Close up of a man's ear

THE TREATMENT OF CHRONIC HEALTH PROBLEMS WITH ACUPUNCTURE AND AURICULOTHERAPY (Ear Acupuncture)

In this article I would like to give an insight into the sort of issues I treat as an Acupuncturist and also introduce the use of Auriculotherapy or Ear Acupuncture as an additional means of addressing chronic health problems.

Chronic Health Problems
Acupuncture is known by many as a wonderful solution for everyday stresses and strains which sometimes build up and make life difficult and tiring. Relieving stress and strains and restoring vitality is what a lot of people use acupuncture for.

One of the main  strengths of Acupuncture is also to maintain health for people with complex illnesses or problems that have been lingering a long time. Technically a problem becomes defined as chronic if it has been present for longer than 3/4 weeks, but many complex problems linger for months, years, or even decades.

In this ‘chronic health category ‘ are problems with organic body systems giving rise to long term problems like migraines, asthma, body pain, insomnia, stomach problems  and so forth, which people have suffered for years and often come to accept the loss of vitality as ‘normal’.

Some of these problems are accompanied by emotional shutdown characterised by depression, sadness, anxiety, anger amongst many. Invariably the weaknesses in the body and mind are linked and become cyclically reinforcing. Unlocking this downward spiral of health is a forte of Acupuncture and I see a lot of people in this category.

However, there are even more complex manifestations of chronic illness seen in increasing numbers in my practice. Some of these originate from a genetic weakness where the health has been compromised by an autoimmune disease , eg rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia etc.

Some of these genetic disorders are also at the base of health problems with multiple causes, such as, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and so on. These issues can often be ameliorated by acupuncture but it takes long term treatment to really make a difference.

Other types of complex problems I see are characterised by the breakdown of the body, mind and spirit by traumatic events, such as rape, deaths, violence, cruelty and so forth. These people respond well to acupuncture and auriculotherapy but again there is no easy solution to the life long consequences of major trauma.

And other mind and body  breakdowns are simply the result of never ending stress which cannot be resolved easily and which come from things like loveless relationships, job insecurity, absence of affirmative parenting, loss of dear ones, dehumanising jobs, and all sorts of issues that weaken the body, mind and spirit. These issues are often part of the bigger picture of everyday illnesses and are the sort of complex issue that acupuncture can help to unravel.

What can Acupuncture and Auriculotherapy do?
Acupuncture is an holistic approach to problems that deplete our body and mind. It is not a solution by itself to the  chronic health disorders listed above, but it is an effective intervention that pulls the body and mind together when repeated crises split us apart. It can also be used safely alongside conventional medical treatment. It lifts the spirit and re-engages the whole person in their recovery. At its best it helps people reinhabit their bodies and find peace of mind again.

Auriculotherapy is a kind of Acupuncture adjunct that can be used on its own or as part of an acupuncture treatment. It is a micro-system which uses the ears to detect physical, emotional and neurological dysfunction in the whole body, much as reflexology accesses the whole body via the feet. The treatment is via small needles placed in the ears, or sometimes small seeds placed on ear points, or even via low grade laser activation. In terms of intervention it is reasonably minimal and is also suitable for children for this reason.

Auricular treatments date back to 450 BC but most of the modern discoveries come from research carried out in the 1950’s which found that points on the ear corresponded to anatomical locations on the body and could be accessed to treat both pain, organic dysfunction , psycho-emotional distress and neuro-vascular problems.

Auriculotherapy has been found to especially help soldiers returning from war zones in a traumatised state with recurring flashbacks and severe psycho-emotional dysfunction, now commonly called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

These dats it is understood that many people suffer from PTSD, not just soldiers, this being a result of ‘ war zone’ type experiences that go on in so-called everyday life!

It is common for survivors of major traumas to experience PTSD, and in my practice I treat eg.women who have been abused or raped when younger, or people who have been bullied from an early age,  or people who have survived a major car accident, or police and fire fighters who have seen too much tragedy and destruction, as examples of this.

Acupuncture and Auriculotherapy can really help and has been used in all sorts of trauma situations;

In 2002 a survey by a psychiatry department in Greenwich Village, New York, of 225 of those who had survived the Twin Towers inferno, asked what had been most useful in their recovery.

