Saturday 28 December 2013

So, How Was it for You?

Christmas is rather like sex. Really? How so?

Just think about it. Some people take a while to warm to the idea; others are up for it right from the word go, any day, any time; there are those who relish the slow build up to a stupendous crescendo, but some enjoy a last minute rush and wouldn't have it any other way. But there are always those that are left feeling disappointed after the event - all that promise and expectation, but in reality you're left feeling ruffled and empty, with a mess to clear up. So what can be done?

If it's not working, then something needs to change. 

Change doesn't necessarily have to be anything too drastic - a change of approach and/or attitude is much simpler and can be surprisingly effective - but it does require a concerted effort and a bit of work to resist the temptation to revert to what went before. And this applies to both sex and Christmas!

In the case of Christmas - there seems to be a real Marmite thing going on. People either love it or hate it. For me, Christmas this year was wonderful, magical and joyous, with lots of giving and receiving -  gifts, food and good company. But it hasn't always been like this. I lost my Christmas mojo for a while and I felt I'd become a real Humbugger - I even had the hat to prove it.

But now I've got it back - and some! So what changed for me?

Firstly I recognised  the fact that I didn't like being a Christmas Grumpalump and wanted to feel the magic of Christmas once more. I then identified all the things I thought I hated about Christmas - the commercialism, the feeling of hollow giving, the competitiveness and the enormous feeling of overwhelm at the thought of shopping and food . And finally I changed my approach completely, and strangely enough, my change in attitude just followed on by itself.

And the one simple thing that made all the difference? 

Asking for help - and accepting it gratefully and gracefully when offered, in it's very varied shape and form. 

I still hate Marmite though - can't win 'em all!

Monday 9 December 2013

The Best Christmas Present Ever!

Forget elbowing through crowds, late night shopping and on-line trawling. Here's an idea for the best Christmas present ever! 

You don't have to spend a fortune on it - nor do you have to hunt high and low and then spend hours queuing up at the check out. It's suitable for all ages, sizes and genders and it's not difficult to wrap. Veggies will love it just as much as omnivores - it's 100% organic, locally grown and totally PC. It's even compatible across all platforms.

It's very simple, yet powerful and comes in a very neat package. Guessed what it is yet? 

It's TIME. 

Just four little letters, but you can make it last for as long as you want.

Spending QUALITY TIME with family, friends and loved ones at Christmas speaks volumes - far more than anything money can buy. Time allows us to reconnect, to listen and to show that we care.

But surprising though how such a simple gift can prove for some to be so hard to give. 

Time is something we have precious little of in this day and age, so it is important that we use it wisely and we're selective about who we share it with. What a wonderful gift it is to be able to give 100% of our undivided attention to those closest to our hearts. We can exercise a little self-discipline by switching off  the TV and our mobile phones; if we don't double-book then we won't need to clock watch or plan our exit before we've even sat down. We need to allow ourselves time to give quality time to others.

So how much will you be giving this Christmas? 

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Would You Have Done This Too?

We all do it, even though we know (or should know) better. We tell ourselves, our juniors, our peers and dependents not to do it - and we all take heed. But from time to time, we forget ourselves and before we know it - there we go, we've done it again! 

I'm one of these people. I'm guilty of all of the above - and yet I still managed to do it the other day, knowing full well that I really do know better. 

'Did what?' I hear you ask.

I made a judgement about a person based solely on what I saw. I made my assessment within the requisite 10 seconds, and would have based the whole of the rest of the encounter on this scant information had it not have been for this person making the effort (and knowing what I know now, it really was a supreme effort) to reach out to connect with me. And I'm bitterly disappointed in myself because I feel now that it should have been the other way round - I should have reached out to this person, and not with my 'therapist' hat on, but with my 'empathetic, normal human being' hat on.

What I saw was a person who looked rather disheveled, with multi-coloured hair, tattoos, piercings, weird clothes* and frankly in need of a good wash. None of these things were particularly outlandish, but most noticeable was the spaced-out look and lack of eye contact. It was this that led me to make my first wrong assumption - druggie, I thought. How wrong was I.

