Acupuncture Southend Steve Coster

Music to sooth the savage beast….or Liver Yang Rising.

What music gets you moving?  Is it the theme from Rocky?  Or Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries?  Music is really important to me and just about everyone else on the planet.  We seem to play music at every opportunity. When we are sad we play it.  When we are happy we play it.  Music is powerful.  It can get you up and moving, send you to sleep, or it can be absolute torture to listen to.  This week’s blog, then, is all about Music.

Why is music so important to us?

It wasn’t that long ago really that philosophers spoke of the music of the spheres – the concept that the movement of the sun, moon and planets produce a harmony.  Quite literally the sound of Heaven.  Unfortunately, they explain, we can’t hear it because the sound has always been in our ears – we’ve just got used to it.  I think it’s quite sad to think that the sound of Heaven is just white noise now.

Southend Acupuncture

The Chinese have known for a long time the power of music.  In the classic text the Neijing, the masters of Chinese medicine talk of different sounds and types of music associated with each of the five elements.

Wood – Shout – Lute

Fire – Laughter –  Pipe Organ

Earth – Singing – Gong/drum

Metal – Weeping –  Resonant

Water –  Moaning – Stringed

A diagnosis can therefore be made not only by what a person says, but also by their tone of voice.  For example, someone who is angry and shouts a lot could be soothed by the tone of the lute.  Likewise, sound can also be used as part of the healing process, like Gong baths or chanting. 

What is music? 

Well, basically it’s just noise.  It can be a sequence of noises, or it can be just one noise.  The noise might be pleasing to hear, or it may not.  I suppose it depends on what is trying to be communicated.  Primitive man would have started beating a log to communicate or simply entertain his friends.   But even that has the potential to be very sophisticated, just ask a drummer.  You may not like the sequence of noises I might like, but you can’t deny it’s music. When I was younger I remember playing dance music to an elderly relative and he just covered his ears up and said it hurt his ears!  You can’t please everyone I suppose, but you get my point…one man’s meat is another’s poison.

Southend Acupuncture Steve Coster

I always ask my clients if they would like music on while they relax with the needles in, and most people say yes.  But some prefer silence, usually people who are in the service industries such as hairdressers and shop workers, people who have to listen to music all day and now just want a bit of peace and quiet.

Over the years I’ve experimented with playing different genres of music in the treatment room: industrial, rock, folk, indie, world, classical, sounds of nature.  But like most things in life, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.  Some people even bring their own music in.  Perhaps they are getting their own back, making me listen too.  However, a client once gave me a compilation of music that is totally neutral with no singing.  It goes down very well.  The only down side is I think I must of listened to it 10,000 times.  

The power of Musick

When I was researching for this blog, it seems the phrase ‘music to sooth the savage beast’ is in fact a misinterpretation of a poem by William Congreve (1697) in which he actually writes 

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.

Which seems quite apt in terms of the five elements.  Music is indeed extremely powerful, so powerful in fact that it can not only affect one’s heart, it can even break rock.  How enjoyable it would be to listen to music that can wear down rock and bend wood I’m not sure, but I’m certain there is a middle aged man somewhere who has it on vinyl.

But music that can wear things down?  This got me thinking (and googling).  Although sound per se can’t necessarily break things, we know vibrations can.  There are plenty of examples of singers shattering glass with their voice.  There is even a film with Alan Bates called The Shout where his shout alone is able to kill.  If you want to see someone shattering a glass with their voice, here is a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amuPoPkAlx8

Music as torture

There are plenty of examples in history of music being used as torture.  The U.S. Army famously played rock music non-stop to force the Panamanian dictator Manual Noriega into submission.  Similarly, in an attempt to flush out David Koresh and his followers at Waco, Texas, the FBI played rock music (with the added delightful sound of knives being sharpened and rabbits being slaughtered).  At Gutanamo Bay the inmates were tortured by continuously playing the theme tune from the childrens’ tv show Barney.  And during the Iraq war the building where interrogations took place became know amongst the inmates as ‘the disco’!  This is an interesting article if you want to read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jun/19/usa.guantanamo

Steve Coster Southend Acupuncture

The use of music as an interrogation method has in fact been banned by the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights.  But since when has that stopped anyone.  I had a massage once where the classical music was so loud the windows were rattling. Looking back I think the masseur must have been a bit deaf.

The Chinese Medicine bit

In Chinese Medicine anything that subdues Qi or moves it, is important.  Exercise moves Qi, as does certain foods and even other people’s moods.  Ever entered a room and straight away you feel a negative energy?

