Friday, 21 May 2010

Facial acupuncture vs a bike?

A year ago I took a course in "facial revitalisation". I took it because, as a woman who has hit the 4-0 mark, I really wanted to know "does it work?". When I left the course, all the students were abuzz with excitement with their new found skill that was going to get them new, and happy patients... except me. It's not that it doesn't work. It does. However, deep inside I feel its being a little deceptive. It's like giving someone a bike to stop wrinkles. If a person is in poor health, stressed, angry, holding tension in their shoulders and have a furrowed brow, one of the best thing they can do is to move their Qi a bit. A great way to move your Qi is through a bit of exercise... a bike will do. Once that person starts moving their Qi, getting a few endorphins, a bit of serotonin, they feel a lot better. Moving their Qi is synonymous with stress release. So, they stop furrowing their brow and pinching their shoulders up. You'd be surprised at how much tensing the shoulders radiates up to the face. When you relax facial muscles the wrinkes appear less. Relaxing facial muscles is exactly what botox does. Well...not exactly-- botox paralyses the muscles and then heads to the brain (or at least it did in one 2009 study on rats). Essentially, riding a bike could result in reduced wrinkles. Needles could have relaxed the facial muscles as well, so it does work. However, as a practitioner, I feel that acupuncture is a tool, not a prop. Patients should be given the awareness and knowledge of how to improve their own health. Sometimes they can't and needles can be an excellent tool to start them on their way. For example, sometimes people can't relax their shoulders because they are so used to them being tense they don't even know what relaxed feels like. A few sessions can give such strong relief from that tension that they suddenly are aware of when they are pinching their shoulders to their ears. With that awareness, they can then relax them on their own.

But wrinkles aren't always about tension. They can be caused by being depleted. I had a patient come in several months ago who was overworked, exhausted from poor sleep, and feeling run down. She came in because she felt her immune system was weak and she was constantly on the verge of getting a cold and she couldn't afford the break in her schedule. Physically, this showed on her face with bags under her eyes, furrowed brow and skin sagging. She looked beyond her 40 years. I gave her four weeks worth of treatment aimed at moving and tonifying her Qi. I also talked with her about ways to manage her time which was causing her stress. She responded well to treatment and each week she reported feeling stronger. And each week, she looked younger and more vibrant. Her brow wasn't furrowed, her eyes weren't puffy and she looked "lifted". I didn't put one needle into her face. I wasn't giving her a beauty treatment, I was giving her a health treatment. When you are healthy, you look vibrant and younger.

Facial acupuncture is expensive. If you want to spend £600 on your looks, that money might be better spent to extend your holiday or upgrade your hotel room. We all know how much younger we look after a great holiday!

Monday, 17 May 2010

No Spring Allergies

Spring has sprung and all the blossoms are out. This is the first year in 4 years my son has not been on Chinese herbs for his seasonal allergies. Four years ago, my son's allergies caused his eyes such intense irritation, he rubbed them while crying hysterically until he exhausted himself into sleep. When he awoke, his eyes were blackened, one was swollen shut. Yet they still itched and he resumed crying and scratching. When he wasn't scratching and rubbing his eyes, he was scratching his skin until it bled. He had never had horrible eczema, but during tree pollen season, it worsened. I held him and rocked him while holding his hands away from his battered face. I tried not to let him see my own distress, holding back my tears and my desire to scream.

The following day we saw an Avicenna practitioner who gave my son a week worth of sachets of Chinese herbs to be taken three times a day. Although they smelled horrible, there was only a tiny amount he needed to take and after a bit of trial and error on how to convince him to take them, he willingly took the herbs. My son's symptom improved immediately. When his eyes did itch, a cool cloth was all that was needed to relief them.

After a week, and more herbs for the month, we were able to drive in the country with the windows down-- something we never dared do before as it would definitely cause his eyes to itch. After three weeks, my son actually started to like his herbs and made certain that he took them even when I forgot. He loved the idea that these herbs were made specially for him and that they made him better. He loved his follow-up consultations at the clinic and felt welcome and a part of something unique. At the advice of the practitioner, we reduced his intake of sugar and dairy foods. Later, I also reduced the amount of wheat. This proved a bit difficult during his birthday where I made him a wheat free and sugar free cake. Quite a challenge, but it still came out delicious. Yet it broke my heart when he said, "When I'm healthy again, can I eat sweets?". It took lots of long conversations to explain that he is healthy, he just is sensitive to tree pollen. At the end of August, he was weaned off the herbs and no longer needed them. We were told to start again before allergy season in the Spring. For the next two years, he went on herbs in the summer but his symptoms were less and less. Last year, he was only on herbs for a month.

This year, my son celebrated his 8th birthday at the beginning of May this year. It was the first time he had a "normal" cake. Although he still eats very healthy foods with little dairy, sugar or wheat, we don't feel bound by it and he can have treats at times without risking an increase in symptoms. This is also the first year we have seent he blossoms and not had any allergy symptoms.

It's quite ironic that his allergies are resolved as I am about to complete my first year of my MSc in Chinese herbal medicine. Yet there is nothing as inpsiring as first hand experience.