I often wonder what patients think happens when I decide to stick a needle in the sole of their foot. Did you offend me? Do I not like the colour of your shoes? Or did I just get out on the wrong side of the bed today? It's usually the shoes...
But no, in reality there is a massive process that goes on before an acupuncturist can decide which are the most useful points for you. And believe it or not, I do try to avoid the dreaded sole of the foot if I can, but sometimes that is just the best point. And I think most of you would agree it sounds worse than it is ;)
So if you're incredibly bored and would like to find out more of the science behind Chinese Medicine and exactly what it does take for an acupuncturist to do their job then please watch the five short videos below where I try my best to explain it all...
The Five Elements
I was beginning to worry...
That my brand of acupuncture was only producing baby girls!
But I'm proud to say we have two new baby boys born in August to throw into the mix. Look out girls!
Well done mamas! xxx
Colds... Not always bad!
Hello new little ones!
I just wanted to say a quick hello to the 4 new baby girls born last month! And a huge congratulations to the 4 new mums of those baby girls... you know who you are guys!
I'm massively proud and can't wait to meet them!
I hope you're all doing well and eating shed loads of chicken soup! ;)
Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be invited to a Live Dissection at St. Michael’s Hospital in Bristol. (Thanks to the Osteopathic Council who snuck me in as an honorary Osteopath for the day!) I was worried they might suss me out with my poor anatomy knowledge (it’s been 10 years since I studied that stuff) but i’m pleased to say I did not let the acupuncture community down. Even shouted out a couple of the answers… not because I wanted to show off, just because I got overly excited!
This was a Pro Dissection, which means that the bodies had already been dissected to different stages so we were not let loose with scalpels. But we were encouraged to get stuck in, moving the limbs to see how the tendons interact, feeling the different textures of the tissues and bones and noticing where and how they insert to the rest of the skeleton. For someone who had never been to a dissection or even see a dead body before I was a little nervous at how I’d react. I did have a bit of a moment when we got to the dissected brains where I thought I might faint, but there was a lack of strong looking osteopaths that I thought might be able to catch me, so I managed to pull myself together.
You might wonder why an acupuncturist would be interested in going along to this kind of training and a lot of my acu buddies were asking exactly that! But to me, the human body is so fascinating, so intricate, that to be given the chance to literally see it in the flesh is one I just couldn’t miss out on.
The most interesting part for me was to actually see and handle fascia. Fascia is a band of connective tissues that wrap around organs and muscles to protect them. For acupuncturists, fascia is particularly important as acupuncture channels lie between the skin and the fascia, therefore, acupuncture needles need to penetrate to the level of the fascia. I was able to get an idea of the different depths where the fascia sits depending on which part of the body we were looking at, but the really remarkable part was just how impenetrable fascia would be to a average gauge acupuncture needle. As acupuncturists, we really get a sense of how the fascia feels under our fingertips when the needle gets to the correct depth, but it really showed me how safe the practice of acupuncture is, as fascia is just far too thick and strong for the average needle to get through, meaning that organs and vital tissues are protected. The body really is an amazing thing!
Another good thing to take away from the session is that I managed to flummox a final year med student, when he asked how we might treat plantar fasciitis, I told him I would put needles in the hand. When he pointed out it was a foot problem I was able to politely tell him that I knew that, but I would still put needles in the hand. It might not sound that funny to you but I was smiling! You see, the body has an amazing network system whereby the fascia interconnects with different areas around the body, this is essentially how acupuncture channels interconnect. So by needling an area which is not where the person is experiencing pain, you can directly affect the painful area. It will be instant, because the body carries signals at an incredible pace. And if the acupuncturist has done their job properly it will be cured, because the body has the unique ability to mend itself.
So all in all, a great day out… I came away from the hospital feeling so lucky that my work allows me to do some pretty cool stuff. I also left feeling hungry, because apparently formaldehyde will do that to a person!
State of the art hormone testing
Some of my patients will know that I have been trialling a new service which has the ability to map the female sex hormones throughout the cycle, and due to its success I am now recommending hormone testing to all of my fertility couples.
The diagnostic tests use saliva taken at certain points throughout the female cycle to check the varying levels of progesterone, oestradial, DHEA, cortisol, testosterone and melatonin which all have an effect on fertility. Most patients struggling with fertility will have the obligatory blood tests ordered by the GP to check for FSH levels at the beginning of the cycle, and the 21 day blood test to check for post-ovulation hormones. However, blood only contains a small amount of hormone compared to saliva and so is often not an altogether accurate reflection of the level of hormone present in the body. Also there can be difficulties with the 21 day blood test as often patients don’t ovulate at day 14, particularly if struggling with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome making the test invalid. The saliva testing maps your hormone levels throughout the cycle and so we can gain a better understanding of the interaction between all the relevant hormones needed for conception.
Once the saliva is collected, it is sent to labs in the UK and America who are able to produce a comprehensive report available to the practitioner who can then prescribe the relevant supplements and treatment plan to best balance the hormones.
I have been trialling this service for the past 3 months and of the patients that have taken part, 75% have already conceived. It is able to give me a much greater insight into my patients’ state of health and where our focus needs to lie and I’m finding it an invaluable diagnostic tool. For this reason I have been urging all my fertility couples to try saliva testing to give us the best possible chance for a positive outcome.
If you would like to give it a go, please just mention it to me at your next consultation and we can talk through whether this option would be right for you.
March is a positive month!
I’ve somewhat neglected by blogging and once I’ve got all the exciting new plans I’ve been working on up and running I’ll get back to posting some more regular updates. But for now, I just had to put a post out there to congratulate my four IVF couples that all had positive test results this month! That’s 6 positive tests in a row if you count February too so I’m really pleased that they’ve all done so well.
The research says that acupuncture increases fertility rates by 67% when coupled with IVF but I think these results certainly tip the scales! But a big well done should be given to all those couples who stuck to all the advice and worked just as hard as I did to get them there.
Well done you guys! You know who you are! :)
It’s been a little while since I wrote my last blog but I had an interesting case this week that I felt may be of interest to you all. Largely because the symptoms presented themselves as minor and without any medical knowledge you might think trivial, but it fast turned into an emergency situation.
A 59 year old female patient came to see me for her routine maintenance check. She mentioned in passing that she had experienced a couple of strange flashes of light in her eyes the previous evening. On further questioning she felt that her floaters (which she already had a history of) seemed a little worse and she thought her vision might be a little blurry.
My training in Western Medicine led me to think that my patient might be experiencing symptoms indicative of a detached retina where the retina itself starts to tear away from the tissue of the eye. It is a serious problem that if left untreated can cause visual impairment and blindness and it is certainly a condition that needs to be treated quickly to avoid any lasting damage.
I referred her as an emergency to her GP who instantly referred her to an eye specialist at her local hospital. The Consultant confirmed my suspicions that she was experiencing a retinal tear and she underwent emergency laser surgery that day and further operations over the course of several weeks to stop her retina from detaching. Despite these gruelling procedures she is now on the road to recovery. Her consultant has given her a good prognosis that there should’t be any lasting damage and I will continue to treat her with acupuncture to make for a speedy recovery.
So all in all a good story, but all credit to the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine for their extensive Western Medical programme. As gruelling the study was at the time it has given us graduates a great platform and supplied us with the knowledge to provide the best possible care for our patients.
Verity Allen - BSc, BA, MBAcC, Lic Ac