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Celebrate the milestones in your health journey: meet Zorro

So many of you are aware I had a hip arthroscopy in April this year. Well, just over a month ago I hit a milestone in the healing journey and I thought I should share it with you as I know many of you also have challenges with injury, pain and chronic health conditions.

One of the problems with having a hip injury is that you need to avoid hip flexion to prevent aggravating and inflaming the injury again. Now hip flexion includes just about every form of cardiovascular exercise you can image including: walking, running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, karate, yoga and most ball sports (luckily I can’t catch so that’s no biggie for me). The only two things I came across that didn’t really involve hip flexion were swimming with a pull buoy between your legs (and when this was first suggested I heard it as ‘pool boy’ and I wasn’t sure how that might help) and using an arm grinder at the gym. So it’s a real bummer when karate, cycling and hiking are your favourite types of exercise.

I was over the moon one day in July when I was given approval from my hip team (the surgeon, physiotherapist and exercise physiologist) to be allowed back onto the bike. A friend remarked that my “whole face lit up” as I recounted the good news to him. I am a rather keen commuter and recreational cyclist. The bad news is that my beautiful road bike, Bluey, causes too much hip flexion and will have to be rested, for now. The good news is that I have a brand new commuter bike. Meet Zorro:

Zorro cannondale quick

Zorro was chosen because I would be seated in an upright position and have less hip flexion. There were a few modifications to the handle bars to support this position too.

If you are a keen cyclist and have injury concerns (or pain anywhere in your body from cycling) I suggest having your bike fitted out by a physiotherapist specialising in bike fitting. I went to Eric at Physiotec. He was great and used physical assessment techniques and video to make sure my bike fitted perfectly ensuring I was using the correct muscles and not aggravating my hip.

My first ride with Zorro was magic and the winter sky complied beautifully.

blue sky and sun
A winter’s day in Brisbane. It doesn’t get much better than this!

I’m now back to commuting by bike to work (here’s 5 good reasons to cycle commute) and taking a few recreational cycles too. Here’s an excellent website to help you to find the best ways to cycle around Brisbane.

bike locker
Z is for Zorro. Hooray for lockers at work!

And I’m also well supported towards my next two milestones, a return to karate training and scuba diving, by my surgeon, physio, exercise physiologist, acupuncturist and naturopath too! See, I get treatment too!

Make sure to celebrate the milestones, whether large or small in your health journey. Some health conditions and injuries can take a very long time to resolve or manage so we need to acknowledge the small achievements along the way as it is these that pave our way to the big ones! And if you like, note them down in a gratitude journal or app (here’s 50 gratitude apps).

This journey has really helped me to understand injury and chronic pain personally. I have learnt so much first hand to help my patients who are also experiencing similar problems and I apply this to my consultations and treatments.

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.

massage, Traditional Chinese Medicine

What is TCM remedial massage and who can it help?

Massage pushing web2Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) remedial massage, otherwise known as tui na, is a therapy that dates back two thousand years ago to ancient China. The words ‘tui na’ translate to ‘push grasp’ which describes this style of massage with its assorted techniques including kneading, tapping, rubbing and pressing. The pressure used is suited to the individual patient and can be light on the skin or firm for deep tissue techniques. Pressure is applied to acupuncture points to stimulate them for specific conditions.

This form of massage is part of the greater system of TCM, a diverse system of medicine that covers all major systems within the body; which means it can be used for a wide range of acute and chronic ailments. TCM is focused on treating the underlying cause of disease as well as the presenting symptoms. This involves a holistic approach linking the body, mind and emotions in both the cause of disease and its treatment. TCM remedial massage may also be used to optimise overall wellness.

How does TCM remedial massage work?

By using a range of massage techniques your massage therapist will aim at best treating the particular condition you wish to have treated – whether that’s pain relief, reducing tension, healing injury or just making you feel better.

Peer-reviewed medical research has shown that massage techniques may provide:

  • Pain relief – For musculoskeletal injuries, tension headaches and back pain.
  • Mental alertness – After massage, EEG patterns indicate enhanced performance and alertness on mathematical computations.
  • Reduced anxiety and depression – Massage nay reduce subclinical depression.
  • Detoxification – Massage may stimulate the immune system by increasing blood flow and lymph drainage.
  • Muscle recovery – Massage may help to clear muscles of lactic and uric acid that build up during exercise.
  • Muscle tone – Improving muscle tone and delaying muscle atrophy resulting from inactivity.
  • Prevent injury – Deep massage may separate fascial fibres, prevent adhesions and reduce inflammation and oedema.
  • Relaxation – The release of endorphins and serotonin inducing a relaxed, ‘feel good’ state may improve sleep, reduce blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Healing – Massage may increase circulation and therefore improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells.

Traditionally, acupressure is explained by influencing the flow of Qi (energy or life force) within the body. For example, someone with throbbing headaches has too much Qi moving upwards, or someone with pain that is worse for rest has Qi that is ‘stuck’ or not circulating well. Researchers have identified that stimulating an acupuncture point (with a needle or acupressure) can create measurable changes in the body. Acupuncture points have an influence over the area that surrounds them. An acupuncture point can also have an influence over areas far removed from the actual point being needled.

