The first thing to point out is that, as every single woman is unique, so is every single menopause! This might sound obvious, and yet it highlights what is often a very different mindset between East and West. As an Acupuncturist, I’m trained to treat each patient as a distinct individual, even if her symptoms appear almost identical to many other women. But she is not identical: she will have a different personal history, different genetics, and maybe a different lifestyle to anyone else. It follows that the treatment itself will have to be tailored accordingly. Many women find this approach both useful and refreshing.
This is all very well, but the million-dollar question remains: does Acupuncture actually work for women going through the change? With very few exceptions I’d have to say a resounding ‘yes’! I can say that with some confidence because I have been doing this job for a very long time now, and I’d like to think I’ve helped a great many women tackle their issues with this time of life. From the feedback I’ve received, the majority of results have been overwhelmingly positive. (Although let’s be very clear about this, Acupuncture doesn’t aim to ‘cure’ anyone of the menopause. The change is a natural process and so that’s arguably not something we should be aiming for anyway). Instead, the entire idea is to help alleviate symptoms, boost energy levels and enhance the quality of life. Usually, given a short course of treatment, that is exactly what happens.
If you’re reading this and would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact me: 07764 586866
As from July 19th I shall continue to wear PPE and observe Covid-related protocols just as I have been doing throughout the pandemic. This will not change for the foreseeable future, even if the government announces a relaxation of these measures and declassifies them as a legal requirement. (This is quite likely, I think).
Inevitably the time will eventually come when none of these measures will be necessary, but with infection and even death rates on the rise I would hazard a guess that a genuine ‘freedom day’ might yet be a long way off. Until then – safety first! I have also already begun a programme of regular lateral flow testing, and will of course self-isolate and inform my patients should I ever test positive. So far I seem to have escaped the dreaded bug entirely, which suggests the measures really do work - but there’s still no room for complacency.
I hope this little announcement helps to clarify my position and set people’s minds at ease.
Stay safe, everybody!
I recently posted a link to an excellent article printed by the British Medical Journal, (BMJ). In it, the authors discussed various scientific appraisals of the use of Acupuncture in the treatment of migraine. Not surprisingly (to me at least, as I am after all an Acupuncturist), the findings were very positive indeed. Wow, this stuff really does work, etc etc. Fantastic! I felt the findings were at the very least worth sharing on Facebook.
I am a Traditional Chinese Medicine-style Acupuncturist, so the treatment you might get from me for any particular ailment would be pretty much what you’d get from an Acupuncturist in Beijing or Shanghai. This is a complex branch of world medicine with a rich and diverse history, its roots stretching back three thousand years or more. In that time it has evolved considerably, but is still recognisably the same stand-alone, coherent and successful system. The Chinese themselves, perhaps for nationalistic reasons, are also keen to publish their own scientific findings on their traditional techniques. Sadly, a great deal of this is still published only in Mandarin and is therefore not entirely accessible to mainstream scientists from outside China.
My take on all this is slightly ambivalent. Yes, scientific research is obviously a highly valuable asset for humanity, as is anything that increases our knowledge. At the same time, though, I find myself regretting the overwhelming assumption that we Westerners are particularly guilty of, that nothing is valid, or real, or even worth taking seriously, unless it has been validated in a laboratory. In other words, the underlying attitude that we all grow up with is: it’s not real until a scientist says it is. Scientists themselves do not tend to question this paradigm, and why would they?
I’ll leave you with this thought: In China, traditional approaches to health, including Acupuncture, are seamlessly integrated into the mainstream health services and are used side by side with modern drugs and surgery. So can two billion Chinese really be that wrong, or do we here in the West have the final say on what is, and what is not valid? Go ponder!
