How many sessions is enough?

I am often asked how many sessions one might need.

As a general rule, I would say 4 treatments for every year you have had the condition. But this is often difficult to assess because sometimes we are often not aware something is wrong until we feel pain or something isn’t right. For instance, atherosclerosis (thickening of the arteries), heart disease, or even diabetes, aren’t apparent until something is drastically wrong. Equally, Transient Ischemic Attacks (a.k.a. TIA, or mini-stroke) can quite often occur in one’s sleep, so we might not realize the extent of the damage until there is a major stroke! But the clues are always there, perhaps years before the fateful day! For example, shortness of breath on exertion, lethargy, palpitations, disturbed sleep, frequent urination, can all be signs of something unpleasant building up over many years.

Nothing happens in isolation

In Chinese Medicine we look for signs and symptoms of disease before it becomes as serious as a heart attack or a stroke. That’s why I ask questions about your bowel movements and sleep patterns. I need to find out where your energies may be stagnating or depleted and put together an appropriate treatment: What channels do I work on? What muscle groups or joints are affected? What organs are under strain and in need of nourishment?

Sticking with atherosclerosis as an example, as the arteries harden, we don’t hear them crystallizing and straining, or even feel it, but you may be feeling lethargic or breathless on exertion – these are the signs and symptoms of things to come…perhaps… but they are years in the making. That pain in the back, for instance, could have taken years to develop, so it’s probably not going to go away over night. Or someone who has been depressed for 20 years may need some time to feel on an even keel again.

So how many sessions might one need?

A good place to start is to commit to 10 sessions. You might not need this many, but it enables us to assess how you are doing and if you are improving. Of course, you might feel better after just a few sessions, but it depends on the individual.

How often should treatments be?

More often than not sessions are weekly, but sometimes more frequent treatment is needed. For example, if after a session you are pain free for a few days before the pain returns, this could be an indicator that treatment should be every few days to start with.

Unfortunately, as humans we have remarkably short memories when it comes to pain! It is very easy for work and life in general to once again take precedence over our health – and ironically it is something within this puzzle of life that is causing the imbalance/pain/illness. This might be related to posture, our emotions (anger/frustration/resentment), diet, and increasingly these days, endurance sports. Or simply too much work and not enough rest. Many times I have treated a client for lower back pain who then informs me they are going to the gym straight after the session!

Chinese Medicine can sometimes have dramatic affects in just one session, but more often than not, it is quite subtle and can take a little time and patience. The acupuncturist Jane Lyttleton offers a great analogy, of how a round table falls ill and develops sharp corners. The table sees a specialist in sharp corners, who says, ‘No problem, we’ll have you round again!’. The operation was performed the next day, and the surgeon cut the corners off with a saw. It was a painful procedure but was over and done with rapidly and efficiently. Unfortunately, he cut a little too close on the fourth corner and the table lost part of one of its legs. The table, however, no longer had sharp corners. But what if the table had gone to see the Chinese doctor instead? After enquiring how this might have come about and thoroughly feeling the table’s corners, top and legs, he would pull out a small file, apply it to one corner and begin to file. He would file and file. And even though it might be tedious and require a lot of patience on the part of both the table and the doctor, and it might take up to one year before the table would be truly its old round self again, eventually it would be beautifully smooth and strong and perfectly round again.

If you would like to know if Acupuncture or Tui Na could help you, please do get in touch.


Moxa and Moxabustion

If you’ve never had an acupuncture treatment with moxa, I’m sure you’ve wondered what that strange smell is when enter my treatment room! That is the smell of Moxa.

What is Moxabustion?

Moxabustion is the burning of a dried herb called moxa, a soft woolly substance prepared from Mugwort leaves (Artemisia vulgaris). Moxa has been used alongside acupuncture for over 3 thousand years, at least as long as we have evidence of the practice of acupuncture.

What does it do?
Moxa is used to strengthen the immune system, to warm the body and to bring more qi and blood flow to an area. Moxa is often cited for its effectiveness in turning breach babies.