Qi needs to flow smoothly.  If it is suppressed by poor diet, poor mood, or even medication, the result will eventually be ill health.  And in the fast paced world we live in, we are constantly looking for ways to move our Qi, or indeed suppress it.   This might be through meditation and gentle breathing exercises, or by more extreme methods such as tranquillisers or recreational drugs such as marijuana.

But there is always a yang to the yin side of the coin.  Studies have also shown that listeners of extreme music such as thrash and heavy metal can positively influence the listener, inspiring calmness rather than anger. 

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jun/22/listening-heavy-metal-punk-extreme-music-makes-you-calmer-not-angrier-study

Music as medicine

The healing effects of music, however, is not really understood and experiment results are often contradictory.  For instance, one study shows that plants respond better to calming music.  The plants exposed to Hayden, Beethoven, Brahms, and Schubert grew towards and entwined themselves around the speakers. But another plant group grew away from a speaker that played rock music.  But in other studies involving music played to plants, jazz music had a beneficial effect, but country music had no effect.  

Southend Steve Coster Acupuncture

Plants can’t actually hear of course, they are affected by the vibrations created by the sound waves.  So maybe it’s not the genre of music that is important, but the type of plant and the frequency of sound they prefer.  Perhaps cacti prefer desert blues but abhor the sound of violins. I guess more studies need to be done https://dengarden.com/gardening/the-effect-of-music-on-plant-growth

Humans, on the other hand, can communicate how they are actually feeling so results are a bit more reliable.  Apart from being a powerful motivational tool and making exercise more enjoyable, music has also been shown to improve the recovery of stroke patients.  There is also evidence that music can help with chronic and acute pain, end-of-life care, and depression.  And much more it seems  https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/why-we-need-music-player-every-patient-room/2019-03

Enjoy the silence

Silence is very important of course, but is it ever possible to be in total silence?  If you have ever tried to meditate you will appreciate how difficult it is to escape noise.  Even if you were in some sort of isolation tank you would probably still be able to hear the beat of your heart.  Music is literally within us.  So rather than trying to escape sound, maybe it is better to embrace it.  Go for a walk and revel in the sounds of nature.  Listen to your breath.  Hear the waves lapping, the birds singing, the traffic humming.  Bathe in the experience of it all.  Feel joy that you are able to hear it. 

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.

Steve Coster Earth Acupuncture Chewing

Connecting with the earth & the art of chewing

Over the Easter weekend I was getting my hands dirty digging the veg patch and planting seeds.  The weather has been so clement that my courgettes are shooting up already!  In this week’s blog I explore our relationship with the earth and food we grow in it.  Acupuncture isn’t just about needles, a few simple lifestyle changes (such as how we eat) can make a big difference.

Connecting with the Earth

Steve Coster planting acupunctureSteve Coster Digging Acupuncture

It’s really important that we connect with nature; in fact it’s vital to our health.  Spending time in nature is becoming a big thing in health care all around the world. In Japan they call it shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing.  Nature therapy, as it is called elsewhere, helps to free us from the distractions from the modern world.  Not a particularly new idea I guess, but whatever way the holistic health ideal gets out there is great.  In other parts of the world it is called garden therapy, horticultural therapy, Kneipp therapy or even ocean therapy.  Whatever you call it, connecting with nature has to be good for us.

Steve Coster pain relief acupuncture

My courgettes!

Becoming grounded

The concept of Earth and grounding is fundamental to Chinese Medicine.  It is central to everything.  It is a pivotal time of year between the Yang and Yin when the summer is waning, around September, when fruits are at their ripest and sweetest.  Earth is also important in Qi Gong as Man is the connection between Heaven and Earth.  We need to be grounded, not only metaphorically but literally.  Gravity helps of course, but we all know people who have their heads in the clouds and are ungrounded, flitting from one thing to the next.  It’s important to have the creativity and freedom that comes with an attachment with the heavens, but it’s equally important to have our feet firmly planted on the ground.

In Wing Chun emphasis is put on the development of the horse stance, a stance used to ground oneself to generate power and stability.  It’s about being as solid and immoveable as a mountain, but not totally rigid and inanimate.  Mountains move, the whole Earth does in fact, we are just unaware of it!  By becoming connected to the Earth one is not only able to absorb power from it, but also transfer force into it, just like the roots of a tree.