As an Acupuncturist, I regard myself as part of the ‘Complementary Medicine’ or even the ‘Traditional Medicine’ community. In all the years I have practiced I have never really seen myself as engaged in something called ‘Alternative’ Medicine. Complementary versus Alternative… what’s in a word? I would just like to take a minute or two to argue that there might actually be a world of difference. Even people within the profession often use the two terms interchangeably, but to me, at the heart of this is a debate about two opposing mindsets. If only for the sake of better clarity, I think this is a debate worth having.
The crux of the matter, I believe, lies in attitudes towards what I’m going to call Western Medicine (yet another label!). In this case I’m using ‘Western Medicine’ to refer to the standard medical profession as practiced in this country by the NHS. It’s what you get when you go to see your GP, or spend time in hospital. We’ve all had some, and arguably many of us might not now be alive if we hadn’t! This is essentially a science and technology-based approach to human health that relies as its mainstays upon drug therapies, for example antibiotics, and surgery. It also of course includes an entire range of modalities such as physiotherapy and psychotherapy.
Western Medicine is a vast, highly sophisticated system, that, love it or hate it, is not going away anytime soon. It will most likely continue to be the dominant system for delivering health across the world for the imaginable future. But inevitably, there are problems with Western Medicine, and I believe that it is the response to these problems that defines the difference between Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
So what are the problems with Western Medicine? Some are very obvious: drugs frequently induce very unwelcome side-effects, sometimes requiring even more drugs to combat those effects. Surgery is also not without its hazards. Then there exists an entire range of concerns about the influence of corporate financial interest (the dreaded Big Pharma) or cynical political interference. Arguably some drugs are not tested adequately, and so on and so forth. There really are good grounds to be concerned about many of these issues, even if they do provide endless fodder for some of the wilder conspiracy theories.
So if, as an Acupuncturist, I side with some of the broader critiques of Western Medicine, why am I still not comfortable with the term ‘Alternative Medicine’? Simple: because in my experience the label arises out of a mindset that is fundamentally antagonistic. This doesn’t always benefit the patient, and it is the patient that matters!
‘Alternative Medicine’ tends to arise out of a desire to oppose the ‘system’, the system in this case being the entire framework of Western Medicine and most especially, Big Pharma. Even though there are genuine concerns (and genuine people) behind these attitudes, I’m always dismayed when some within the Alternative community produce a strident knee-jerk response to the actions of institutions or individuals they basically view as ‘the enemy’. Their argument tends to go like this: Big Pharma rules the planet, aided and abetted by corrupt politicians and self-serving scientists. Doctors are either brainwashed by their medical training (and therefore unconsciously harming people all day, every day) or for selfish reasons are actively promoting products that damage the public wellbeing. Finally, all drugs, especially vaccines, are bad, bad, bad. The antidote to this medical dystopia, apparently, is to deliver ‘Alternative Medicine’ which is totally natural, safe and in every case vastly more effective than Western Medicine. It’s called Alternative because it aims to replace drugs or surgery entirely. Yikes! I’m not exaggerating here; I have actually witnessed a colleague many years ago tell someone with an advanced lung infection not to take their prescribed antibiotics, because that would be ‘dangerous’ for them. The patient went on to develop acute double-pneumonia and nearly died – to me, a triumph of ideology over common sense and basically, bad practice.
‘Complementary Medicine’ on the other hand, is far less ideologically driven and has, I might argue, a more realistic approach to human health. The way I see it, my Acupuncture treatments are designed to work with, and around, whatever Western Medical treatments a patient is undergoing. Yes, drugs can sometimes produce nasty side-effects and it would be truly wonderful if no one ever had to take them, but that’s not going to happen. Some people are only on their feet, or alive at all, because of their drugs. Yes, it is often true that after a course of treatment some patients can be sufficiently well enough to go back to their doctor and negotiate, less, or different drugs, but that is still very much a case of working with the doctor, not instead of them. Very often people come to me specifically to help counter the side-effects of their medication, and this can be very effective. Nobody ever suggests they should stop taking the drugs! Or take the case of someone who has just had a massive heart attack or been run over by a truck. Do they call their Acupuncturist? A Herbalist? A Reflexologist? No! Of course they don’t: they call an ambulance and then come and see a Complementary practitioner for some assistance with their rehabilitation – after they’re out of hospital and in a stable condition. In this way Acupuncture, and many other therapies, can ‘complement’ standard medical care and also be flexible enough to provide that ‘bigger picture’ that sees the whole person and not just their symptoms. I call that teamwork, and if we are really going to deliver the best possible healthcare in this country, then there really is no ‘alternative’ to teamwork.
I’ve been working as an Acupuncturist for almost twenty-five years. One of the buzz-words in pretty much all Complementary Medicine is ‘grounding’, and that is something I have been discussing with clients for a very long time. Now, in the midst of a highly challenging Covid-19 pandemic, the need to manage our anxieties and stay focused seems greater than ever. Over the years I have lost count of the number of people who have come to me saying they want my Acupuncture to help them ‘feel more grounded’. I’d like to think that it really does, but this blog is not about Acupuncture as such.
So, if being ‘grounded’ is such a common ambition, why does it seem so hard to achieve? My observation has always been that a failure to ground oneself is much more a matter of clarity than ability. In other words, you can’t take the necessary steps to ground yourself until you know exactly what you mean by ‘grounding’.
To get a feel for this, I think it’s useful to take a brief look at what being grounded is not! What would be the exact opposite of that happy state? Here’s a provisional checklist just to give a flavour, although no doubt it could be longer:
In my experience, being grounded is NOT:
Feeling nervous or anxious. Feeling distracted. Feeling overwhelmed. Feeling like you’re just not coping. Having your head in the clouds and being a bit of a ‘dreamer’. Swinging between emotional highs and lows. Being inconsistent. Focusing on the relatively trivial at the expense of what really matters to you. Being unable to concentrate. Dividing your time and energy in a haphazard way that limits what you actually achieve. Feeling that you’re just getting through each day, rather than actually living it. Not being able to switch your mind off, especially when you know you should be sleeping. Distracting yourself with, for instance, TV or shopping. Having great plans, but never seeing them through. Procrastinating. Being unrealistic. Feeling you’re going round in circles. Ignoring daily practicalities. Putting your personal wellbeing on almost permanent hold. Not allowing yourself enough time to rest, either mentally or physically… in short, running around like the proverbial headless chicken!
Any of that sound familiar to you? I’ll be the first to put my hand up and admit that I am sometimes guilty of pretty much everything on the list! But that’s ok, because this isn’t about being perfect or ‘getting it right’; at least not at first anyway. This is more about taking appropriate steps to slowly but surely bring your life ever more under your own conscious control. So now we’ve had a look at what being ungrounded might mean, how about its opposite? To me as a therapist, a grounded person usually looks a lot like this:
Well, that’s all very well, you might say, but how would you ever get there? It’s always been my observation that for most of us, ‘grounding’ takes a bit of practice. It’s a life skill, and one that doesn’t always come naturally, especially in the midst of 21st Century information overload. But where to even start?
Fortunately, at least one group of people spent a great deal of time (actually, centuries), trying to answer just that question. They didn’t invent ‘grounding’, but they certainly came to know a great deal about it. These were the ancient Chinese Daoists; philosophers who gave the world such technologies as Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, T’ai Chi (and its cousin, Chi Kung); not to mention highly sophisticated meditation, martial arts and exercise techniques. Engaging with any one of these would be extremely useful in helping you ground yourself. But that’s really not the point: any good Daoist would also have told you that grounding is not really a matter of technique – it’s more a matter of attitude.
By ‘attitude’, I mean that any one of us can adopt a certain mindset that includes the firm intention to stay grounded. We can start this today: right here, right now, and we don’t need to be a special sort of person or know anything about obscure Asian practices. (Those would help tremendously, of course, but they often require a lifelong commitment and are not to everyone’s taste). Fortunately, you don’t need to be a wise old meditation master to get the results you want. What one really needs are qualities like: honesty (with oneself), consistency, a sense of humour, a commitment to wellbeing, a willingness to always ‘see the bigger picture’ and to always keep a sense of perspective. Finally, what is needed is a willingness to accept ourselves as we are, which includes our inevitable daily failures.
Those ancient Chinese Daoists were extraordinarily practical and realistic people. They knew that to constantly get things wrong was simply to be human. They also knew that with the right attitude and a little application, we could all be happier and far more grounded humans. I think that has got to be something worth trying!
This blog is designed to pique your interest. It’s clearly not an attempt to provide a ‘how to do it’ guide. If you have any questions about anything I’ve written here, please feel free to contact me. An email would be just fine!
In my new book ‘Feeling The Way’ I make the bold claim that everybody possesses what is commonly called ‘healing hands’. That means you! What appears in the book is a stripped-back, extremely practical how-to guide, based on insights from over twenty years of my own trial and error in the clinic. I have called what I do ‘Qi Sensitivity Healing’, or QSH for short, and whilst much of it is innovative, it also owes a huge debt to ancient Chinese practices, especially those of the Daoists, those progenitors of Acupuncture, herbal medicine and many other instantly recognizable modalities .
I am a Traditional Acupuncturist and Chinese-style Tui Na Masseur and also teach Qi Gong. In exploring Qi Gong and various other Oriental forms I discovered, quite by accident, that I was a hands-on healer! This changed my practice forever, and I believe, made me considerably more effective as a therapist. It also radically altered my perception of this strange, elusive phenomenon we call ‘qi’. It was the fruits of this particular breakthrough that I sought to share in writing ‘Feeling The Way’.
However, before launching ourselves gung-ho at the nuts and bolts of Qi Sensitivity Healing, it might be useful to pause a moment and ask a fundamental question: what exactly does it mean to ‘heal’ someone? Like so many things related to Daoism, the answer is not so straightforward.
I am going to argue that there is a huge difference between ‘healing’ and ‘curing’. Here in the West we often confuse these two very different concepts.
Firstly, ‘curing’. This is the fundamental aim of Western technological medicine, and when it occurs, it is wonderful. To me, curing means that a malady is diagnosed, treated and made to go away – permanently. In Traditional Chinese Medicine we also like to cure people, but what if that is simply not possible? How do we proceed, and how do we then rate our ‘medical performance’?
To me, this is where ‘healing’ comes into its own, not just as a set of procedures or techniques, but as a mindset that comprehends that much of what happens in human health is not remotely amenable to being ‘cured’ by anybody.
Some examples might be useful here. It must seem obvious to most of us that some complaints, especially the chronic ones, just can’t be made to disappear. The painful deformation caused by severe osteo-arthritis comes to mind here. So far, there are numerous interventions, but no cure, only palliative care.
Or what if it’s not an ‘illness’ at all that we confront? What if a person’s malaise stems from other, non-medical factors that nonetheless degrade the quality of life and shake their world? Take, for example, the 85 year-old woman who has just lost her husband to cancer, and now discovers that she has far less money to live on than she previously imagined. Perhaps her children live far away and can’t help, or perhaps she has nobody at all. There is nothing medically ‘wrong’ with this woman, yet she is in great distress. Can you cure her? No. There is nothing to cure. Can you heal her? Yes you can! Perhaps not permanently – you cannot take away her grief or her poverty – but you can certainly make her life worth living. ‘Palliative’ this may be, but I see no shame in that label! Such a basic human interaction seems to me a valuable (and sadly, rare) asset to our society and is obviously not the province of any particular therapy. Instead it is achieved only by the quality of our attention as we allow our innate compassion to flow.
And that is what I mean by healing.
'Feeling The Way' by Rob Long - Published 21st October 2016
Available direct from Singing Dragon, Amazon and other online retailers.