In TCM, moxa is often used on people who have a cold or stagnant condition. The burning of moxa is believed to expel cold and warm the meridians, which leads to smoother flow of blood and qi. Moxa is especially useful for the treatment of pain.

In Western medicine, moxibustion has successfully been used to turn breech babies into a normal head-down position prior to childbirth. Other studies have shown that moxibustion increases the movement of the fetus in pregnant women, and may reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps when used in conjunction with traditional acupuncture.

What happens during a treatment?

There are many methods in the use of moxa, but this is how I generally use it.

I usually place the moxa either directly on the skin or on the acupuncture needle, or hold it just above the skin over specific acupuncture points or meridians. I light the herb with a joss stick and as it smoulders slowly, a therapeutic heat permeates the skin and affects the flow of ‘qi’ (energy) and blood in the area being treated.

I use direct moxibustion most commonly for specific areas needing treatment. I shape the moxa into a tiny cone and place it directly on to the body before lighting. The lit moxa cone is removed as soon as the patient feels any sensation of heat.

It is also used to great effect on the actual head of the acupuncture needle. In this case I place a small roll of moxa on the head of an acupuncture needle. It burns for about 20-30 seconds until it extinguishes.

What does it feel like?

Well, most importantly, it doesn’t hurt. You often feel a warm, relaxing sensation. If you are concerned about the smoke that emanates from the moxa, I can also use a smokeless variety.

If you would like to know more about Moxa, or anything about Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine and how it can help you, please feel free to contact me.


Autumn – the Metal Element

​Always seem to be catching colds? Your Metal may be out of balance!

Don’t you love the autumn? It’s that time of year where once again nature is in transition; it is preparing for the winter, taking stock before the time of renewal in the spring. As the days shorten and the leaves turn a golden brown and fall to the ground, it’s also a time that we should be retreating; a time to gather round the fire with our loved ones (or the central heating for most of us now!) taking stock of all that we have done and achieved throughout the year, but preparing for the long cold nights of Winter and making plans for next year.

About this time of year I see a lot of people who have a cold, and they often tell me that the changing of the seasons affects their health. So why might this be? In Chinese Medicine we associate the Metal element with the autumn, and, on a physical level, the lungs and colon. In our human lifetime, Metal is the time of letting go, a time of tranquility, peace and wisdom. In the autumn of one’s life it is a time of withdrawing from outside involvement and looking for meaning within. We must ‘let go’ to face the limits of life.

So what happens if we don’t (or can’t) let go? Well, if we don’t let go of the summer and continue to wear less, stay up late and eat summer foods, we are more susceptible to viruses and the cold. Or, put another way, if we are not in tune with the changing of the seasons (or nature), our Qi may be weakened and therefore our defenses are down.

Mistiming the transition of the seasons is something we are all prone to, however, and that’s why we all get colds every now and then. But some of us seem to get more colds and worse colds than everyone else. If this is you, it might be because your Metal element is out of balance.

And this is where Acupuncture can help you. When our elements are out of balance, we are ill. This might mean you are more susceptible to weather changes, or it might mean things are just not right. In the case of a Metal imbalance, you may have a dry cough and a sore throat (Lungs) or you could be constipated (Colon). In either case, the ‘letting go’ function is impaired.
Acupuncture is able to stimulate the free flow of the body’s energy and therefore its natural healing response.

If you would like to know more about Acupuncture and how it can help you, please call me on 07909 521847 or at the Therapy Life Centre on 01702 433959.

Steve Coster

southend acupuncture cancer fertility pain

and .. Breathe

​‘As long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee’
Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

On Mondays I run a Qi Gong class at The Therapy Life Centre, every week at 11a.m.
Qi Gong is a wonderful way to exercise the mind and body through movement and breathe, and a great way to start the week!

When we are born the first thing we do in this world is take a breath, and it’s also the last thing we do.

We give the breath of life.

We take a deep breath before taking the plunge, and then have our breath taken away!

We all breathe. It is fundamental to our existence. Every living thing must breathe in one way or another. Trying holding your breath and see how long you last!

But when was the last time you took a breath?

As an Acupuncturist and Qi Gong practitioner I am interested in two aspects of breathing: how we breathe and the quality of the air that we breathe. When I see a new client, I always observe how they are breathing, because the way we breathe says a lot about our health. Some of us are shallow breathers; some of us hold are breath; and nearly all of us are unaware that we are breathing!

In Chinese Medicine mindfulness of breath is extremely important. We see air as Qi, or vital energy, so it is literally the breath of life. Qi Gong (the health exercises synonymous with Chinese Medicine), in fact, translates as ‘breath work’. By being aware of our breath we are connecting with our body. When we are watching TV or reading a magazine we are invariably not aware of our breath. We are therefore disconnected from reality, or put another way, disconnected from self. And before you know it that is when illness creeps up on you.

Try breathing bent over – this is how we breath at our desks…for much of the day!

Don’t go Jogging next to a busy road!

And what about the air we breathe? We know, for instance, that children growing up in the inner city of London are more prone to skin and lung diseases.

The greatest problem is with nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a pollutant that inflames the lungs, stunting children’s’ growth and increasing the risk of respiratory diseases such as asthma and lung cancer. London has an acute problem with NO2, possibly the worst in the world. Putney high street broke its annual emission limits just eight days into the New Year, with Knightsbridge, Oxford Street, Earls Court and Brixton all following suit before the end of January. Across the country, the government estimates 23,500 people die prematurely from NO2 pollution. Would we care more if we could see the air we breathe?

So it is important where we do our breathing; exercising in the woods is better than next to the A127! Of course we cannot always be in the countryside, but it helps to be somewhere clean when doing our Qi or mindful breathing, in the garden for instance.

If you would like to know more about Qi Gong and my class, or you just have a question about Chinese Medicine, please do contact me.


Qi Gong exercises by the sea

New Qi Gong class starting at Therapy Life Centre!

Ahead of my new Qi Gong class starting at the Therapy Life Centre in Southend on Monday 11th September, here are a few things you might not know about this excellent health system.

If you would like to attend the class, or you would like to know more about Qi Gong, please do get in touch.

Qi Gong literally translates as ‘Breath Work’ or ‘Cultivating Breath’. It concentrates on posture (whether moving or stationary), breathing techniques and mental focus. Qi Gong can be soft, like Tai Chi, or it can be more vigorous, like kung fu, so it is suitable for all levels of fitness and can be practiced by all age groups.

The documented history of qigong goes back approximately 2,500 years. However Chinese archaeologists and historians have found references to qigong-like techniques at least five thousand years old.

Frequent practice harmonizes and strengthens the body, and has a healing effect on the functioning of all the internal organs and bodily systems.

It increases the flow of blood and energy, which helps to fully nourish all parts of the body. Initially many movements focus on gently opening and stretching the joints and muscles of the body, releasing tension that could have been there for years.

As the energy relating to the internal organs flows around the extremities of the body (hands and feet), stretching the arms and legs in specific movements also improves the health of the internal organs.

Qi Gong is not just postures and movement, but also includes self-massage, breathing techniques and meditation.

Qi Gong can be performed standing, seated or supine.

There is no need for special equipment or a large workout space.

Anyone can practice Qi Gong. There are techniques suitable for every age and physical condition.

People who exercise a lot and whose bodies are externally strong are not necessarily healthier or happier than the average person. In order to have true good health you must have a healthy body, a healthy mind, and also smooth and balanced Qi circulation. Qi Gong addresses mind and body!

If you would like to know more about Acupuncture and how it can help you, please call me on 07909 521847 or at the Therapy Life Centre on 01702 433959.

Steve Coster

Tui Na (Chinese Massage) and Anxiety

Have you ever wondered why illness and disease seems so random? I mean, why does one person get sick while someone else, who seemingly lives in exactly the same way, can live a long life with no health issues at all? I believe that Stress and Anxiety are two of the common denominators when it comes to illness. Diet, environment and exercise are important of course, but the Mind is hugely significant. And whereas in the West we are slowly realizing how much the way we think affects ones health, the Chinese were talking about it 2,000 years ago!

​We need Stress!

Stress and anxiety are normal, and without these emotions Homosapiens as a species would be long-gone, extinct before it even got started. This is because
Stress is an aspect of the ‘fight or flight’ instinct within us all. So if it is necessary for survival, why is it bad for us? Well, it becomes a problem when it is prolonged. We are not made to be constantly running from danger! We need some down time – sitting around the fire feeling safe, or picking berries knowing our backs are covered.

Stress and anxiety can be the root of many illnesses, not only mental illness but physical too. This is why the holistic approach inherent in Chinese Medicine is so powerful.

Anxiety: good or bad?

Well first we must ask what is the cause of your anxiety: constitutional, emotional or mood?

Constitutional: this is our natural mood. What are we prone to? What is our nature? To answer this we must look to the 5 Elements:

Wood – Anger
Fire – Joy
Earth – Intellect
Metal – Sorrow
Water – Fear

Some people are quick to anger, and others to sadness. This is our nature and something we are born with. But simply being aware of this can help us stop it in its tracks. It is normal and it helps to be mindful of who we are and what (or who) presses our buttons! e.g. taking a few moments to reflect before losing our tempers. Similarly, people who are of a Fire nature can be quick to excitement, and in some this can manifest as anxiety. Or those more of an Earth temperament may be more prone to over-thinking a situation or something that someone may have flippantly said to them.

On the other hand, repression of one’s nature can also lead to problems.

Some emotions we know the cause of; a job we hate or a stressful relationship. In either case, too much of any one emotion (say, frustration) will suppress one’s energy and over time affect our health.

However, our moods and emotions can also be affected by the environment – most frequently Wind, Cold or Damp….in the UK anyway! Wind equates to movement, either from the wind itself or maybe too much change too quickly. This might mean headaches or conditions where pain moves around the body.

Damp, on the other hand, is dull and heavy and can ‘dampen’ our moods, making one lethargic and brooding. In my practice I mostly come across Damp caused by diet, e.g. too much dairy or fatty foods, but it can also cause problems if one’s living conditions are damp, or by wearing damp clothing after the gym

Mood can also be linked to emotional and constitutional factors, e.g. you might wake up angry for no apparent reason. If we wake up in a mood, we have a choice – to continue the day taking out our mood on everyone else, or we can simply let it go; acknowledge it as a passing ‘feeling’ and then continue your day in peace. But of course, sometimes it’s just not that easy, and we need a helping hand.

How can Tui Na (Chinese Massage) help anxiety?

By working on channels and points with soothing motions to nourish and calm the Qi, Tui na can help to move any stagnation and deficiency of energy/Qi. In this way Tui Na can affect the bodily processes, such as digestion and bowel movements, but also ultimately the Mind. It can be incredibly relaxing, but also energizing.

Tui na can also help clear the channels leading into the head, and thus helping one to think more clearly (and at the same time easing that stiff neck!). I may also use heat to move any Damp or Cold, relieving aches and pains and allowing energy to move more efficiently around the body, or a few fire cups to expel any Wind that is moving around the body.

If you would like to know more about how Tui na could help you, please do contact me on 07909 521847

Eight Silken Threads Qi Gong Course starting April 4th

You’ve heard of yoga…well this is how they do it in China!

My next 4 week Qi Gong course will be at the Therapy Life Centre and starts on Tuesday 4th April 6.30 – 7.30pm.

There are only 2 places left so let me know asap if you would like to sign up.

What is Qi Gong?

Qi Gong literally translates as ‘Breath Work’ or ‘Cultivating Breath’. It concentrates on posture (whether moving or stationary), breathing techniques and mental focus. Qi Gong can be soft, like Tai Chi, or it can be more vigorous, like kung fu, so it is suitable for all levels of fitness and can be practiced by all age groups.

Qi Gong creates an awareness of and influences dimensions of our being that are not part of traditional exercise programs.

What is Qi Gong good for?

  • It reduces stress
  • Builds stamina
  • Increases vitality
  • Maintains health into old age
  • Helps speed recover from illness
  • Improves cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive functions.

What will you learn on the Workshop?

On this workshop I will be teaching the 8 movements of the Silken Thread system. This workshop will interest anyone who would like to be able to manage a medical condition naturally, or anyone who is simply interested in improving their quality of life and boosting their immune system, or all three!

The cost of this 4 week workshop is £48 per person and numbers are limited, so do not hesitate, sign up today!

Only 2 places left!

If you would like to know more about how Qi Gong could help you, please do contact me on 07909 521847

What is Yin and Yang?

 The Yin and Yang symbol is something we see everywhere.  It is on clothing, buildings, posters; some people even have it tattooed on their bodies!  But what does it actually mean? 

The Chinese call it Taiji, which represents oneness, and as a consequence, balance and harmony.

It can be found in all cultures; the opening line of the Bible reads, “In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth”.

Everything can be said to be Yin and Yang relative to its polar compliment, and examples are all around us:

Heaven – Earth        Night – Day
Black – White           Male – Female
Hot  – cold                  Up – Down
You name it, everything can be found to have an opposite equal!But neither is seen as more valuable than the other; in fact, Yin and Yang are inseparable, for each mutually creates the other.  For instance, peace can only have meaning if there is conflict; health is only appreciated if we have felt what it is to be ill.

What about the black and white dots?

Well, this symbolizes that neither yin or yang can exist without the other – Yin exists within Yang, and Yang within Yin.

For example, water is Yin, but without Yang (i.e. movement) it is just a stagnant pool.  But give water movement and over time it can wear down even the toughest rock.

So how can Yin and Yang theory help us lead a healthier life?

Whenever there is one-sidedness, the natural order of things is upset, and any extreme upsets the harmony of yin and yang.  Thus, health is seen to derive from a flow between rest and activity, play and work, relationship and solitude, material concerns and spiritual awareness.

In Buddhism they call this balance ‘the Middle Way’.  But you don’t need to be a Buddhist to follow the Yin and Yang model, we just need to have balance in our lives:

get enough sleep;
eat when you are hungry;
try not to work too hard;
do some exercise;
spend some time with your family and friends.

It doesn’t sound too bad does it? Trouble only rears up where there are extremes.  By striving for an ideal of perfection and pushing away qualities we dislike, we inadvertently give them power.  In the end, we can become the very thing we are trying to eradicate; science has shown, for instance, that dieting can make us fatter!

How does Yin and Yang fit into Chinese Medicine?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine we use Yin and Yang theory to diagnose and treat imbalances in the body’s energy.  We take into consideration:

Excess / Deficiency
Heat / Cold
External /Internal
Yin / Yang

Once we identify the imbalances, we can then take steps to restore the body’s balance and harmony.  For example, a Yang condition might include symptoms such as high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, or a feeling of heat.  Or, if the bodies Yin energy is depleted by working long hours with little rest over a long period, this could lead to back pain or bladder problems.

But to end on a positive note, please remember that

Within every seed is the
potential of something great!

If you would like to know more about Chinese Medicine and how it can help you, please do contact me.

Steve Coster Acupuncture in Southend

Acupuncture can help prevent Migraine and acute attacks.

6 – 12 September is Migraine Awareness Week!

Migraine is triggered by a huge variety of factors not just cheese, chocolate and red wine! For most people there is not just one trigger but a combination of factors which individually can be tolerated but when they all occur together a threshold is passed and a migraine is triggered.

Migraine is a very individual condition and trigger factors and symptoms vary tremendously from person to person. A treatment that works well for one sufferer may be completely ineffective for another so if a treatment does not work do not give up. It is important to explore other options until you develop a management plan that works for YOU.

Did you know?
· 1 in 7 people in the UK suffer from migraine
· It affects twice as many women as men.
· It affects people from all age groups and all social groups
· The World Health Organisation has classified headache as a major health disorder and has rated migraine amongst the top 20 most disabling lifetime conditions.
· A migraine attack can last for between 4 and 72 hours. However other migraine symptoms, such as mood changes and lethargy can last for longer as they can occur before or after the headache phase.
· Sufferers experience an average of 13 attacks each year.

