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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.

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.

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.

motivational, Traditional Chinese Medicine

2013: what can The Wellness Ninja do for you?

Wowzers!  While seeing patients today I’ve realised we are well on the way towards the end of January and I’ve been so busy in the clinic that I have been neglecting The Wellness Ninja updates. Apologies!

The Capricorn in me is trying to manage the situation with a level of careful thought and organisation right now starting with some reflection and planning for the future – which has involved a carefully written list that may be further developed into a very nerdy excel spreadsheet!

Many of us are also taking this approach to optimising various aspects of our lives with the new year (eg. health, finance, relationships, fun and relaxation).  I’ve seen many patients this month wanting to start detox and weight loss programs, and others who are motivated to tackle old injuries and chronic health problems. However,  if you feel as though you have missed the new year bandwagon, never fear, there’s always  the Chinese New Year in just a few weeks – another new beginning and fresh start!

So, on reflection, I thought I’d share a few of the posts that have been most popular since I started this little blog a few years ago:

  1. Bruise remedies for martial artists, athletes and the accident prone
  2. The acupuncturist and the broken heart
  3. Summer skin treat – the DIY salt scrub
  4. Scuba diving: extreme relaxation
  5. The natural medicine guide to surviving the Kokoda Challenge ( or other 100km hike)
  6. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): can natural medicine help?
  7. Karate: unlock the free flow of Ki
  8. Darkside decadence: the gluten-free biscuit
  9. A treat to settle a sick tummy
  10. How to have breakfast like an emperor (or empress) everyday

I have had a few requests for some blogs on topics such as:

  • What would be the top three herbs a Jedi Knight would take?
  • How does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view different types of alcohol beverages? (After all, medicinal wines are a TCM treatment method.)

Have you got a burning health question you think The Wellness Ninja needs to tackle?  Let me know!

This year will be jam packed with some excellent seminars and of course further Traditional Chinese Medicine masters study at UWS. Fertility, digestion and paediatrics are all on the schedule, and yes, you’ll be reading all about it.  So stay tuned for a wealth of interesting bits and bobs on health, natural beauty, fitness and martial arts.

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.