The importance of proper digestion

We can also ground ourselves with food, by touching it, smelling it and tasting it.  Take a moment to really connect with what is in your mouth when you are eating.  Chew your food really well.  I am really adverse to food being liquidized before eating it, as I believe chewing is important to the digestive process.   Digestion starts in the mouth.  The action of chewing stimulates the release of saliva which contains digestive enzymes that break down starches into simple sugars.  Saliva also contains some fat digesting enzymes that begin the process of breaking down fats in our food.  Not only chewing, but smell and taste receptors also trigger the production of stomach acid and pancreatic juices 

In Chinese Medicine the whole digestive system is compared to a machine that mulches and heats the food to obtain the essences which are then converted into Qi and Blood.  By chewing we are breaking down the food into more manageable pieces but also heating it up.  If this doesn’t occur then vital energy is wasted in doing the heating which can result in Spleen deficiency and its related problems.  Without adequate chewing you will feel heavy and dull, develop gas, and be undernourished.  

The art of chewing 

Chewing ones food is again nothing new, but it became a big thing in the 19th century when nutritionist Horace Fletcher (1849-1919) developed into a real art.  He believed that you can eat whatever you like, but you must only eat when you are hungry and every mouthful should be chewed until it had lost its flavour.  Fletcher himself used to ‘Fletcherize’ each mouthful of food up to 100 times!  He famously said “Nature will castigate those who do not masticate”! 

His message to humanity – to have an excellent overall health – was to have a holistic approach involving three steps:

  1. Eat only when you have a good appetite
  2. Chew the food like pulp and drink that pulp. Do not swallow food.
  3. Drink all the liquids and liquid food sip by sip. Do not drink in gulps.

It sounds horrible! 

Eating the Chinese way

In Chinese Medicine the way we eat is important too, but unlike Fletcherism there has to an element of joy to it.  Who wants to be like a cow chewing the cud all day? However, there are still plenty of do’s and don’ts when eating.  These are just a few:

  • If you want something badly enough it’s probably more healthy just to eat it.  The mental anguish in suppressing the desire will probably do you more harm.
  • Eat in a nice environment.  
  • Avoid arguing or emotionally charged conversations.  
  • Don’t be too hot or too cold.  
  • Turn the tv off. 
  • Don’t read.  
  • Don’t eat before a bath (or in the bath!). 
  • Take time to self-reflect – eating is a time to nurture not only the body but the mind also.
  • Relax after food, but don’t rush off to bed.
  • Give thanks before and after eating.
  • Try to eat locally, organically, and seasonally.

So I hope this week’s blog has given you food for thought.  Remember, we are of the materials of the Earth so it’s important to respect what it offers. Be compassionate towards animals and plants and only consume what is needed.  We should feel the same aversion to polluting our bodies as we do the environment.

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.

Steve Coster Warrior Acupuncture

Be a Warrior, not a worrier.

Who isn’t worried?  It affects everyone, because that’s the kind of world we live in now.  But why do some people worry more than others?  In Chinese Medicine worry can be caused by an underlying weakness of the Spleen, Heart or Lungs, or a combination of all three.  Worrying can therefore be a symptom of an internal imbalance.  Over time it can create an imbalance which leads to, you’ve guessed it, more worrying.  And on and on it goes.

Some people are more susceptible to worry

According to Chinese Medicine a person with a more earthy constitution will be more prone to this sort of problem than others.  This might include people who choose (or are forced) to be overly involved in other people’s stories and therefore not listening to their own heart’s voice.  I see this a lot in my clinic: people who have all the time the world to care for others, but no time for themselves.  

Steve Coster Earth Element Acupuncture

Exhaustion, eating disorders, food abuse, excess sugar and long-term strain are also factors.  Food abuse includes over-focusing on what we eat, dieting and fasting, which can be ways to distract ourselves. 

Worry knots Qi, which stops it from moving.  

The Lungs are affected because worry causes shallow breathing, and the Spleen because it is responsible for thinking and ideas.  So, when a bit of Qi stagnation is added to the mix, these ideas and thoughts, instead of free flowing and healthy, become obsessive and destructive.   Eventually the Heart will also be affected by the stagnation of Qi. 

Worry is a self-perpetuating, vicious cycle.  

The more energy we spend on useless worrying, the less energy we have to take the steps to create the life we really want to live.  Stagnated Qi eventually transforms into denser Qi which manifests as physical symptoms: chronic muscle spasms, digestive problems, abdominal pain and bloating, and fatigue.  Over time it will also affect the Heart and Lungs causing stress related symptoms – insomnia, palpitations, breathing difficulties and chest tightness.