Several drugs, such as beta-blockers, amitriptyline or sodium valproate, are used to help migraine or reduce the attack frequency, but all these drugs are associated with adverse effects.

Acupuncture can help!

The results of the latest research is quite consistent: acupuncture is significantly better than no treatment/basic care for managing migraine, and appears to be at least as effective as drug therapy, without the contraindications or unpleasant side effects.

Acupuncture can increase coping mechanisms as well as relieve migraine symptoms.

Migraine is thought to begin as an electrical phenomenon in the cerebrum that then affects blood vessels, biochemistry, and causes neurogenic inflammation.

Here is the technical bit….Acupuncture can help in the treatment of migraine by:

Providing pain relief – by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, acupuncture leads to release of endorphins and other neurochumoral factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord.
Reducing inflammation – by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors.
Reducing the degree of cortical spreading depression (an electrical wave in the brain associated with migraine) and plasma levels of calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P (both implicated in the pathophysiology of migraine).
Modulating extracranial and intracranial blood flow.
Affecting serotonin (5-hydroxytriptamine) levels in the brain. (Serotonin may be linked to the initiation of migraines; 5-HT agonists (triptans) are used against acute attacks.)

Acupuncture has been endorsed by the British Medical Association as an effective treatment for headache and migraine!

If you would like to know more about how acupuncture can help you, or if you would like to know more, please give me a call on 07909 521847 or at the Therapy Life Centre on 01702 433959.

Acupuncture for Depression and Anxiety

Did you know that Acupuncture can help depression, either on medication or off?

I recently undertook some additional training with Dr. Tianjun Wang on how Acupuncture can help depression, and here are just a few facts I learnt.

Did you know?

Acupuncture has been shown to relief the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and if you are on medication, it can help with the side effects and even reduce the dosage over time.

According to the World Health Organization over 200 million people suffer with depression worldwide, and 20% of people will suffer a major episode of depression during their life.

However, fewer than 25% of those affected receive either medication or psychotherapy from the NHS, whether due to lack of resources or trained providers, or simply because of the social stigma associated with mental disorders.

So how do you know if you are depressed?

Well, there must be at least five of the following symptoms for a period of at least two weeks to be diagnosed with depression:

1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
2. Markedly diminished interest in pleasure in almost all activities most of the day
3. Significant weight loss or weight gain without dieting, or major changes in appetite or eating habit
4. Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly everyday
5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation
6. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
7. Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, desperation, and psychic pain that are ongoing
8. Inability to think or concentrate
9. Indecisiveness daily
10. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or a specific plan or attempt of suicide

The problem is, however, sufferers can miss out on appropriate treatment because these symptoms are not connected and might be treated separately. For example, if you go to your GP because you are feeling fatigued and you are not sleeping properly, you might mistakenly be treated for insomnia instead of depression, which could in fact make the problem worse!

Medication and Side-effects

If you are correctly diagnosed, you could be prescribed a variety of drugs, most commonly SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which raise the serotonin levels in the brain. But only 60% of sufferers respond to these drugs.

Common SSRIs are:

But then there are the risk of side effects associated with these drugs, which include anxiety, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, low sex drive, and even thoughts of suicide.

So what are the benefits of Acupuncture?

Well, Acupuncture has been shown to:

· Provide fast, lasting results with no side effects and
· Better mood and a sense of well-being
· It is cost saving in the long run

Acupuncture can also limit the use of antidepressants in the treatment of depression. It can improve the positive effects of medication and reduce their side-effects, and it can improve the general condition and balance of the body!

Used with antidepressants, acupuncture can:

· Improve their efficacy
· Improve their onset
· Can help reduce the dosage
· Reduce side-effects

So, if you are depressed, or a feeling stressed out or anxious, why not give Acupuncture a try.

If you would like to know more about Acupuncture and how it can help you, please feel free to give me a call.

07909 521847