I could feel myself looking for excuses to cut short our encounter, but through this person's tenacity, our conversation persisted and it eventually came to light that they had suffered a recent, extremely tragic loss - the worst possible kind - the sudden death of an infant. 

And then it all made sense. That's what shock does to us - we retreat into our shell to hide away from further hurt, so that to the outside world we appear to be functioning, but in fact we are really only existing. The expression 'lights on, but no-one at home' says it all. 

If I had met this person in my treatment room, I would have carried out a treatment to counteract this very obvious reaction to shock without hesitation. And I would have persisted in establishing and maintaining a connection, because support, understanding and a listening ear were what they were crying out for. 

And I was too busy formulating my judgement to hear.

*There you go - another judgement. Weird by whose standards?

Tuesday 26 November 2013

'Tis the Season to be Merry (Nearly)

With the Festive Season almost upon us, this is traditionally the time when we eat, drink and be merry – but some of us do it a little bit too much! 

So here's a shout out to all those people who feel that they have over-indulged on food, alcohol, smoking or recreational drugs, and are in need of a detox.

A one-off treatment may be all that is needed to cleanse the system sufficiently to get you back on your party fee again!

And to all those to whom this doesn't apply (yet) - keep this one tucked behind your ear for Ron.


Thursday 21 November 2013

Have We Lost that Loving Touch?

Touch is arguably the most important of our five senses. An impairment or lack of hearing, sight, smell and taste may be inconvenient in the short term and debilitating to varying degrees in the long term, but generally it is possible to compensate for these losses and adapt behaviour accordingly.

However, the same cannot be said about the sense of touch. For many species in the animal kingdom, and for humans in particular, touch is essential in promoting and maintaining good health and emotional well-being. Scientific studies have shown that touch deprivation contributes to illness at many levels, including failure to thrive, increased stress levels, increased aggression, sleep difficulties, suppressed immune responses and a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease. (Suffering with any of these conditions?

In many Eastern cultures, the sense of touch is embraced across the generations and is traditionally incorporated into daily routines eg Indian head massage, Thai body massage. Sadly, this is far from the norm in Western society. From the moment we are born, our tactile experiences become less and less frequent and are gradually withdrawn from our daily lives.

As babies, we have continual exposure to the comfort and nurture of our mother’s womb that surrounds us as we develop to full term. As infants, we are nursed as we are fed, but even at this early stage new Mums often feel guilty and are even discouraged from picking up their babies too often for fear of ‘spoiling’ them. Many toddlers and young children still enjoy cuddles and a story at bedtime (assuming these are offered), and will snuggle down to sleep with their favourite soft toy. But all too soon, stories and hugs are replaced by technology – many school-aged kids have a TV or computer in their bedroom and it is a DVD that helps them drift off to sleep, and all too soon snuggly toys are considered to be distinctly un-cool. So by the age of 10, many children have few genuinely loving and nurturing tactile experiences in the course of their daily lives.

By adolescence, touch takes on a whole new meaning and may come with sexual connotations and implications, whilst touch in adulthood can be associated with feelings of expectation that may or may not be appropriate, wanted or welcome, along with feelings of guilt which are associated with rejection or impropriety. Perhaps the most isolated and touch-deprived of today’s generations are the elderly. They may have seen children grown up and flown the nest, lost a long-term partner or be confined to a hospital bed or nursing home where the staff are far too busy for any ‘hands on’ caring. By this time, physical contact may be limited to the administration of medical procedures and a brief hug or peck on the cheek from the occasional visitor.

The irony of this is that even our Health Service recognises the importance of touch in the management of long-term illness and certain medical conditions - premature babies are often laid on fleeces to stimulate their sensory receptors and encourage them to thrive; ‘Pat Dogs’ are encouraged onto some wards, particularly in Geriatrics.