Worry also includes the seldom used word pensiveness, which consists of brooding, constantly thinking about certain events or people, nostalgic hankering after the past and generally thinking intensely about life rather than living it.   This could also include excessive mental work or study, so students are particularly prone to a Spleen imbalance.  So don’t be too hard on yourself if you crave a KitKat while doing your tax return.

How can this cycle be broken?

It is said that action must follow thought as constant brooding and worry will stagnate the Qi. The positive aspect to over-thinking is quiet contemplation, so  meditation is one way to break this cycle.  This might be with meditative movement such as qi gong or yoga, or just going jogging or dancing.  Any movement in fact will help quiet the mind and allow the qi to flow more efficiently.  

Qi Gong and Tai Chi to direct the flow of Qi

Acupuncture can also be used to break the worry cycle by nourishing the organs involved, the Spleen, Lungs and Heart.  Once these organs are operating more efficiently, the Qi is able to move more freely.

Here are are a few more tips:

Avoid clutter so their is room to think.

Take care of yourself: Take time to rest, to walk, to just be quiet.

Do what you say you are going to do: so be careful not to over commit.

Learn to say ‘NO’ without giving any explanation.

 

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.

Mother Steve Coster acupuncture southend

Big up to all the Mums!

As it was Mother’s Day last weekend, this week’s blog is all about the concept of Mother in Chinese Medicine. We are hugely connected to our mothers and profoundly influenced by them, whether we like it or not! Even if you don’t, or didn’t, get along, we will certainly still feel a connection to them. So let me this week take a look at the idea of Mother from a Chinese Medicine perspective.

Mother as connector to the world

It is impossible to come into this world without a mother (at the moment anyway). Even if a baby is conceived via In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), there has to still be an egg and it still has to develop in a womb. If by some miracle of science a child could develop outside of the womb, there would still be no escaping a mother/child connection.

It is our mother who helps us to connect to the world and we gradually learn to have our own identity. In the best situation our mother feeds, supports and loves us unconditionally. She comforts us by holding and caressing us. By taking in nourishment from our mother we gain stability.

Inheriting the best of our parents

In Chinese Medicine it is said we inherit from both our parents what is called pre-heaven essence (so not only their annoying habits). This literally means that we have the essence of our parents within us. The Chinese therefore put huge importance on the health of parents, particularly at the time of conception. For instance, if the parents are unhealthy or quite old when a child is conceived, and therefore pass on weak Qi, the future health of that child could be affected. And not only their childhood, but quite possibly into adulthood. This applies equally to the influence of drink or drugs (recreational or medicinal).

Parents Steve Coster southend acupuncture

The unborn child’s future health can also be influenced while it is in the womb. These days, of course, it is common knowledge that drink and drugs or an unhealthy lifestyle affect the fetus in general. But in Chinese Medicine it is also believed that the mother’s emotional state has a big impact on the fetus, such as a shock.

Losing the ability to Mother oneself

In my day-to-day clinic I see a lot of conditions and illnesses that haven’t appeared over night, but rather have developed over years and years. Those little bowel niggles that you ignored for decades gradually become colitis. Or that stiff shoulder that once went on it’s own gradually becomes a frozen shoulder. That tension headache that painkillers can no longer touch.

But what I see mostly in many of my clients is the inability to connect with their ‘inner mother’. That is, they have all the time in the world to look after others, but never enough to look after themselves. The root to not being able to mother oneself is complicated of course. It is a minefield of guilt, shame and emotional pain. As you know from my blogs, any prolonged emotion will eventually have a negative effect on the physical. People who do not or will not allow themselves to be mothered, either by themselves or by others, generally present with common symptoms (in my clinic anyway): weight gain, digestive and bowel problems, exhaustion and depression.   We mother ourselves with TV, food, sugar, alcohol, drugs, consumerism, anything in fact that releases dopamine, the pleasure chemical that the brain releases reward certain behaviour.

self medication acupuncture southend Steve Coster

It is our mothers who provide us with support and security when we are young.

Over time we learn to care for others, and ourselves so it seems obvious that separating a child from its mother will have a negative effect. Short periods of stress are usually harmless, such as divorce, but studies have shown that “toxic stress” (caused by long periods of separation and trauma) can cause developmental problems of a child’s brain and behavioural issues. This can lead to a possible disruption of a child’s ability to regulate their emotions and cope with future stress.

