acupuncture, Diet, fertility, food, martial arts, nature, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

10 things you should know about Chinese Medicine

I’ve spoken at a few Endeavour College of Natural Health open days now. Prior to presenting to the prospective students I always get to thinking about all of the things I love about acupuncture and Chinese medicine. This medicine really has been a great lifetime passion of mine. (“Really?” You say.)

So here are the top 10 reasons why I love acupuncture and Chinese medicine:

  1. Diagnosis and treatment are completely individualised. It doesn’t matter if you have osteoarthritis, endometriosis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), in Chinese medicine we are interested in your unique signs and symptoms and we may give you a Chinese medicine diagnosis which is completely different from that of another person with the same disease name but a slightly different presentation. Your treatment will be individualised just for you.
  2. Yin yang cupcake iced solo webThere are no super foods. Or good foods. Or bad foods. Or fad diets. I know that goji berries and shiitake mushrooms are seen as foods of the gods, and soy has a reputation as the fruit of the devil for every single person on the planet (according to nutrition in the media) but in Chinese medicine we just don’t see it that way. All foods have different energetic properties (eg. cooling, heating, move upwards or downwards, drain damp, nourish blood or open the pores) and so they are used to bring your body back into balance when it isn’t already. For example, if it’s hot it needs cooling and if you are carrying excess fluid you need to drain damp. Of course your body’s needs change as you age, with the season and with illness or regaining health. As this happens your diet also needs to change. It’s not black and white. Which is exactly what the taiji (yin yang) symbol represents: there is always some black in the white and vice versa. Be sensible with your eating, strive for balance and pay attention to how foods make you feel.
  3. 5 elementsThere is a strong connection to nature within the medicine. Five element theory is a way of applying the principles of nature to our bodies. It’s based on thousands of years of observation. We can describe and diagnose people’s temperaments and body conditions according to Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire. Each element relies upon and is interrelated to the others to keep delicate balance. Just like nature is. For example too much Earth can make us heavy, too much water can create fluid retention and too much fire can make us overheated. It’s a more complex system them this but those are just some simple examples.
  4. It can be an outright treatment, an alternative or a complementary medicine. So we all know that acupuncture alone is sometimes great for sorting out that sore shoulder or helping you sleep better. Other times acupuncture can work very well alongside other western medicine treatment. Some conditions that spring to mind are when we use acupuncture with IVF treatment or alongside chemotherapy which may reduce some of the side effects like nausea. As acupuncture does not involve ingestion of herbs or medicines it is rarely contraindicated with other therapies.
  5. Most people feel relaxed and emotionally ‘like a weight has lifted’ immediately following an acupuncture treatment. Patients often comment that they can fall asleep during an acupuncture treatment when they can’t take afternoon naps at home. It is a relaxing treatment and believe it or not – no the needles don’t really hurt most of the time. In fact relaxation has been described as a side effect of acupuncture in this study.
  6. ear acupuncture modelHaving a knowledge of acupuncture and acupressure is like having a first aid kit with you wherever you go. Symptoms like nausea and headaches can often be relieved if you know the right spots to push. I often take some ‘ear seeds’ with me when I go camping or hiking to manage musculoskeletal pains (these little seeds apply pressure to parts of the ear that correspond to other parts of your body – like acupressure. Anyone who has used a Sea-Band on their wrist for seasickness is doing acupressure – you place the hard bit of the band onto an acupuncture point! Of course, it can’t do everything and it’s always handy to have a regular first aid kit too.
  7. Energy flow is fundamental to Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Learning good posture and effective breathing is essential not only to good health but also being a good practitioner. Think of tai chi, Qi gong, yoga and martial arts. We apply these same postural and breathing techniques when inserting needles. But really, you can apply good posture and effective breathing to everything that you do.
  8. The history of Chinese Medicine is decorated with beautiful stories, poetry and artworks to document and share the medicine. An appreciation of the arts is also considered a part of holistic healthcare. I often describe to my fertility or pregnancy patients that one of the acupuncture points is called ‘zigong’ or ‘the palace of the child’. How gorgeous is that? We can incorporate these beautiful descriptions into meditations or visualisations during treatment.
  9. The future of Chinese medicine is bright as we are now seeing higher quality clinical trials to highlight traditional and new uses for our medicines. For example the research using fMRI to understand the effect of acupuncture needling on the brain is fascinating. Check out this BBC documentary for a look at this research. (It’s an hour long but it’s well worth it.)
  10. In Australia we are now a registered profession (just like physiotherapists and dentists). This means that acupuncturists, Chinese herbalists and Chinese medicine practitioners now have to comply with AHPRA regulations under the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia (CMBA) including a minimum level of education (bachelor degree) and other professional and ethical standards. So in the interests of public safety and getting the most effective treatment for your condition always seek treatment from a CMBA registered practitioner. (For the record, dry needling is not registered in this way.)