Touch is critical for learning, communication, comfort, reassurance and self-esteem. It is a fact of today’s life that fear of sexual abuse is so widespread that any form of touch is frowned upon and forbidden in some cases, particularly in the instance of adults working with youngsters. Children who experience little in the way of loving, nurturing and comforting touch in their developmental years learn to become self-reliant at a very early age, which in turn increases the tendency to become disconnected, numb and isolated.

As humans, it is our natural instinct to reach out and want to touch and be touched – both actions are necessary in order to maintain a healthy balance in our mind and body. However, in the touch-deprived person there exist simultaneously feelings of starvation and fear. There is a deep need and even desperation for physical and emotional contact, but this may be counteracted by the feeling of terror associated with the thought of the harm that may come if they allow themselves to relate to another person in any way. Our means of survival under these circumstances are to mask our needs, put up barriers, to convince ourselves that our needs don’t even exist and to keep people at arm’s length – just as we feel they are doing to us. In so doing, we become completely unreceptive to any lifeline that might be out there, and become incapable of reaching out.

The widespread use of drugs and alcohol also contributes significantly to the lack of receptivity to touch. Stimulants can make us feel cold and jumpy to the sense of touch; tranquilizers and alcohol can dull our senses and depress the system.

Getting back in touch with ourselves, our needs and our bodies is essential - and it is simple to do, but it does require a conscious effort and a strong degree of intention. The physical and emotional benefits to our health and well-being will become noticeable very quickly and will have far reaching, long term effects.

Simplest of all is to re-sensitise ourselves by touching our own body in a non-sexual, nurturing way. This enables us to re-learn how we like to be touched, either lightly, deeply, firmly, vigourously, moving or still.

Touch your partner – again in a non-sexual, nurturing manner. Talk about your experiences, your likes and dislikes, agree your boundaries, ask permission to gain trust and respect. The experience should be one of giving and receiving rather than giving and taking, and should always be without expectation.

Touch a friend – shaking hands, a hand of the shoulder and a big hug show support, speak volumes and can replace a thousand words.

Touch a four-legged friend – this promotes a two-way flow of unconditional love and affection, although dogs would really rather have your food – but at least they’re honest about it!

Allow yourself to be touched, both emotionally and physically. Watch a film or read a book that includes scenes of affection and love, and notice the feelings that resonate within you. Book yourself a professional massage and promise yourself to make more time for ‘Me Time’, because if you don't look after Number One, then who will?

Tuesday 12 November 2013

All I want for Christmas is ....A BABY

Traditionally a time for families, the magic of Christmas is just delightful when shared with little ones. It can also be an extremely stressful time however, particularly for women who are having difficulty with conceiving.
By far the most frequent enquiry I have in my Practice is from women who have been trying to get pregnant. Predominantly (but not exclusively)these are women in their mid to late thirties who have not as yet managed to conceive naturally,  may have suffered one or multiple miscarriages or are at varying stages of IVF. Most have gone through exhaustive tests with their partners, only to be told that there is no apparent explanation other than ‘it’s just not happening’. Distressing enough to find out that there is in fact a problem with either partner, but to be given no reason at all is perhaps the worst news that a couple trying for a baby could ever wish to hear. This is when disappointment, stress, anxiety and guilt are at their peak – and none of these emotions are conducive to conception.
So why is there such a high incidence of fertility issues? Undoubtedly stress is a hugely significant factor, as is lifestyle and diet. We work harder, longer and under greater pressure than ever before, we’re exhausted when we get home and make do with ‘quick fix’ processed meals. And then we go out and play even harder! It’s no wonder our bodies are feeling the strain.
Another factor is age.  A woman is at her most fertile at around 24 years of age, whereas a man can father children in his 70’s or older.  But nowadays it seems that couples are leaving it later and later before thinking about starting a family – and not surprisingly so. More than ever has it been necessary for both partners to be in full-time employment as house prices, student debt and general cost of living demand that this is so. Few 24-year old women these days would be anywhere near ready financially or indeed emotionally to give up work, settle down and raise a family. By the time they do feel ready, stress is often already an ingrained factor of their lives, exacerbated by the knowledge that their biological clock is ticking away fast.