The Mother/Child Generating Cycle

This same cycle can be seen in the Sheng Cycle (or the Generating Cycle) in Chinese Medicine, particularly the five elements system. We call this the mother/child relationship. In this cycle the child is dependent on the mother, but also vice versa, the mother is dependent on the child. So, if the ‘child’ element is deficient, then it may be because it is not receiving enough qi from its ‘mother’.   And on the other hand, if a ‘child’ element becomes too full it can adversely affect the ‘mother’ element.

This how it works.

Water generates Wood – Wood generate Fire – Fire generates Earth – Earth generates Metal -Metal generates Water

Water allows the trees to grow (Wood); the trees can then be burned producing Fire; the wood becomes ash which becomes Earth; the Earth hardens and we mine minerals and Metal; and over time the minerals become mountains from which flows the Water, and so on….

As an example, let us say that a person is being neglected by their inner-mother. They are avoiding exercise, eating the wrong foods and as a consequence putting on weight and generally feeling miserable. All symptoms typically related to the Earth element. It could be said that the Earth element (the child) is not being nourished by the Fire element (the mother), so as an Acupuncturist it would make sense for me to treat the mother element, the Fire. Using the analogy in the box above, creating more ash from the fire will reinforce the earth.

What can you do to nourish your own inner-mother?

You should treat yourself just as you would want your mother to treat you. Be kind to yourself. Eat well and get plenty of rest. Treat yourself to something nice on a daily basis, but free of guilt. Exercise for fun, not because it is expected of you. Remember that the philosophy of Chinese Medicine is one of balance, moderation and free flow of energy. Be like a young healthy tree – feel the wind between your branches, bending and swaying in the wind without breaking.

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture and hayfever.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments  

Steve

Steve Coster Acupuncture for hay fever

Love Summer, not Hayfever!

The hayfever season is fast approaching.  I have a special interest in hayfever;  I’ve always suffered with it: as a child,  through my teens, even as an adult.   And I even wrote my dissertation it.  But I don’t love it, I hate it!

So if you would like to give Acupuncture a try, now is the time, or as soon as possible before the sneezing season starts.  Clinical experience has shown that for best results treatment should start before your symptoms start.  It’s better to build your defences up early, before the true onslaught begins

Steve Coster Acupuncture for hay fever

What is hayfever?

Hayfever is basically an autoimmune disease.  It is an immunoglobulin E – mediated disease; that is, allergen-specific IgE is synthesized in response to allergens in the environment, become fixed on the membranes of mast cells and basophils.  This causes a classic inflammatory response: sneezing, nasal itching, nasal blockage and watery secretions.  Other symptoms can include general tiredness, fever, sore eyes, cough, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Some interesting facts about sneezing!  (Bless you)

You can’t sneeze when you are sleeping.
Looking at the sun can make you sneeze (it’s called the photic sneeze reflex).
Your eyes close automatically when you sneeze.
The spray from a sneeze can travel 5 feet or more.
Donna Griffiths of Worcestershire, England, sneezed continuously for 978 days!

Why don’t we all get hayfever?

In Chinese Medicine we believe that hayfever symptoms are due to a weak constitution caused by the weather/environment, diet, overwork and stress, which can lead to a ‘Wind Invasion’.  This is exactly the same process as catching a cold.

It has also been suggested that we are constitutionally weakened as babies, due to overfeeding or being fed hard to digest foods.  This can lead to a lifetime of allergies.  On the other hand, some children will grow out of their allergies as they mature and become constitutionally stronger.  My hayfever isn’t as strong as it was when I was in school, but it can still be pretty miserable in the summer.

Acupuncture can help relieve hayfever symptoms

Current Western treatment includes antihistamines and corticosteroids (both of which help with symptoms of local inflammation) but both have side-effects, from drowsiness to anaphylactic shock.

However, recent studies suggest that acupuncture treatment is able to modulate immunosuppressed or immune-activated conditions through various immune functions, including the activities of macrophages, neutrophils, NK cells and lymphocytes, immunoglobulin production, and complement systems.

That is, acupuncture has been shown it is able to lower Immunoglobulin-E levels and thus reduce inflammation; exactly what antihistamines do what without the side-effects!

Does Acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture does not hurt. Some people feel the needles as they go in, and some people feel nothing.  Acupuncture needles are solid needles, not hollow like hypodermic needles, and they are much, much thinner – about the diameter of a thick human hair.

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture and hayfever.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments  

Steve

Liver as Warrior Steve Coster Acupuncture

Spring is here: Awaken your inner Warrior!