Just a word of warning: nowhere here have I said Chinese medicine is a cure all. I just wanted to highlight the things that Chinese medicine does really well. For information about your own health please speak with a registered Chinese medicine practitioner.

What is it that you love about acupuncture and Chinese medicine? Tell me in the comments. I’d love to know.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

health, martial arts, massage, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Have you ever been in a float tank?

Floating on the Red Sea

I’ve always been curious about float tanks. But it wasn’t until last week that I actually took the… plunge.

After getting back into cycling, hiking and karate training for the year, my body has been a little achy and tight. My massage therapist told me, “you know what you need? A float. Go on, ring up now!” Well, there’s nothing like the power of now. So I called the place she recommended. They’d moved. But I tracked them down and was booked in for my first float two hours later.

Prior to taking the float I chatted to a friend online. “What about claustrophobia?” we wondered. “Can you leave the lid open?” I also wondered how clean the float tank would be and what the hygiene standards were like.

Well. When I arrived at the float centre I was asked to shower and shampoo my hair before getting into the tank (towels and shampoo were provided). The float tank was heated to luke warm temperature, so a shower cooler than skin temperature is recommended before you jump into the tank. I thought I’d get cold in the tank (as I’m a bit of a cold frog) but I had no problem with the temperature at all – I was completely comfortable. And yes, you can leave the lid ajar if you wish. I had my eyes closed and was perfectly happy to close the lid completely. You are also given ear plugs to prevent the water filling up your ear canals. And soft relaxation music plays for the first 20 minutes of your session.

The tank looked very clean and the water was crystal clear. The water has had 350 kilograms of epsom salts dissolved into it. Okay, so that’s a tad more than the 1-2 cups I’d normally use in the bath. This strong epsom salts solution makes you float – just as you would in the Red Sea. The massage therapist had warned me not to hold my head up, “your head won’t sink – make sure that you completely relax your neck – you won’t drown.” And she was right. It was great advice. In fact, I relaxed so much I fell asleep while floating in the heavily mineralised water. It wasn’t until the relaxation music that is played in the last ten minutes of your one hour session came on that I woke up.

After showering the salts away and drying off, I experienced a deep sense of relaxation. I don’t think I would have been in a position to operate heavy machinery or rely on any sharp mental function that afternoon. I also slept very well that night. And yes, my tight (just about rock-hard) neck and shoulders were looser, allowing my massage therapist to work deeper on me in my next treatment.

In Chinese medicine this translates to my Shen (spirit) being calmed, the excess Yang had descended and the Qi was flowing smoothly in the channels. And in fact, salt is used in our medicine for its softening, loosening, cooling and downbearing actions. Makes sense.

If you’re in need of some relaxation or a good night’s sleep a float session might be just up your alley. Combine it with some acupuncture and/or massage and you would surely be taken off to a soft, white, floaty, cloud heaven.

Are you a float tank enthusiast?

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, Diet, emotional health, exercise, food, food allergy, health, herbal medicine, martial arts, mental health, motivational, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

A gift for you and a gift for me.

Yin Yang birthday cake
A very decadent (and appropriate) birthday cake my sister once made me. We are a family of baked good lovers!

It’s my birthday today. Yes, I’m part of the Christmas Eve birthday club. The day has it’s pros and cons but it’s mine and I’m a very proud late-December Capricorn.

There’s something about an approaching birthday that makes me do a stock take of the past year and a look towards the coming year, so I’ve done a big clean out and made room for the new by giving the old away. Let’s just say the charity bin is several bags richer of some lovely threads that I just don’t wear anymore. May they make someone else happy.

