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By West Norwood Therapies Team, Sep 13 2017 08:00AM

Acupuncturist Philippa Summers looks at periods in the context of wider health and shares the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach to helping support your menstrual cycle, including how acupuncture can help.

Cramps, heavy bleeding, sore breasts, back pain, poor sleep and mood swings - periods can be a time of dread and misery for many women. Do you pop a pill and struggle on? Does it interfere with what you are able to do? Do you collapse on the sofa with a hot water bottle and work your way through a month’s supply of chocolate? You don’t have to just get through it, you can change the nature of your periods. I have many clients who have had dramatic long lasting improvements in their cycles. Read on to find out how acupuncture can help.

Our menstrual cycles often display patterns that reflect our wider health and from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective they provide a very useful insight. Rectifying underlying patterns can help to adjust your period as well as helping with other symptoms that may seem unrelated. Even women whose periods are not disruptive, may gain insights into their wider health by looking at their cycles – for example short, light scanty periods may be a sign that you could benefit from more nourishment and may coincide with other symptoms like tiredness, poor concentration and dull headaches.

It is easy to believe that what we experience each month is normal because it becomes what we are used to, even when it verges on the extreme, especially if it has crept up over time. One client in her forties, had been having severe cramps since she was a teenager. They were so bad that she was on several occasions given morphine to deal with the pain. She had a course of acupuncture spread over 3 months and now comes once every 6 weeks or so. Most of her periods are now completely pain free, for the odd one she has mild pain that is easily managed. Unusual periods can also in themselves lead onto other issues, for example heavy blood loss every month can over time lead to anaemia. So don’t just put up with things.

To understand what is influencing the period we take a close look at just about every aspect of the whole cycle and especially the period – length of cycle, length of bleed, blood flow, consistency of the blood and whether or not there are clots, the size of the clots, any pain, the nature and location of the pain and when in the cycle you feel it, likewise with moods throughout the whole cycle. These details are put together with other aspects of your health – your digestion, sleep, energy levels and any other symptoms, for example headaches. Taking your pulse and looking at your tongue also give vital clues.

These finding are then put together to identify patterns of disharmony that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) relate to Qi, blood and the balance of yin and yang. In biomedical terms these loosely correlate with hormonal levels, adrenal function and a host of other factors that influence our physiology. It can help to pin point issues that may need to be further investigated and diagnosed by your GP. Any bleeding outside your normal period should always be checked promptly with your GP and I would encourage women with any unusual symptoms to consult their GP if they have not already done so. Treatment is focused on you as a whole so it is not just your period symptoms that benefit. A look at lifestyle helps to identify small steps you can take to support treatment – often dietary and exercise adjustments – based on your TCM diagnosis and what you feel is manageable.

Acupuncture is gentle and relaxing – the needles, as fine as a hair, are gently inserted and you just lay back and relax for 20 minutes or so while they work their magic. Well, actually, far from being magic the mechanisms by which acupuncture works are increasingly well understood. Acupuncture stimulates the fascia which triggers a cascade of hormonal and neurological effects that reduce inflammation, affect blood flow and influence the body’s homeostatic self regulating ability to heal itself.

Your period is a wonderful embodiment of your fertility, don’t put up with discomfort or distressing symptoms. Help them feel like a blessing and not a curse.

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Jul 26 2017 08:00AM

Acupuncturist Philippa Summers explores the science behind acupuncture, looking at how it works, the structures involved and how Western science is starting to explain ancient Eastern tradition. Fascinating!

How does it work?

We know for certain that acupuncture works. Descriptions of how it works vary considerably from the Eastern view of channels and qi to the scientific view. They describe exactly the same thing, viewed through a different lens using different language, and this blog is concerned with what is understood from a scientific perspective. Through the results of high quality research we know increasingly more about how it works. For years sceptics claimed its effects were placebo but that has now been firmly shown not to be the case. Here, I’d like to run through some of the mechanisms by which acupuncture has been proven to work and also look at some interesting ideas that may in the future add detail to what we already know.

Nerves, Biomolecules and Fascia

Nerve cells
Nerve cells

Acupuncture works via several mechanisms including via the nerves the run for the periphery to the brain, via a range of biomolecules that finely tune our physiology and metabolism, and also via the fascia, the matrix of tissue that wraps every structure in the body in one interconnected web. What they all have in common is that they provide routes of communication from one part of the body to another. These mechanisms have been proven through high quality research, by some of the world’s leading institutions, with the results published in respected scientific journals. Blocking the mechanisms of action, blocks the effect of acupuncture.