Five Element Acupuncture offers a relaxing, drug –free approach to coping with fertility issues and may be safely undertaken in conjunction with conventional Western Medicine protocols. It aims to help the patient to find a better emotional and physical balance, so that the body is better prepared for conception. It also offers invaluable emotional support at a time when hormone levels may be very volatile eg before, during and after IVF, after miscarriage and failed attempts at conception.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Stoptober didn't work for you? Read on ...

‘No-one likes a quitter’ - we've all heard that saying.  Valid point at times, but in certain instances it’s good to be a quitter.

I’m talking about smoking. During last month's Stoptober campaign, many smokers will have taken the initiative to attempt to stop smoking. But now that we're into November, there will be several who may have lost momentum and who are now struggling.

Smoking is used by many initially as a coping mechanism for stress. Before long, the coping mechanism develops from being a hard habit to break into an addiction - and in turn may become an additional source of stress as well as being detrimental to our physical well-being. Prolonged stress leaves the body out of balance, and quitting will always fail if the source of stress is not resolved and the body remains in a state of imbalance. 

Five Element Acupuncture offers a safe, drug-free and relaxing way to de-stress and regain a better balance physically and emotionally, giving you a better chance of kicking the habit once and for all.

Lee’s Story – Part 7/7: Life’s Lessons

Experiences such as these touch us at the deepest level.  They leave us much changed, and by this change we are opened up to greater understanding of the needs of others. We must learn to put aside our own emotional needs at a time when those around us cannot easily meet those demands. We can allow ourselves to draw upon our own experiences of loss in order to empathise with others, despite the risk of re-opening our own wounds, in the knowledge that we are all the more strong for having been there ourselves. Above all, we must learn to trust our instincts – and to make time to listen without judging.

And a final note to close...

I do not consider myself to be a healer. I have no special powers and would never dream to assume that any of what happened here was down to any specific skill of mine. These were Lee’s choices every step of the way – he chose to fight for those extra five months, and he chose to stop fighting when he knew his work was done and he could do no more.

I have however been fortunate enough to have been drawn to a very ancient, simple yet powerful method of treatment which helped me immensely in my hour of need. It would indeed be selfish of me if I did not pass this knowledge on to others, in the hope that they will glean from it whatever it is they need to make the necessary transformations in their own lives, just as I have been able to do in mine.

I will be eternally grateful to my Tutor and Mentor, Nora Franglen, and for her mantra of 'the simpler, the better', for without her guidance and influence I feel I would not have been able to do my best by Lee.

Monday 4 November 2013

Lee's Story - Part 6/7: Tribute

The five months after Lee’s initial diagnosis until his death were a real roller coaster for him, both physically and emotionally. But I believe those five short months gave him time to put his emotional house in order enough to allow him to leave this world a better place than it was when he arrived. And what more can anyone ask for?

When things took a dramatic turn for the worse I felt so relieved in the knowledge that Lee’s suffering and strife would not be prolonged any further and that he would finally be truly at peace.

I feel very privileged to have been invited into this person's life. His very obvious Guardian Element was very refreshing to me, though not without its challenges to his nearest and dearest.  His thirst for information about his treatments and acupuncture as a whole was a delight - he was extremely open to the whole Chinese medicine ethos and it could be said that he was rather unorthodox in his beliefs and actions, and extremely proud of the fact he was too!

His openness, honesty and need for straight talking could have easily come across as slightly abrasive, but for me it made the whole subject of cancer and death very accessible. At a time when some would feel the need to avoid or skirt around what is a very difficult subject, I felt able to talk candidly to him without fear of overstepping the mark or holding back, in order to say what needed to be said.