Who can benefit?

TCM remedial massage is ideal for most musculoskeletal pain. It can also be beneficial for other health conditions, particularly when combined with acupuncture and/or other techniques such as cupping or herbal medicine.

People who can benefit from TCM remedial massage include those with specific pains such as stiff neck, tight shoulders or lower back pain; as well as anyone who suffers from chronic stress or general muscle tension.

I have many clients who choose to book regular monthly massages to promote wellness, reduce stress and prevent injury.

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.

acupuncture

Acupuncture point injection therapy: can it relieve your muscle pain?

Sarah George APIT webI was lucky enough to be one of the first practitioners to have completed Australian training in Acupuncture Point Injection Therapy (APIT) a few years ago. This therapy originated in China and is very useful for relieving stubborn muscle and tendon pain.

APIT operates on the same acupoint system as traditional acupuncture. The difference being that instead of leaving the regular acupuncture needles in place for the treatment time, small amounts of saline solution BP are injected via very fine needles (much finer and less painful than a regular injection) into each selected acupoint.

Injecting saline solution is simply a different way of stimulating acupoints and offers:

  • Treatments that can be much faster for those with limited time.
  • Strong point stimulation.
  • The bolus of saline solution can stimulate the acupoint after the needle has been withdrawn.
  • Saline solution can have a local healing effect on the surrounding tissue. Saline has the same balance of salts as our cells, blood and interstitial fluid. Injecting saline solution into damaged muscle tissue may help to improve nutrient and waste transfer to aid healing.

Muscular pains (even stubborn ones) often respond well to APIT. The following are examples of conditions which may benefit from APIT:

  • bursitis
  • tendinopathy
  • ITB irritation syndrome
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • sprain

Acupuncture Point Injection Therapy is just one of the treatments that I provide at my clinic.

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, 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, 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.

aromatherapy, exercise, herbal medicine, martial arts, massage, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Bruise remedies for martial artists, athletes & the accident-prone

A very athletic (but non-ninja) friend called me on the weekend searching for a fast cure for bruising.  She had taken a bad tumble from her bicycle the week before she was to compete in a big triathlon.  She had bad bruising developing behind her knee that covered most of the back of her knee and part of her thigh.  With some wisdom from both the Chinese and western herbal medicine worlds, the bruising didn’t get anywhere near “as ugly as she had expected” and she’s been back on the bike painlessly getting her last training in before the big event this weekend.

My top 5 remedies for bruising that all martial artists (and anyone else) need to know:

  1. Ice.  But don’t overdo it.  Ice can be used in the first 24-48 hours of an injury occurring.  If the injury feels hot, looks red and is continuing to swell, you can apply ice.  Compression bandaging is useful at this time too.  There is no need for ice once these symptoms have stopped.
  2. Arnica. Arnica is known as ‘the herb for bruising’ in western herbal medicine.  I like the Sunspirit Arnica Ointment, which can be smeared over the injured body part (e.g. knee or ankle) and then wrapped with gladwrap and left over night. It contains a few other herbs to aid healing and give some pain relief.  Arnica can also do wonders for bruising when taken internally as a homeopathic remedy.  This gives you a way to tackle the bruising from the inside while you are busy addressing the local area of the trauma.
  3. Liniment.  Traditional Chinese Medicine offers us many liniments that lay claim to reducing bruising.  The most famous of these amongst martial artists is ‘Dit Da Jow’ or ‘Hit Medicine’. Some of my favourites that are more easily available are Zheng Gu Shui and Po Sum On.  Liniment needs to be applied to the local bruise area every few hours, throughout the days following the injury.  The herbs used in these liniments aim to promote blood circulation and thus disperse the blood that has stagnated.
  4. Rubbing.  Yes, we can rub the bruise out.  Sounds painful, and it can be, but it works a treat.  You need to take some of the liniment referred to above and moisten the bruised area.  Then place your thumb or fingers in the centre of the bruise, apply deep pressure and massage towards the outside of the bruise.  You can use a deep, flicking movement to do this.  We are aiming to move the stagnant blood away from the site of the trauma.  The bruise will change colour and intensity fairly quickly with this technique.  A note of caution.  Rubbing out a bruise may not be suitable on acute serious injuries.
  5. Heat.  So it’s ice that we use first of all, and then later we apply heat.  Ice is used to stop the swelling and bruise developing, and then we can go straight into applying a heat pack to reinvigorate blood circulation.  The idea is to slap on some liniment and apply your heat pack on top.  This will aid circulation to the area and the warmth will prepare the bruise nicely to be rubbed out.

A note for people who bruise easily.  If you are prone to bruising with light touch or without recollection of a trauma it may indicate that you have an underlying condition affecting your blood clotting or blood vessels.  Sometimes medications and even supplements (e.g. fish oil) or herbal medicines (e.g. ginkgo biloba) can contribute to thinning of the blood.  A tendency to easy bruising should be discussed with your acupuncturist, herbalist or general practitioner.

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, exercise, herbal medicine, massage

The natural medicine guide to surviving the Kokoda Challenge (or other 100km hike)

On the weekend, I knocked over The Kokoda Challenge (known as one of Australia’s most gruelling endurance events – 96km of big hills on the Gold Coast Hinterland, that must be completed within 39 hours), for the second time.  Crazy? Yes, definitely.

Was it easier the second time?  Yes and no.

Yes, you know most of the track and what to expect, your training regime should be sorted out, you should know your body well (and its weaknesses) and hopefully you’ve maintained some fitness from last time.

And no, they change the track each year and add some new surprises (which are worse if you knew the easy bits they took out and replaced), conditions change – 50% of the track was coated with either slippery or sticky mud this year – much harder on the legs and lastly, maybe you lose a little bit of drive after completing it successfully before (a voice says, “you’ve done this before, there’s no need to get to the end, you have nothing to prove”).

None-the-less, The Commandettes, crossed the finish line 3 hours ahead of last year’s time.

Here’s my tips, as an acupuncturist, herbalist and massage therapist for getting your body across the line without relying on pharmaceutical pain killers and anti-inflammatories unless you really need them. (And for the record, I didn’t take a single pharmaceutical drug this year due to sticking to this plan).

Please make sure that if you use the ideas listed below that you speak to a qualified acupuncturist or herbalist regarding the specific herbs and supplements and their dosages – everyone is different and herbal medicine is just that – a medicine – so treat the herbs with the same care you would with any other medicine.

  1. Pre-event training
    • Start training well in advance of the event.  Build up the pace and distance gradually.  If you can’t train on the actual track, mimic the conditions as best you can.  Besides building you up for the event, this gives you plenty of time to recognise weaknesses and prevent future injuries.
    • Any niggle, should be assessed by a health professional (eg. physiotherapist, chiropractor or acupuncturist) as early as possible so you can work on fixing it.  It’s common to need specific exercises for the core abdominal muscles and gluteals – great for knee and hip injury prevention.
    • Swelling, pain, inflammation and muscle tension need to be treated as they occur too – see below.
  2. 4 weeks prior to the event
    • Get yourself onto a personalised herbal formula to prepare you to perform at your best.  The particular herbs chosen for your formula will depend on how you have been pulling up on from your training and your overall constitution.  Herbs such as Siberian ginseng and panax ginseng are excellent for endurance, stamina and energy, and even have high quality scientific studies demonstrating their effectiveness for athletic performance.  Herbs such as gotu kola and ginkgo biloba may improve any blood circulation related problems (eg. golfer’s vasculitis, otherwise known as ‘Disney rash’) and may also be useful in healing connective tissue.
    • If you aren’t already, now is the time for some weekly massages and/or acupuncture sessions to iron out any niggles from training – you want your body to be in tip-top shape for the event and not carrying around any left-over tightness which may predispose you to injury.  Acupuncture may also be able to assist with your stamina and treat any injuries you have already sustained.
    • The day before the event – see your acupuncturist again.  They will be able to locate some points on your ears that correspond to different parts of your body.  You will be able to press these points if your injuries begin to play up.  I have seen many cases of excellent results with this technique.
    • Ask your practitioner for dietary, nutritional and herbal tips for the event.
  3. On the day
    • Rehydration formula – take it regularly. What you sweat out will not be replaced by water alone.
    • Magnesium is essential!  A dose may be required at each major check point to prevent cramping, spasms and muscle tightness.
    • Herbal anti-inflammatories – A dose at every major checkpoint and as needed.  There are a lot out there including boswellia, turmeric, chamomile, horsechestnut, ginger and celery seed.  Don’t forget your omega 3’s too – from flaxseeds or fish.  If swelling is a particular problem, there are herbs specific to this.
    • Stimulants.  As needed.  I can not speak more highly of Flordis Ginsana – a highly researched ginseng capsule.  Nothing picks up my energy and my mood, more than the ginsana.  It’s great for getting through the night. Otherwise, the caffeine and carbohydrate sports gels, if you can manage the revolting texture, work quite well too.
    • Protein.  Sometimes you just don’t feel like eating a lot during exercise.  Protein powders are excellent at these times.  I like the pea-based protein powders – they have just as much protein as the whey ones, but are great for those who want a vegetable based protein source or wish to avoid dairy products.
    • Topical herbal anti-inflammatory and pain relieving cream or liniment.  Have it on hand to rub into sore knees, aching hips and other injuries as needed.  Why not sweet talk your support crew into giving you a shoulder rub with it at the check points?
  4. After the event
    • Simple carbohydrates are good (sugar… perhaps even a glass of alcohol to celebrate?)
    • Keep up your protein intake
    • The best part:  Soak in an epsom salts bath.  Relief.  Bliss.

There are many different ways to complete a 100km endurance event.  I have seen this combination work well for many people undertaking athletic activities.  If you are undertaking such an event – good luck!

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.