The effects of acupuncture are similarly multi-dimensional. Acupuncture influences our metabolism and is able to regulate digestion, blood pressure, cardiovascular function, the immune system and the nervous system, helping us to feel more relaxed and helping our bodies switch into a more restorative, less stressed mode. It has pain relieving effects that work both at the level of the brain via endorphins and at the location of an injury via adenosine. Acupuncture has actions that support a three stages of tissue healing through its anti-inflammatory effects, its ability to influence blood flow and to stimulate the formation of new blood vessels at the site of injury. The action of acupuncture is undoubtedly mediated through the action of other biomolecules, in addition to endorphins and adenosine, but they are examples of 2 that have been extensively studied, one acting in the brain and the other locally.

The Fascia

The Fascia plays and important organisational role in embryogenesis and connects every part of the body with every other part

It is the role of the fascia that most interests me. The fascia is a matrix that connects every part of the body with every other part via one large interconnected web. You can see it easily on a raw chicken leg, as the thin clear film that covers the fleshy muscles beneath the skin. It is of particular interest to me because it has the most direct connection to the physical act of needling a point. What we understand scientifically also aligns with the teachings of acupuncture that have been handed down from generation to generation throughout China and the far East for 3,000 years. It played a vital organisational role as we developed from a single cell into a baby and continues to play a vital role in separating the body into compartments, which are all interlinked. The channels of acupuncture are the spaces between structures that lie along the routes of fascial planes. The acupuncture points along these routes have heightened electrical properties – enabling them to be detected by machines - although in the clinic we find them by touch.

Acupuncture stretches the collagen fibres and fibroblasts within fascia, producing electricity and releasing chemical messengers

The effects of acupuncture on the fascia have been extensively researched by Helene Langevin, a Professor in Residence at Harvard Medical School. Fascia is composed of strands of collagen and fibroblasts cells. When stretched the collagen fibres produce tiny electric currents and the fibroblasts release chemicals. To get an effect from acupuncture, one vital part of the ancient Eastern teachings is gentle twiddling or flicking the handle of the needles. This stretches the collagen and fibroblasts producing a mild dull achey sensation. Don’t let that put you off having acupuncture, the needles are hair width and the sensation only lasts about a second and is not unpleasant. To increase the dose of acupuncture, the needles are twiddled or flicked at more regular intervals while you lie back and relax with the needles in place, most of the time not particularly aware that they are there.

Traditional acupuncture from the East recognises much broader influences than those so far understood in scientific and medical terms. I believe that with time, more and more of what is passed down in the Traditional Eastern teachings will have scientific explanations. The fascia played a central co-ordinating role in the development of every one of us from a simple fertilised egg to a complex human being with every cell of the correct type, in the correct place, doing the correct thing. The organisational ability of the fascia, helping to direct the process of differentiation is mind boggling and it is likely that vestiges, at least, of that innate intelligence remain. Stimulating different acupuncture points, each of which has its own unique set of actions, possibly taps into the connections that remain within the fascia.

To read more about this I wholeheartedly recommend Daniel Keown’s book, ‘The Spark in the Machine’. He is a medical doctor, also trained in Traditional Acupuncture, who has used acupuncture in the A and E department of NHS hospitals, although I hasten to add this is not typically where acupuncture’s strengths lie. He became interested in acupuncture when he was 12 years old, after hearing stories from his 85 year old grandmother who had travelled around China on her own. In his book he links acupuncture theory, the actions of points and how traditional acupuncturists view the body and its connections, to the role of fascia in assisting and helping to direct the way in which we developed from cell to baby. There is a high degree of correlation. Here is a clip of Daniel Keown explaining ‘What is an acupuncture point?’

Acupuncture and Pain Control

Acupuncture has many ways of helping with pain
Acupuncture has many ways of helping with pain

Acupuncture works with the body, not against it. If you were driving your car and the oil light came on, you would not fix it by removing the bulb. Yet this is how we approach pain when we reach for pain killers, which as we are finding out, even those widely used and readily available over the counter medications like aspirin, ibuprofen and many NSAIDs, are not without their risks and side effects. Sometimes you need a pain killer and acupuncture has many effective ways to help with pain, whether it is from a sports injury, headache, migraine, period pain or cancer related pain. With acupuncture we can help to ease pain by dealing with the root cause but there are also methods that simply block the pain when the root cause cannot be addressed. It is versatile, effective and without the side effects and risks associated with many of the medicines available.