My Tutor has often said that we as practitioners can learn so much from our patients. My relationship with Lee has been a very emotional, memorable and powerful lesson - but most of all, a very humbling experience indeed.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Lee’s Story – Part 5/7: Acceptance

I then took a holiday break so wasn't able to see Lee again for a couple of weeks, by which time things had taken a dramatic turn for the worse and he was now back in the Hospice.

Lee was on maximum pain relief and barely conscious by this time, and though he was unable to acknowledge those present around him, I know he would have recognised and taken comfort from the distinctive smell of the oil I used to massage his hands and feet, and he would have been familiar with the warmth and touch of my hands.

At this time, I could feel no pulses whatsoever, so I thought needling to be futile at this stage. His hands and feet were very swollen and bruised due to circulation failure and administration of warfarin to disperse a clot in an artery. It was clear to me that he was very close to the end of his life, and so I felt it enough to reassure those around him and to show them certain stress-relieving acupressure points that they could do for Lee.

I was very saddened to hear that Lee lost his fight for life in the early hours of the next morning. I did learn however, that his mother had indeed made the trip from the US, and they had spent some quality time together and hopefully were able to resolve the issue relating to Lee’s childhood.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Lee's Story - Part 4/7: Forgiveness

I continued to see Lee at home and he was in good spirits, though his breathing was once again becoming laboured. I was finally able to use moxa* again and he really benefited from its warming effect on a particularly nourishing point. Lee’s breathing eased significantly after treatment and I noticed that some warmth had finally returned to his hands.

He was able to talk lucidly and candidly, but was anxious because he had been tetchy with Nicki. He said he didn't want to be like that with her but didn't seem able to stop himself. I explained that his Guardian Element** was extremely out of balance and that anger and resentment were classic tell-tale signs. I also told him that it was typical of this Element to need a throng of people around them, and like a child, they were likely to feel abandoned when people didn't respond to their every beck and call. As it turned out, this was exactly how he had been feeling.

He told me that he had felt abandoned for most of his life, and he harboured a deep-seated anger and resentment towards his mother, relating to a particular incident in his childhood (he never told me exactly what it was). He had never broached the subject with his mother, and as she was now living in the US they hadn't seen each other for 15 years, but had spoken briefly every couple of months.

His mother was coming over to the UK in a couple of weeks time and he agreed that this was likely to be his last chance to talk about the issue and hopefully bring about some degree of resolution, acceptance and forgiveness. He also agreed that whilst it was easy to point fingers of blame, it was also possible to find the ability to understand and hopefully forgive.

There are times when a parent or carer is only able to give their limited best at any particular time, especially if they are struggling with their own emotional turmoil. Sometimes this may not feel nearly enough to satisfy the child’s emotional needs and he may be left wanting more, or wondering why it is that he doesn’t deserve more. Some may equate this feeling to that of being abandoned.

*moxa - a dried herb, mugwort, which is burned and used to warm points before needling

**Guardian Element – our dominant element (one of Fire, Earth, Metal, Water or Wood) which brings a particular emphasis or quality to our lives. The Guardian Element bears the brunt of any trauma and stress we may be experiencing, showing its distress by becoming out of balance and through physical and emotional signs. 

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Lee's Story - Part 3/7; Transition

When I next saw Lee I just couldn’t believe my eyes – what a transformation! He was sitting up in bed and was able to chat lucidly and freely. He said that the last treatment was amazing and he felt as though something had definitely shifted. His visitors later that evening all commented that they could see his old self was back again, something they hadn’t seen for a very long time. Lee told me that he felt very strong, in fact he used the words 'normal again', and he knew absolutely that this was not his time to go. 

I continued to visit Lee twice weekly in the Hospice and he seemed to be going from strength to strength, despite a major setback a couple of weeks previously. At that time, he had been doing very well indeed - he was no longer reliant upon oxygen, his breathing was normal, he had good pain control and had regained his appetite. In acupuncture terms, his pulses had regained their balance and I was treating him very minimally, purely on command points.

However, things went pear-shaped a couple of days later when his bowels appeared to be blocked – in an attempt to regain weight, he had been eating an enormous amount of food (2500 calories per day) but his bowels had stopped working (probably due to the morphine and other drugs) and nothing was getting through. He was once again in tremendous pain, had a stomach drain in situ, was nil by mouth and was scheduled to have ileostomy surgery. The pulse imbalance had returned with a vengeance, he was in very low spirits and did not feel up to any needling, so I treated him with acupressure instead.

A few days later, I received the message that Lee’s bowels had started to work again and that he had a reprieve from surgery - and when could I come to give him another treatment!  At my next visit, once again I was amazed at the difference in him – the pulse imbalance had disappeared again – in fact, the pulses were the most even to date. This time I performed a gentle ‘clearance’ treatment as before and finished by gently needling just four points.

Lee’s transformation was such that he was allowed to go home after a few weeks, although he continued with his chemotherapy as an outpatient. He told me that he felt the work we were doing together was extremely worthwhile and he really looked forward to his treatments. He said he felt very focussed and strong afterwards, and also relaxed and rested, but energised. Above all, he said that I was probably his only visitor who came without making any demands, physically or emotionally - for which he was immensely grateful.

This experience brings home to me how important it is to be aware of our own emotions and to maintain a balance, especially through difficult times, where words can be superfluous - a mere presence can be enough. It was certainly very humbling for me to see such a change occur with just the simplest of means and good intention.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Lee's Story - Part 2/7: Coincidence

It was shortly after my first encounter with Lee that I found myself on the train, returning from an Acupuncture Clincial Skills CPD day in London. I was reading a book written by my Tutor and came upon a very moving chapter describing her last few treatments of a patient with terminal cancer. This was a very poignant moment for me as it was whilst I was reading this that I received a text message from Nicki telling me of Lee’s diagnosis and asking whether I would be willing to treat him in hospital. I of course agreed, thankful for the strength and insight I had gained from reading of my Tutor’s experience.

When I was finally able to see Lee again, he was an in-patient at the Hospice.  I had mentally planned my treatment options, only to be told by the staff that I wasn't to put needles in his chest or back. He was barely able to talk because of the breathlessness, and his wrist pulses were completely out of balance. I contemplated a *re-balancing treatment but thought him to be too weak to tolerate too many needles, so in the end I needled two points in one foot only, which sent him off to sleep for half an hour or so. 

As an ex-asthmatic myself, I know how incredibly tense my back used to get during an attack and so I offered to gently massage his back, which he was very grateful for, and proceeded to massage neck, shoulders, arms, hands and feet for about an hour. He was visibly more relaxed afterwards and his breathing had become much less laboured, and so at this point I took my leave.

It was at this point that I felt forever indebted to my Tutor for instilling in me the courage to do less in order to do more, and to carry out my treatments with utmost humility. Sometimes it’s not about trying to make a patient better, it’s more about offering comfort and understanding, as gently and as calmly as possible.

*Re-balancing treatment – H/W imbalance – the sum total of energy in the right-hand pulses far outweighs that of the left-hand pulses, which show serious depletion. Often a sign of resignation in the patient. Can be caused by conflict or unhappiness in a relationship.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Lee's Story - Part 1/7: Movement

My good friend Nicki approached me on Lee’s behalf as she was at the end of her tether. Her partner, Lee, had been very unwell for several months and had been admitted to A&E on numerous occasions due to bouts of excruciating pain. Upon each admittance, he had been dosed up with morphine before being discharged a few hours later. The medics had been unable to come up with any specific diagnosis as preliminary tests had been inconclusive and blood tests had not shown up signs of any cancer markers.

Nicki asked me if I would be willing to treat Lee with Acupuncture, to which I agreed – they were both open to alternative therapies and were by now becoming increasingly frustrated with the apparent lack of progress via the conventional western medicine route.

When I saw Lee for the first time he was complaining of severe abdominal pain, had lost a huge amount of weight and was by now having difficulty breathing. He was unable to lie down and had been sleeping in an upright position for several weeks.

I decided that what Lee really needed first and foremost was for somebody to listen to what he had to say. He needed to be heard and understood – he also needed to get the treatment ball rolling as quickly as possible and to maintain momentum. It is at times like these that the wait for test results and follow-up appointments seems like an eternity, and the feeling of helplessness and lack of control can breed frustration, resentment and fear.

We therefore scheduled the first two treatments in very quick succession.  I spoke at length with Lee about his medical history and of events in his life, both past and present. I was able to carry out two simple *‘clearance’ procedures and also needled just two points bilaterally, with the intention of strengthening his constitution.

After the treatments, Lee said he felt relaxed and energised and went out for his first walk in months. He cancelled his third treatment as he was admitted into hospital for chest x-rays and investigations (finally), whereupon it emerged that he had a very aggressive form of lung cancer (secondary), with the primary suspected in the large intestine. He started chemotherapy there and then, but expressed a wish to carry on with his acupuncture treatments as soon as he was able.

The aim of Five Element Acupuncture is always to keep the treatments as simple as possible and to use as few needles as possible. Each needle carries a distinct message and it would be very easy to overwhelm a patient by over-zealous needling at this early stage.

*Clearance procedures – ID’s and AE drain - intended to enable the patient to let go of unwanted, negative emotions associated with past traumatic events. Can be a block to treatment and self-healing if left untreated.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

The Big C: Introducing Lee

This Friday sees the launch of Macmillan's World's Biggest Coffee Morning and I for one will be supporting this very worthy cause!

Whilst Acupuncture and conventional medicine sit side by side beautifully in most instances, Cancer is the one medical condition where Western Medicine actively embraces this ancient Chinese therapy, particularly in the latter stages of the illness. 

At this time, the emphasis is more towards emotional healing and support, both for the sufferer and for their loved ones, to help them face the next stage with courage and dignity.

Over the next few blogs I will be recounting my experience earlier this year in treating a patient with terminal cancer. It was a very emotional journey for all concerned - for the patient himself, for his loved ones and for myself, as I'm sure you can imagine. But it was also a real honour and a privilege to be involved in the latter stages of this man's life, and it is with his Partner's very kind permission that I am able to share this experience with others. Cancer is a disease that will touch a good many people's lives, be it sufferers, survivors or carers - and I for one will be forever humbled by my experience. We can all certainly learn from the tales of others.

Above all, by re-telling his story, my patient's legacy will  live on - and his life will not have been in vain, even though sadly it was all too short.

Monday 16 September 2013

This Baby's not for Turning ...or is it?

"Baby's presentation is breech and will need to be turned manually for best chances of a normal delivery."

These are words that few Mums-to-be want to hear (especially first time Mums).

Five Element Acupuncture sits beautifully alongside Western Medicine, but at certain times the ancient art really comes up trumps. The turning of breech or transversely-presented babies is a prime example.

Babies naturally can be very mobile in the womb - it sometimes feel as if they are doing cartwheels! But from around 32 weeks or as space begins to become restricted, Baby should adopt a head down position for majority of time. From 35 weeks onwards, there is relatively little room for manoeuvre and turning Baby manually can be a very worrying and uncomfortable procedure for Mum, and often requires some fairly hefty drugs for relaxation.

Five Element Acupuncture offers a safe, drug-free and painless alternative, which happens to be the preferred approach by some Midwives. It involves the use of  the herb Moxa, which is used to warm a specific acupuncture point on each foot. It is not even necessary to use needles on these points, although further gentle needling would be offered as it would give a beneficial boost to Mum's constitution, can help with relaxation and also to alleviate anxiety or fear.

Mum is then sent away with a Moxa stick so that the treatment can be carried on at home by Mum's birthing partner. If there is sufficient room and no physical restrictions (eg Baby caught up by cord) then Baby will turn - it usually takes a few days.

Moxa treatment (but using different acupuncture points) is also useful for starting off labour if Baby is full term or overdue. Again, this avoids the use of drugs commonly used to induce labour and also encourages Mum's birthing partner to become actively involved at an early stage.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

The End (Of the Summer Holidays) is Nigh .... Hooray?

For many with school-aged little darlings, it's seven days to go - and counting - before the start of the new term. Others need only wait until next Monday or Tuesday before breathing a sigh of relief as the house finally becomes silent again.. Thankfully, it did actually feel as if we had a proper summer this year, but sadly these care-free, heady days must come to an end and the reality of school, work and daily routine kick in once more.
Picture this - first day back at school, a flurry of activity, lunchboxes, new shoes and gym bags - and there's a new stress to the day because we've got out of the habit of getting out of the door on time. School run completed, here's betting there'll be many a Mum or Dad who will be sitting, staring into their coffee cup at home or at work, who will be completely overwhelmed by the wave of sheer exhaustion and relief as it hits them. Will this be you?
Whilst many kids apparently have boundless energy, the same cannot usually be said of Mum and Dad. Much of their energy will have been expended in directing and containing their children's energy over the past six weeks, and so by now Mum and Dad (and often Nanny, Grandad and and childminders too) are close to running on empty.
Children can be very demanding - bored children even more so, and it is down to the care giver to see that their needs are met as best they can. But continually giving from an empty 'pot' can be very damaging, leaving the carer feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, resentful and very out of sorts. And so it is vitally important that we take time out to re-charge, to replenish ourselves and to re-fill our 'pot of giving'.
Five Element Acupuncture is a wonderfully relaxing, safe and drug-free approach to re-charging those physical and emotional batteries. All school holiday survivors deserve to treat themselves - and when the dust finally settles, what better opportunity?

Monday 19 August 2013

What's Troubling Us?

Are we living in a troubled society?

A chance encounter the other week with someone who worked in UCS Admissions threw up an interesting fact.

The big eye opener for me came when I asked which courses were trending at the moment. About five years ago, apparently it was any IT/computer software-related courses which were hugely over-subscribed. According to my source on the inside, courses in psychology and social work are currently the most sought after, at least here in Suffolk.

So what message is this sending us, I asked?

My source thought that many students were signing up to these courses to self-diagnose and to try to sort out the problems in their own lives. But she stressed that this is absolutely NOT what these courses are about although students' expectations seem to be very different - this quickly leads to dissatisfaction and consequently a high drop-out rate.

Worrying times then when the youth of today has seemingly amassed so many of life's problems at a such an early stage - but actually, it is a really good sign that they are taking steps to seek solutions to address their emotional issues. Doing nothing is never a good option - movement and action are steps in the right direction, but it appears perhaps that youngsters are looking for help in the wrong place.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Why Choose Acupuncture?

Acupuncture comes to many people's mind as an alternative means of managing acute or chronic pain, or of trying to alleviate physical symptoms of their medical condition, and often when conventional medicine has failed to meet expectations. However, Five Element Acupuncture is an extremely effective therapy in helping to address a patient’s emotional issues as well as their physical ones.

At certain times in our lives, and often for no apparent reason, we may find ourselves feeling disorientated, overwhelmed or unhappy. We may have difficulty in coping and would really benefit from a little extra help. Five Element Acupuncture therapy offers a safe, drug-free, non-judgemental approach which facilitates and supports the patient’s movement through a period of transition.

Specific episodes in our lives can contribute to this feeling of ‘being out of sorts’, ‘not my old self’ or having ‘lost my way in life’. These episodes may be recent or historical but include such things as:

Relationship breakdown
Physical/emotional/sexual abuse
Traumatic child birth (especially prolonged or very quick labour)
Termination, Miscarriage or failed IVF
Prolonged stress
Exam pressures
Children leaving home
Family/work disharmony
Lack of motivation/achievement
Post-operative stress/recovery
Palliative support

Jo Banthorpe is a Five Element Acupuncturist practising in Ipswich and would be happy to discuss your health concerns in strictest confidence -