They listed in order of priority, Acupuncture, Massage, Yoga, and EMDR ( eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) ( see’ The Body Keeps the Score’, 2014, Van der Kolk).

Studies using neuro-imaging since 2005 confirm that Acupuncture can unlock the overload on the brain which comes from repeated or severe trauma (see below).

How Trauma affects the Brain
With recent  advances in neuroscience and neuro-imaging using MRI scans of the brain, there has been confirmation that therapies such as Acupuncture can make a real impact on stress disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These scans have shown that areas of the brain to do with fear show rapid regulation under acupuncture treatment (see Van der Kolk above) and that Auriculotherapy in particular can unlock problems with the functioning of the brain (see below).

To understand how acupuncture and auriculotherapy help unlock trauma we need to briefly explain how the brain works…

Without going into too much technical jargon, the brain has different ways of responding to perceived dangers and threats. When we feel endangered and the alarm bells ring in the brain the first place that is automatically triggered is the animal or reptilian or emotional brain which lies in the brain stem in the sub-occipital cortex. This is where our first instinctive reactions come from (‘ the fight or flight ‘ instincts) and it involves the arousal of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.

For a few moments the animal brain takes over and it partially shuts down the higher brain which is in the prefrontal cortex ( or forehead). The higher brain is where the executive functions of planning and consideration take place, where we rationally work out our best options and make reasoned decisions. It will pick up distress signals coming from the animal brain and start to work out what to do. If the fight or flight instinct is successful and we escape danger then we recover our equilibrium and regain our senses and our higher brain once more becomes a calm place of self awareness and perception.

The filtering out of perceived threats to our well-being will however start to break down if there are repeated arousals of stress hormones which simply swamp the body’s ability to respond rationally. Neuro-imaging has shown that highly emotional states of intense fear, sadness, and anger all increase the activity in the sub cortical animal brain, which significantly reduces the activity in the frontal lobe. When this happens the inhibitory capacities of the frontal lobe break down and people lose sense and perspective and go into a heightened animal-response state that does not release. People in this state will typically become enraged by minor frustrations, or emotionally numb or catatonic, and be unable to feel their bodies. Theses people are trapped in a powerful vortex and this state can continue for many years in some cases.

The key to unlocking this viscous cycle is to allow the two sides of our brain to re-establish communication, ie to get the rational brain and emotional brain back in equilibrium.

The bridge between the two lies in the ‘limbic brain’ where important processors and modulators  lie such as the thalamus, the amygdala, the hippocampus, the cingulate gyrus, and the hypothalamus.

This is where sensory input of danger is sorted out into significance and categories and then sent to the higher brain for interpretation.

 Neuro-imaging has shown that this neural pathway becomes dysfunctional if repeatedly battered by trauma. These people are locked into the original stimulus or trauma and are often unable to release their trauma via talking or counselling and mindfulness alone because their higher brain cannot make contact with their lower brain. It has been shown for example that when traumatised people are asked to recall their original feelings of being traumatised , the blood supply to the amygdala and hippocampus shuts down and the person is unable to recall or process these feelings, so staying locked in the original heightened state of arousal.

These people need a bottom up regulation which involves recalibrating the autonomic nervous system which originates in the brain stem. The therapies that will help will involve breath, movement, touch and energy balancing which work below the conscious mind, primarily yoga, bodywork, acupuncture, and Auriculotherapy.

Acupuncture has always been an effective means of ‘zoning out’ where patients are able to drop into the subconscious quiet space of the body and mind, the space where real change can take place. Again this has been scientifically tested by the use of MRI scans on the brain on people undergoing acupuncture treatment, and recording the quietening down of brain activity as soon as the needles are administered.

Interestingly Auriculotherapy studies have shown that the body points found in the ear are connected to the autonomic nervous system, I.e. to the part of the nervous system that comes from the animal brain. People who have Auriculotherapy report that they drop into a very deep place in their mind and body. Being able to access the workings of the animal brain is very important in unlocking the chronic trauma and shock patterns discussed above.

End Note
Acupuncture and Auriculotherapy are two of the most effective ways of enabling psycho-emotional processing particularly when verbal/counselling or drug interventions cannot alter the deeper mind blocks. In this respect , massage, bodywork and yoga, and general physical exercise are also useful and combine well with acupuncture.

Once these deeper blocks are removed and the person regains a sense of body mind connection then the person is more likely to benefit from counselling and psychotherapy, and again these therapies combine well with Acupuncture .

Being able to reinhabit our bodies is ultimately the pathway to better health – Acupuncture, Auriculotherapy, yoga, bodywork and other body and mind therapies are all ways we can help this to happen.

Feeling blue

Spring Changes Affecting Our Health

Here is my perspective from an Acupuncturist’s point of view, about the the changes accompanying the onset of Spring.

Although the timings of our seasons are no longer reliable, we can all feel the signs that Spring is on the way, and by the time this article is published the daffodils may well be gone and signs of summer may even be around!

After the dark days of Winter, Spring is the beginning of renewed growth, of new plans, of lighter mornings and evenings – what’s not to like?!

Well, for some the feelings of optimism in the air are soon replaced by a rush of energy that creates a kind of giddy mayhem. Tired minds and bodies are flooded with a relentless imperative to get going. Tired energy now gets spread even more thinly. Muscles and joints start to ache. Eyes get red and watery and we start to sneeze. Noses run and throats seize up. Voices get louder and minds get more restless. Soon we don’t know if we are coming or going. Some might start to think, what’s the point…I can’t be bothered.

It needn’t be like this…as Acupuncturists we try and help people find a more sustainable and balanced life that allows a smoother transition from one season to another. Many of my clients have acupuncture on a monthly basis or seasonal basis. They come even if they are relatively well as they understand the benefit of aligning themselves with changes in the natural world.

Life still goes pear-shaped even when we nurture ourselves, but we are more likely to get back into balance if we take care of our minds and bodies in a holistic way.

Thame Therapy Clinic

Facial acupuncture – would you? By Sarah O’Hanlon of Muddy Stilettos

I’m a long-standing fan of this alternative therapy clinic in Thame, a buzzy little market town on the Oxfordshire/Bucks borders that’s a handy five minute whizz from Muddy HQ. I reviewed the cupping treatment here last year but this time round I despatched Sarah to try out facial acupuncture. Turns out getting stabbed in the face with a load of needles is a lot more fun than it sounds…

THE LOCATION

Thame Therapy Clinic is right in the centre of the town just off the main market square, with up to three hours free parking right outside. There’s all sorts on offer here from hands-on treatments such as physiotherapy, osteopathy and massage to talking therapies such as counselling, psychotherapy and speech and language therapy. It’s open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 6pm, except on Wednesdays when it closes at a working woman-friendly 9pm.

THE VIBE

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Beyond the big blue front door and the town centre bustle, there’s a network of basic treatment rooms. Nothing particularly posh or interior-designed but my view is ‘who cares’ if the treatments are amazing. My treatment took place in one at the back overlooking a peaceful, verdant little garden. Clinic owner Andy Roscoe was my designated needle-prodder on the day. He’s been practising acupuncture for 25 years and has run the clinic in Thame for 24 of those. This was reassuring – if you’re going to let someone stick needles in your mug, you want them to know what they’re doing.

THE TREATMENT

I opted for the Facial Rejuvenation treatment which is also known as cosmetic acupuncture. It’s gained popularity in recent years among A-list actresses and women who want to their skin to look brighter, plumper and smoother but don’t want to go down the invasive route of Botox or similar. Basically, it’s a halfway house between a softly-softly standard facial and more hardcore intervention – so needles, yes, but not ones filled with worrisome chemicals. I went for the 60 minute treatment, although Andy does offer a 90 minute option with some zero balancing thrown in. Yep, me neither – turns out it involves pressure being placed on certain joints to rebalance your energy. I was curious but apparently you have to clear your diary for the rest of the day because it’s so intense all you can do afterwards is float home in a state of nirvana. Which sounds lovely but is possibly not an appropriate vibe for the school run or back in the office.

Obviously I went along because quite frankly I want my face to look better! But Andy has an holistic approach and emphasized how feeling happier and more relaxed on the inside really does show on the face. It’s an obvious point but sometimes in the whirlwind of every day like, we forget this. We carry a lot of stress and tension in the face, so a treatment that relaxes it should have a positive knock-on effect on the whole body, promoting a broader sense of wellbeing.

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The treatment began with Andy taking my pulses, standard practice for acupuncturists, before, during and after the treatment. This is when you realise there’s no hiding place regarding any, ahem, less than healthy lifestyle choices. He spotted my liver was a bit in need of a boost – funnily enough I’d been celebrating a friend’s birthday the night before.

He popped some needles in points in my feet and hands to help detox the liver and rebalance my energy, then moved on to my face where he swiftly popped in around 10 more, far fewer than I was expecting. If you’ve never had acupuncture before, be assured they don’t hurt, they’re extremely fine and you feel just the mildest of pinpricks as they go in. With facial acupuncture, the theory is that as well as helping energy circulate around your body, the tiny traumas to the skin caused by the needles helps stimulate the production of collagen and elastin.

Wanna see a photo? Of course you do!

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I also went for the optional electro-stimulation where the needles are hooked up to a super-gentle machine, creating a very mild fizzing sensation. It took me a few minutes to relax but it’s just a slightly odd sensation rather than anything painful. The benefit of the electro stimulation is that you don’t need to use as many needles because it somehow turbo-charges them (not a technical term, obvs).

Andy removed the needles after 15 minutes and next came the facial rollers. The first one was warm and filled some amazing-smelling aromatic potion that sent me into a reverie and helps relax the face. The second one was cooler and apparently stimulates the blood flow. Then came a Chinese Tui Na massage, following the pathways of trad acupuncture and using organic argan oil. This was my favourite part – I could’ve happily had a snooze, and it makes the whole thing feel more pampering than you’d expect of a needles-based treatment.

THE VERDICT

I glided out looking like I’d enjoyed the best night’s sleep ever; glowing, radiant and unusually serene. There are no needle marks so you don’t have to slink home and hide or slather your cheeks with foundation. In the coming days, my face looked more relaxed – I wasn’t holding so much tension in it and seemed to be squinting and frowning less. And when I ventured into the Muddy HQ a colleague quizzed me at length about how perky I looked. Suffice to say, I will be back. I’m not a fan of serious cosmetic procedures such as fillers or Botox but this treatment sits well with me as it’s not so invasive and feels more meaningful somehow. Yes, my face looked pretty darn amazing if I do say so myself, but I also felt a deep sense of wellbeing and relaxation too.

THE DAMAGE

£60 for a 60 minute treatment – great value I say, plus you’d pay a lot more in London. If needles make you nervous, Andy charges from £45 for 45 minutes of facial massage. Or you can upgrade to the full VIP float-off-to-nirvana option, including acupuncture, massage and zero balancing for £90.


A: Thame Therapy Clinic, 23 Upper High St, Thame, Oxfordshire OX9 3EX. Tel:01844 215 555. thametherapyclinic.co.uk

Words by: Sarah O’Hanlon
Full article can also be viewed here: 
https://bucksoxon.muddystilettos.co.uk/beauty/thame-therapy-clinic-acupuncture/

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WHAT HEALTH ISSUES COULD BENEFIT FROM ACUPUNCTURE?

As an Acupuncture practitioner I see endless applications of this therapy for everyday health problems. I thought it might be useful if I summarise the common issues I see regularly in the clinic to give you an idea of the scope of Acupuncture.

1. First up is ‘tiredness and stress’. This is the main complaint of about 60% of my patients. Typically I see this in working women in their 30/40’s with 2/3 children and a partner who works long hours.

2. Second is ‘pain’. Often acute physical strains from eg. Picking up a heavy weight or maybe a whiplash car accident, or a sports injury. But also physical pain coming from stress, such as sitting for a long time in front of a computer, or arthritic pain in the joints from damp and cold.

3. Third is ‘emotional overload’ causing mental stress and physical symptoms. This is very common and underlies most of the other issues I see. Helping people unblock emotionally is one of Acupuncture’s great strengths.

4. Fourth there are the chronic ongoing conditions such as headaches or IBS or menstrual pains where medical drugs don’t really address the cause of the problem. Many people are ground down by these issues and feel their lives are restricted.

5. Fifth are the patients who need help detoxing and strengthening. This could be during treatments for cancer or those getting off drugs like cigarettes or alcohol.

6. Sixth are the increasing numbers of women (and men) who use Acupuncture to help with fertility issues, including IVF assistance.

7. Finally there are some lesser known Acupuncture applications which sometimes feel like ‘miracles’. In this category come turning breech babies, overcoming the terror of flying, and controlling menopausal sweats.

For more information on Acupuncture please contact Andy Roscoe on 07932 011 281.