Acupuncture and wider health

Acupuncture can also affect many of our bodies systems, including mental and emotional well being

We know that the effects of acupuncture are very much wider than pain control, influencing our whole body - digestion, immunity, reproduction, cardiovascular health and of course, very importantly, our mental and emotional well-being. Acupuncture is extremely safe with many ‘side benefits’ – better sleep, more energy and generally feeling good. Having taken a look at what is understood about the mechanisms of acupuncture I hope that statements like ‘Acupuncture helps the body to heal itself’ will have a little more meaning and credence. I believe that acupuncture deserves a place besides the best that medicine has to offer, where each performs to its strengths.

By West Norwood Therapies Team, May 4 2016 01:00PM

Our aroma-sports fusion massage therapist Jennie Duck is off on maternity leave so here is her recommendation of who to see in her absence depending on what you usually see her for

My massage treatments work along a sliding scale of 1-5, from a purely relaxing focus to a more vigourous sports and remedial focus. The majority of my treatments fall somewhere in the middle and I know that a lot of my clients enjoy having elements of different styles in their massages.

And now I am off on maternity leave for the remainder of the year I want my clients to feel comfortable seeing someone else for massage. I have a fantastic team of trusted colleagues and to a degree it comes down to who you 'click' with best, so you may want to try more than one to find the right fit - we all understand this and work collaboratively. so don't worry about offending anyone!

Here is a rough guide to help you choose, based on the fusion scale pictured above:

No.1 or No.2 Relaxing massage with soothing to medium pressure and/or aromatherapy - see Veronica or Melinda

No.2 or No.3 If you like a pretty relaxing massage but would like a bit of firmness then Erika is a good option, she does more deep tissue work, and Melinda does too. You could also see Veronica if more on the no.2 side

No.4 If you're more at the firm end of the spectrum then see Erika, Tessa or Jenny. Erika works deeply and will be more focussed on relaxation too, while Tessa and Jenny have a sportier, more clinical approach (but can still throw in some more relaxing work if you ask them :-)

No.5 If you want the full sporty experience then go with Tessa or Jenny (and if you have an injury or need some diagnosis then see our osteopath Yinka - she does a lot of soft tissue work and is a safe pair of hands for assessment and diagnosis)

Pregnancy massage Everyone can treat pregnant women (indeed I've had treatments from them all - lucky ducky that I am ;-) so you can still be guided by the above. Veronica and Melinda have a special interest in pregnancy and use lovely aromatherapy oils as well

Other pregnancy treatments

Acupuncuture with Philippa can help with all aspects from fertility and conception through to natural induction

Osteopathy with Yinka can help if you experience any pelvic pain or back pain (good to get to this early and try to avert longer term issues)

Nutritional therapy with Rebecca can help with a lot of hormonal and digestive aspects

And he's a good friend of the WNT team rather than a member, but Matthew Atwell is a great resource for pre and post-natal pilates

So I hope this helps and you enjoy the treatments you receive in my absence. It's good to see different therapists, and can be helpful to get a fresh take on things. I'll be back in the new year so see you then :-)

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Dec 15 2015 09:00AM

Our natural facial treatment specialist, Veronica Massa, explains the benefits of her facial reflexology treatment.

Also called Facial Reflexology was born in 1988. Its roots date back many centuries, as it is based on a wide variety of traditions and practices.

This therapeutic modality is based on ancient facial maps of the body from Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese traditions and indigenous tribes of South America, combined with the study of modern neurology of the face and central nervous system.

This technique combines both ancient and modern therapies, as well as knowledge of anatomy and physiology, with the potential to balance the individual on all levels, that is, physically and psychologically.

As the face is so close to the brain, it should not surprise the great effect that facial reflexology has on neural activity and the mind.

Facial reflexology helped thousands of people with all sort of complains and has also proven to be very effective in helping children suffering from learning and behaviour difficulties and also in the rehabilitation of patients with brain injuries and neurological problems.

You don’t have to be affected by a medical condition to enjoy the benefits of Facial Reflexology - as it is very calming and grounding, it will help you to cope with stress and keep your health in optimum condition. Everybody from babies to the elders can benefit from this healing and rebalancing treatment.

The treatment involves the use of the practitioner hands and Rosa Mosqueta (or a bespoke Aromatherapy blend) to assess your facial maps and design a reflexology plan especially for you.

If you would like to know more about the benefits of Facial Reflexology Sorensensistem, please view the videos below. Here is shown how Temprana Reflex Therapy (a combination of Face, Foot and Hand Reflexology) can help with disability. This is the amazing work Lone Sorensen in doing in Oman.... full oh hope. PLEASE WATCH!

first video.

second video.

Veronica Massa offers this facial reflexology treatment and a variety of other natural face and body therapies at West Norwood Therapies on Wednesdays and Sundays.

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