of patients at the moment, both with a similar story. They had very heavy periods for many years and now, at post-menopause, they're experiencing very chronic and debilitating achilles tendonitis. They're also experiencing one of the most misdiagnosed problems of sciatica which can be very easily treated with acupuncture. Alongside some neck and shoulder pains. Their tendons are clearly struggling and this pattern is largely due to what acupuncturists would call Blood Deficiency. This doesn't mean they're anaemic in a Western sense but that their blood is lacking the nutrients required to nourish the tendons.
This highlights to me just how important this forum is. Had they known about acupuncture earlier on in their lives, their heavy periods could have been resolved very easily and they wouldn't be left with these residual problems. They both tell me that 3 weeks of their cycle were a complete write-off. They either felt tired or pre-menstrual. I'm continually amazed at how people live with these problems when a few acupuncture treatments so easily sorts out the issue and helps to ensure they don't get further problems along the line.
In terms of their treatment, it makes my life much more difficult when I see such chronic cases as these. It requires considerable treatment to get to the root cause. If only they'd had acupuncture sooner!
It's taken a month of talking about it, an intense 3 hours setting it up and I'm now ready to embrace social media. It's not that I was feeling lonely and wanted to make friends or that I felt my life was seriously lacking news of what Cheryl Cole had for dinner, it's that I have felt for some time that nobody has the foggiest clue what acupuncture does!
It's fascinating the wealth of responses I get when I introduce myself as an acupuncturist... "So do you just work on feet?" "Is that where you stick needles into people?!" "My friend had acupuncture. Her physio did it". Or you know they're really out of their depth when they just say "oh that's interesting". People just really don't know what it's all about.
What's really interesting to me is that when you talk about it, people are always amazed at what acupuncture can treat. It's not just back and knee pain, and once explained to people the wealth of health conditions that I treat and how beneficial acupuncture can be, the general response is that they wished they'd known about it sooner.
So, I'm using this social media phenomenon as a vessel to carry the message that acupuncture can treat anything! It's been good enough to treat the Chinese for thousands of years and I'm sure their only complaints weren't just niggly backs and dodgy knees!
My aim is to give you little snippets of what I've been up to during the week, the sort of health complaints I've been treating, and if you're lucky I may even thrown in something inspirational to keep your interest high. And if all that fails, I will go to the lengths of retweeting Cheryl Cole's dinner so you can be assured there'll be something for everyone!
I hope you'll also be able to use this space as a forum for debate and if you have any general questions or are concerned about your health, please do pose them here or you can always pick up the phone if you'd prefer. I'm always happy to give any advice I can, provided I have the relevant information.
So good luck to you and me (I'm still getting my head around it) and I look forward to blogging at you.
Verity Allen - BSc, BA, MBAcC, Lic Ac