I think now the Spring Equinox has passed we can safely say Spring is here.  Get your shorts ready but don’t put them on yet.  And remember to protect yourself against the Wind, it’s still pretty chilly out there!

The Liver’s Role:  East & West

So this week I want to talk a little more about the Liver, its role in fighting infection and autoimmune disease.

The Liver has one main similarity in both Chinese and Western medicine, it stores blood.  However, in Chinese Medicine (CM) it is also responsible for ensuring the smooth flowing of Qi, which influences every other part of the body as well as our emotions (see my anger blog). In CM storing of the blood has three functions:

  1. It regulates blood volume 
  2. It regulates menstruation 
  3. It moistens the eyes and sinews

In Western Medicine (WM) the liver‘s job of storing the blood is more accurately filtering the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. In this way the liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. As it does so, the liver secretes bile that ends up back in the intestines.  It also controls and makes the proteins, fats, cholesterol and clotting agents.

So whichever way you look at it, the Liver is pretty important.

The Warrior within us all

There is another similarity between the East and West concepts of the Liver that I would like to focus on, and that is it’s role in the body’s ability to fight infection.  

In Chinese Medicine the Liver is said to be the General, the minister responsible for defending the nation’s borders.  To help explain this, let me first tell you a little about how the ancient Chinese viewed the body.  The Chinese saw the body as a reflection of the world around them and our organs represented the ministers required to manage an empire.   The channels and bodily processes are the empire in action – agriculture and grain storage, irrigation and waste management, and an army.   In this system the Heart represents the role of Emperor, the sovereign of all organs.  It is responsible for intelligence, wisdom, and spiritual transformation. The Liver, however, is the General, smart and courageous, and responsible for defending the borders of the Empire and making plans to do so.  In other words, fighting infection.

Protecting the boundaries

In Western Medicine the liver is the primary organ for breaking histamine down, that’s why  antihistamines are used to help treat the symptoms of liver failure.  In this way it is the Liver that is responsible for mobilising the troops against foreign invaders, such as bugs and parasites.  And if you have ever had hay fever, you know that histamines can make you feel very irritable.

This role of the Liver fighting off infectious agents that attack the body suggests the image of a warrior, whose job it is to defend the boundaries of the empire.  Without an adequate plan, the immune system would be ineffective, unable to resist potential invaders.  This is quite commonly the explanation when a person suffers from recurrent infections.  

Autoimmune disease

On the other hand, when the primary symptom is allergies (or hay fever as mentioned above), the immune system is essentially attacking the wrong enemy, generating antibodies against pollens, which are harmless.  Then it is as if the Liver is an overly zealous military leader, going to war too vigorously with no leniency.  In the case of autoimmune disease, the immune system can be seen to be a hyper-vigilant warrior who actually turns against his own side, creating an inflammatory reaction within the body’s tissues. 

What can you do? 

Well, as you would have gathered from my blogs so far, good health is a balancing act.  When it comes to the Liver, it’s important of course what goes through it:  too much alcohol, fatty food and medicines will all have a detrimental effect on the Liver over time….or not, of course, because we are all different.  We all feel and express anger in different ways.  Some of us exercise, others do not.

balancing act Steve Coster acupuncture Photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash

Chinese philosophy advocates a balanced life, but a life that is lived.  Eat well (and drink), but in moderation.  Exercise is important, but you don’t need to run a marathon.  In Qi Gong there are various exercises and posture that are practiced to cleanse and nourish the Liver.  And an Acupuncture session every now and then will ensure your Liver Qi flows smoothly.

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture or any of the issues discussed above.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments  

Steve

Anger blog Steve Coster Acupuncture

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!

Over the weekend the strong winds of storm Gareth toppled a relatively young tree in my garden.  But youth didn’t do it any good; on closer inspection the trunk was rotten, so one big gust and it was a goner.  Unfortunately I was too late to help the tree, but I have been able to help many people in the Acupuncture clinic presenting with anger related issues.

The Wood, the Wind and Chinese Medicine

In Chinese Medicine the Wind is the climatic condition associated with the Spring.  It whips everything up and clears away the stagnation from the Winter months, making way for the fresh and new.  

Similarly, Wood is the element of Spring.  So remember what I touched on last week?  A healthy wood needs to be supple and flexible, able to bend and yield to the Wind.  Just like the tree in my garden, if we lack flexibility we are more likely to snap under pressure.  That is what anger can do; it can make us rigid and irrational and unable to see clearly.  