I’ve also been absolutely spoiled rotten by friends and family today (and in the days leading up today). What a bunch of generous, talented and loving souls I am honoured to be surrounded by.

Thank you all.

paeony pillow cases

I also had to share this gift with you. An amazing friend screen printed these pillow cases with my new clinic branding – gorgeous huh? I am so grateful to have friends, family and patients who support me so well in my healing work.

Now, I wanted to share another gift with all of you too. It’s the top ten list of articles by views on my blog this year. The Wellness Ninja has tripled it’s readership this year – thank you so much! So here is the best of 2013’s blog posts for you to devour over the break in case you missed any!

Please enjoy them. And may you enjoy this festive season with your friends and family.

  1. Nourishing the blood with Traditional Chinese Medicine and wholefoods
  2. Five Chinese Medicine tips to soothe a sore throat
  3. Gluten and dairy-free fruit and nut slice
  4. It’s time for a detox – Traditional Chinese Medicine style
  5. Bruise remedies for martial artists, athletes and the accident prone
  6. Three herbs a Jedi Knight may be prescribed to develop the Force within
  7. Vegetarian quiche: a tasty gluten and dairy-free recipe
  8. The acupuncturist and the broken heart
  9. Delicious vegetarian nachos (gluten and dairy free)
  10. Five natural medicine tips for surviving the exam period

And also have you downloaded your free Herbs, health and acupressure ebook yet?

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

exercise, health, martial arts, mental health, motivational

How to fit exercise into a busy life

Sarah Dad cycling 2013
My Dad and I after finishing the Brisbane to Ipswich charity ride this year.

I was asked to prepare a guest blog for the Endeavour College of Natural Health regarding how I fit exercise into my life around my many commitments. (Aren’t we all busy these days?)

We know that exercise (in its many forms) has a multitude of benefits for our bodies including improving cardiovascular health, maintaining a healthy weight, easing some types of pain, balancing blood sugar and enhancing our mental health. We simply cannot afford to miss a daily dose.

If you struggle finding ways to get some daily exercise in that:

  1. fits into your schedule and around your commitments
  2. is low cost
  3. is enjoyable

then click on this link which will take you to my Wellspring guest post (Workouts the experts swear by: fitness secrets from an acupuncturist) to get some ideas on how you can get exercise into your life… and feel so much better for it!

I am currently overcoming an injury (with herbs, acupuncture, massage, shockwave therapy and rehab exercises aplenty) but will be right back to my schedule as soon as possible – I miss it!

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

exercise, martial arts

Why should you take up a martial art?

Australian Women’s Fitness magazine is this month (August 2013 issue) promoting martial arts to women.

They questioned women from a variety of martial arts including:

  • Taekwondo
  • Muay Thai
  • Aikido
  • Karate
  • Kendo
  • Krav Maga

You can read a little about my karate journey in the article. (Although, I need to clear up for those who know what this means – it was actually Wado Ryu karate I trained in when I was 8 years old, not Goju Ryu which I currently train in.)

I often recommend the martial arts as a form of physical and mental exercise for my patients. It’s great for anyone who doesn’t like mundane training in a gym, and for people who don’t excel at team sports, and also for people who need a push along with their exercise. It’s great for perfectionists and the busy minded, or those who need more focus, it brings out some fighting spirit in the timid and can pacify those on the agitated side.

It is also just damn good fun.

The martial arts (and they vary dramatically between styles – so try a few to find the right fit for you) offer cardiovascular, conditioning and flexibility training. Yes, you get fit. And training is adapted for your level, so it doesn’t matter how fit, flexible or strong you are when you start. You also get a workout for the mind – no room for dwelling on work problems while training!

So, if you are looking for a new exercise regime, social activity or hobby, why not try a martial art? But be careful, training is addictive!

Here‘s what my experience of karate training in Japan is like.

And here is my experience of the relationship between karate training and practicing acupuncture.

Do you already train in a martial art? What does it do for you?

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

exercise, martial arts

Karate training in Japan

My club training in Japan
My club training in Japan

It’s almost one year since I boarded a plane destined for Japan and two weeks of intensive karate training and testing.  Some of my karate friends from around the world are set to take the trip again in around a month’s time. It occurred to me that while I have shared the Japanese medicine side of the trip, I’ve never written about my karate experience there.

I train in Goju Ryu karate, one of four traditional styles of karate originally from Okinawa. The style “Goju” means “hard soft”. This refers to the way we use a combination of sharp, powerful and also rounder, flowing strikes, blocks and breathing techniques.

Fujiwara Shihan tests my Sanchin kata
Fujiwara Shihan tests my Sanchin kata

Within Goju Ryu my club is part of a subgroup called Seiwakai. Seiichi Fujiwara Shihan is the highest teacher within Seiwakai. Each July, advanced Seiwakai karate students from around the world travel to Japan to undergo the intensive karate training and testing under Fujiwara Shihan. We spend the majority of our time training in the town of Omagari (in Akita province). Each day is the same with 9am-12pm and 3pm to 5pm sessions, with further training in the evenings for those who are tournament oriented.

Day one of training is a shock to the system. The training is mentally and physically challenging. It is an intense cardiovascular workout (compounded by the fact that it is hot and humid in Japan at this time of year). The afternoons are dedicated to working through the finer points of our kata (forms) for our grade level. At the end of the day, we feel tired but satisfied. As the days wear on, we settle into the training routine and our skills improve due to the intensive, master tuition. The evenings are spent dining (sometimes somewhere fancy and sometimes in the supermarket – which is not as bad as it sounds), chatting and doing karaoke with our fellow karateka from around the world (including Russia, Portugal, UK, USA and Canada).

After the Seiwakai grading with Fujiwara Shihan
After the Seiwakai grading with Fujiwara Shihan

I travelled with a group from my club: Sensei Scott, Sensei Bernie and my fellow karateka Taylor, Dave and Ryo. Most of our group underwent the testing. It was a high pressure grading situation which we were able to embrace given the training we had done with our teachers in Australia but also by running with the momentum from our intensive training with Fujiwara Shihan. Taylor, Dave and I were all successful at grading to Shodan (1st degree black belt) at the Seiwakai grading. We weren’t to know if we passed until the next day, however I knew I had performed to the best I could and actually enjoyed the pressure of the testing. It is my best karate memory to date! (Just next to the time when I took 1st place in the under ten years girl’s kumite!)

With our Canadian friends
With our Canadian friends

Following the Seiwakai grading and testing we travelled on the Shinkansen (bullet train) back to Tokyo for the Japanese Karate Federation (JKF) seminar. This was where the Seiwakai students joined with other Goju Ryu students and gained from the knowledge and experience from several great Goju Ryu teachers.

The trip was nothing short of amazing. The karate training was hard and intense, there were times where mental or physical hurdles seemed too great and we were too exhausted to face them, but we smashed them in the end.

It was an honour to train with Fujiwara Shihan and his group of supporting teachers. I am so grateful for the personal coaching I received during the training sessions. The friendships we made with our fellow karateka are to be cherished.

I wish all of my fellow karateka making the trip this year a fantastic few weeks of training and I look forward to seeing you all there in 2014.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

exercise, martial arts, massage

Massage tension away with a foam roller

foam rollerI often recommend the use of a foam roller to my acupuncture and massage patients who suffer from pain associated with tense backs, buttocks, iliotibial bands (ITBs), hamstrings and calves.  I love doing these stretches myself and they are an excellent way to give yourself a little massage for pain relief and injury prevention.  My back and legs appreciate a good stretch and massage after karate training or a long bike ride. Whether you exercise a lot, are very sedentary or somewhere in between, these exercises may help to reduce your muscle tension. Do them daily for best results.

Daily stretching and self massage will enhance the effect of your acupuncture and massage treatments. If you are suffering from strong pain, numbness or tingling make sure to seek treatment from your health professional.

Here are a few videos of how to use your foam roller for common areas of tension:

Thoracic spine and chest stretch

These stretches focus on the du, ren, gall bladder, lung, pericardium and heart acupuncture channels.

Thoracic spine mobilisation

This massage technique focuses on the du and bladder acupuncture channels.

Buttock massage

These massage technique focuses on the bladder and gall bladder acupuncture channels.

ITB massage

This massage technique focuses on the gall bladder acupuncture channel.

Hamstring and calf massage

This massage technique focuses on the bladder acupuncture channel.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.