Anger is not a bad emotion

Anger can be a powerful, positive force, but only if it is expressed appropriately and in the right direction.  It can be insidious and all consuming, and often it is so prevalent we don’t even realise we are angry!  The pressures of modern living certainly give us all plenty of reason to be angry.  But prolonged anger, just like all unfettered emotions, will eventually have a negative effect on our health.  In Chinese Medicine it is the Liver that is particularly associated with Anger, but given time it won’t be long before all the body’s organs are affected.

The Dalai Lama explains it very well:

I think that anger and hatred actually cause more harm to us than to the person responsible for our problem.  Imagine that your neighbour hates you and is always creating problems for you.  If you lose your temper and develop hatred toward him, your digestion is harmed, your sound sleep goes, and you have to start to use tranquillisers and sleeping pills.  You then have to increase the dosages of these, which harms your body.  Your mood is affected; as a result, your old friends hesitate to visit you.  You gradually get more white hair and winkles, and you may eventually develop more serious health problems.  Then your neighbour is really happy.  

So what can help with Anger?

Anger will affect the free-flow of Qi in the body.  It will first affect the Mind:  before you know it you are getting angry in the car, angry queuing up in the supermarket, or yelling at the TV!  And then, over time it will start to affect the body: if the free flow of Qi is impaired then the result can be stiff neck, headache or migraine, insomnia, constipation, or any number of autoimmune diseases.  

Anger needs to be expressed, but as you know from my earlier post ‘Is Spring finally here?‘, not all expressions of anger are appropriate.   So what is an appropriate expression of anger?  Well sport and exercise can be good outlets, but simply hitting a punch bag or pounding the pavement will only take you so far.  It may feel good at the time but it won’t deal with the cause.

Qi Gong and Tai Chi to direct the flow of Qi

The Dalai Lama  goes on to say that all the things that stirred up your anger can go away with a peaceful mind.  Well, Mind in Chinese Medicine is just another expression of Qi, so directing the Mind through meditation (which includes Qi Gong and Tai Chi) can help the Qi flow more smoothly.  Martial Arts such as Wing Chun can also help.  But when dealing with the long term effects of anger, such as migraine, you may need the help of Acupuncture and Tui na.  

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture or any of the issues discussed above.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments  

Steve

Treating PCOS with Steve Coster Acupuncture Southend

Acupuncture can help when the Doctors can’t

Tried every option?

Sometimes it can feel like you have tried everything to get back to full health.   You have gone down all the usual routes – seen the GP, seen the specialist, taken the drugs.  But at the end of the day it can feel like the Doctors have washed their hands of you.   Acupuncture can be a real help when you think there is nowhere left to turn.

So when I received this fantastic testimonial, it made me think of all the people out there who are thinking there is nothing more that can be done!

Because of the holistic nature of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, there isn’t a one-treatment-fits-all method.  Everyone is treated as an individual and therefore each individual has a treatment tailor-made for them.  Two people may be suffering with PCOS, for instance, but the road that lead them there will be very different.

So, thank you to Emily for this testimonial:

“I was diagnosed with PCOS back in 2017 and since doctors said there was nothing I could do about it I turned to acupuncture to see if I could get my body back into balance naturally. I tried two acupuncturists before I moved to Southend and then found Steve. In my first session Steve confidently said he’d get me a period back within three months. As I hadn’t had a period for nine months I thought that sounded ambitious… Low and behold, in just three weeks I had a natural period! I couldn’t recommend Steve highly enough. Sessions with him are always relaxing and informative, he knows how to make you feel at ease and give you hope that the body does know how to heal. Thank you!”

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture or PCOS.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments  

Steve

Is Spring finally here?

Shouldn’t it still be Winter?!

I’m tempted to say Spring is here, but technically it’s still Winter.  However, there is no denying that Spring-like things are happening.  The daffodils are flowering and yesterday the highest temperature in the UK was recorded at 20 degrees Celsius. 

Research in fact shows that Spring is arriving earlier every year.  It was on average 11 days earlier in the middle of the last decade than it was in the 70s.  And as flowers and foliage emerges earlier, so does the wildlife that feeds on it, which could be a problem.  The Guardian explains it better than I can https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/jan/23/spring-early-plant-animal-behaviour

Steve Coster Acupuncture in the Spring

Don’t be too hasty

It may not seem like it sometimes, but we are all part of nature.  Humans, animals and plants alike, we all follow the timetable of the seasons. But just like everything else we can also be tricked into acting as if Spring is here.  Yesterday I saw a man walking his dog in his shorts and a t-shirt at 9am when it was still freezing!  He literally cannot wait for the summer to arrive.

Spring and the Wood Element

Wood is the element associated with the Spring in Chinese Medicine theory.  It is a time of new birth, rebirth, flexibility and expansion.  Wind is the climate associated with this time of year and Anger is the emotion.  In nature we can see a healthy Wood element in how the trees yield and spring back on a windy day.  If they cannot yield then they simply snap or they are uprooted.

The Wind and Anger

Human beings are the same.  If we can’t yield to pressure we will eventually snap.  In America they call this going postal, named after the first workplace shootings at a post office https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Going_postal The perpetrator of this horrendous crime suppressed his anger and frustration to the point where it emerged like an exploding pressure cooker!  So, it’s important to have ways to express our emotions.  This might be exercise, or art, or just being able to talk to someone.  Simply bottling up emotions can have devastating consequences to your health, and possibly everyone else.

Wind carries disease into the body according to Chinese Medicine, particularly when our Qi is low.  To our modern minds, however, we know it is germs that carry disease.  But the ancient Masters believed it was ghosts and spirits that invaded the body when it was weak, bringing with them disease.  Obviously they didn’t have the benefit of microscopes and scientific techniques that we have today, so most of their knowledge was based on observation.   It was after all less than 200 years ago that it was believed cholera was spread by ‘bad air’, until John Snow (not JS of Channel 4 news or GoT :)) was able to show it was in fact to do with contaminated water.  

Acupuncture can help!

So this is my point…. it may feel warm but it’s still pretty cold, so dress appropriately.  Our Qi is probably still low from the Winter months so beware of a Wind Invasion.  Wear a scarf!

And of course, come for some Acupuncture for all your aches and pains and Wind invasions.

Steve Coster Acupuncture Southend in the Spring

Chinese Acupuncture

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments  

 

Pain management with Steve Coster Acupuncture

A week in the Acupuncture Clinic

There is never a dull day in the Acupuncture clinic and every day is varied.

Just this week I have helped people with many things, from knee pain to IVF support.

  • back pain (from sprains to a prolapsed disc)
  • Hot Flushes (menopausal but also Chemo-induced)
  • Headaches and migraines
  • IVF support (supporting egg transfer and preparing for IVF in general)
  • Digestive problems
  • Water Retention 
  • Male fertility issues 
  • Cancer treatment support
  • And Morning Sickness!
Knee pain Steve Coster Acupuncture

Electroacupuncture for knee pain

Back pain Steve Coster Acupuncture

Cupping for back pain

Pain management Steve Coster Acupuncture

Acupuncture for Shoulder pain

 

 

Some cases are common place, such as lower back ache.  Other cases are more specialised and challenging, for instance chemo-induced hot flushes.  

But what we actually feel is often just the tip of the iceberg.

 

Pain is not the Cause, but the Symptom

What all the conditions I have seen this week have in common is that they are the symptoms of an underlying cause.  They are not the root itself.  Think of a tree, or an iceberg.  The part that we can see is only a small part of what is actually going on.

No matter how simple a case may seem, the root can be (more often than not) complicated.  We are not machines that if you change a spark plug everything will be fine again.  We are complicated organisms that are affected by what we eat, how we sleep, what we are thinking, where we live, who we talk to….and on and on.  So that is where the real skill of being a practitioner lies; being able to sort through everything and root out the actual cause of a disease or condition.

Do you trust your mechanic?

There is a real danger of treating ourselves as we would our cars.  Something goes wrong so we take it to the mechanic.  At the end of the day he calls you to go and pick it up.  And one day, it costs just a bit too much, so you sell it or scrap it.  There is a whole industry that encourages us to treat our bodies in this way, as if they are misbehaving machines.  We are given a pill for this symptom and a pill for that, and then another pill for the side effects of the first pill!  The pain may be dulled, but now you can’t think straight and your hands are numb!

Qi follows Mind

People often ask me how acupuncture works.  I explain about the concept of Qi , our vital energy, and how if this energy is impaired then illness will result.  But what the acupuncture needles really do is kickstart the Mind and Body into what it should have been doing all along – healing itself.  

In Chinese Medicine we say that Qi goes where the Mind goes.  That’s why practises such as Mindfulness and Meditation are so important for our health and wellbeing.  They teach us to focus our Minds and really feel what we are feeling.  No one can feel what you are feeling but you.

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments