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.

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.

acupuncture, emotional health, herbal medicine, mental health

Three herbs a Jedi Knight may be prescribed to develop the Force within.

In conjunction with herbal medicine, meditation and training, slow cooked soups and congee would help to maintain a Jedi Knight’s strength.

Someone once suggested on my facebook page that I should write a blog combining herbal medicine and Star Wars.

GEEK ALERT! (Although, if you read between the lines this post may also be useful for regular civilians just like us.)

So the proposed topic was this:

“Which three herbs would Jedi Knights use to grow, develop and manage the Force within?”

I imagine that the scenario would go like this. A Jedi Knight has come for a consultation with me at my clinic. He or she is in need of:

  • increased physical energy (to keep up with extensive light saber dual training),
  • good mental clarity (for maintaining peace and justice in the galaxy), and
  • to be able to keep one’s cool in stressful dispute and battle-style scenarios involving moral and ethical dilemmas. And to definitely not give in to anger.

Sounds familiar to what we all need to prosper in a busy, modern life doesn’t it?

The herbs that immediately spring to mind for this patient are:

  • Siberian ginseng – this herb is one of the physical endurance greats! One study showed that it could enhance  endurance by 23% and that participants could tolerate a greater cardiac requirement during exercise when compared with placebo.
  • Ginkgo biloba – the extract of the leaf of the gingko tree has been associated with improved cognitive function.  Memory response times were improved in this study of middle aged women after taking ginkgo biloba in this study.
  • Kava – when extracted in water, this herb is excellent for reducing stress and anxiety. Interestingly, a systematic review found that kava taken at regular doses also either improves cognition or at least has minimal negative effect. So, that means our Jedi is relaxed without compromising performance.

Of course, the actual herbs I would prescribe for the Jedi Knight would be based on their individual health history and may differ from the above. I’m sure that a Jedi Knight would also make use of acupuncture for the above treatment goals and to aid injury repair.

This post is for a bit of fun but don’t forget that herbs are still medicines. And they should be treated with the same respect as any other medicines in regards to safety and dosing. For best results, see a practitioner for an individualised herbal formula that bests suits your needs.

If you need a Star Wars related tasty treat now, here’s a recipe for darkside decadence: the gluten-free biscuit.

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, Diet, herbal medicine, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

5 natural medicine tips for surviving the exam period

Exam time is notorious for late nights of sugar and caffeine fueled binges.  Your stress levels soar and your sleep quantity plummets. This handy venn diagram explains the delicate balance between study, sleep and social life. I have compiled a list of natural medicine tips to help you cruise through the exam period light a Jedi!

  1. Feed your brain – Instead of reaching for that family size block of chocolate and the whole bag of M&Ms to get you through a night of study look instead to increasing your intake of nature’s brain foods. Traditional Chinese Medicine considers that optimal thinking and optimal digestion are related. Take yourself away from your books to eat and eat foods that you know make you feel well. Nuts (walnuts even look like a brain!), seeds and fish are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids which are essential to maintaining good nervous system function. Increasing your vegetable and wholegrain intake will keep your energy levels more stable than a sugar binge will, so that you’ll feel energised yet calm. For short burst energy snacks pick some snacks such as berries, sliced fruit or dried fruits. Keep up the water too – your brain needs to be adequately hydrated to perform at its best!
  2. Sleep on it – The time when you lose the most sleep is often when you need it most. If you can, make sure that you have covered (or at least skimmed) the content you need at least the day before your exam and then aim for 8 hours sleep that night. You will be calmer, have greater focus and clarity, and improved memory recall.
  3. Vaporise essential oils – There has been some fascinating research on the use of smells and memory recall via the limbic system. We’ve all experienced a time when a smell has invoked a memory from our past. Use this to your advantage as you study. Vaporise the essential oil of your choosing while you study a particular topic. When you enter the exam room put a drop of that same essential on a tissue and tuck it into your shirt. This may increase your memory recall from when you studied that content. The oils that are most often associated with concentration, focus and memory are lemon, peppermint, basil and rosemary.
  4. Rosemary for remembrance – This herb is known as the memory herb. It is associated in folklore with remembrance and is used on Remembrance Day for this reason. You can use it straight from your garden in cooking, baking or even as a herbal tea (it combines beautifully with lemon myrtle). A study was conducted examining the effects of rosemary on cognitive function. One group was given cold tomato juice to drink while the other had the same tomato juice with added rosemary. The rosemary group performed significantly better than the plain tomato juice group. And interestingly, the plain tomato juice seemed to have a negative impact on cognitive function – so keep clear of it during exams.
  5. Become a herb nerd – There are several herbs that have been researched extensively for concentration, focus and memory function. Two of the most popular ones are ginkgo biloba and bacopa. These herbs are available in tablet form or can be developed by an herbalist into an individualised herbal formula to suit your specific situation. The addition of ginseng is an excellent way to boost energy levels for late night study sessions without the use of strong coffee.

And if the above tips aren’t enough, make sure to check in with your health practitioner to assist your focus and recall. Acupuncture usually works a treat at times of high stress!

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, food, food allergy, health, herbal medicine, massage, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Irritable bowel syndrome: feeling better with complementary medicine

I see many patients each week who have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The good news is that I often find that with some good questioning and an individualised treatment plan covering the multiple aspects of this condition, a patient’s abdominal pain and bowel habits often respond for the better.

IBS is the most common digestive condition that patients seek help for and, believe it or not, accounts for up to a third of visits to gastroenterologists.

IBS is diagnosed by eliminating other disorders through medical testing.  An IBS diagnosis is made when a patient has recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort for at least three days of the last three months and at least two symptoms from the following:

  • Improvement of pain with bowel movement
  • Onset associated with a change in the stool frequency
  • Onset associated with a change in the stool consistency

The causes of IBS are poorly understood and so this means that conventional treatment is targeted towards reducing the symptoms. Interestingly, it is antidepressant medications that seem to offer the most relief to IBS patients from the pharmaceutical model.  Additionally, antispasmodics and anti-diarrhoeal medications are often trialed.

There are many natural therapies that have been used traditionally for digestive conditions and some of these treatments have shown statistically significant results in clinical trials.

  • Herbal medicine and nutrition therapy do have plenty to offer a patient with IBS and this is backed by clinical trials. One of the most effective herbal remedies tested in double blind clinical trials is a herbal formula known as Iberogast. A study found that Iberogast significantly reduces abdominal pain and other IBS symptoms. I use a lot of Iberogast with my IBS patients when I feel that the formula fits their pattern and it usually brings excellent results.
  • Probiotics have also been the subject of several clinical trials and there is good evidence for their use in IBS.  They are particularly useful in patients who suffer from bloating, flatulence and abdominal pain. Probiotics enhance the gut barrier function and inhibit pathogen binding. Many probiotic strands are available, so you need to work with a practitioner to get the correct strands and dosing. In addition to supplementing with probiotics, increasing probiotic rich foods (such as yoghurt, keffir, miso, tempeh and sauerkraut) may be beneficial.
  • Fibre, particularly soluble fibre such as psyllium husks, is also supported by research for use in IBS, particularly where constipation is a predominant factor. Soluble fibres should be taken before meals for a greater impact on the lower digestive system.
  • Dietary causes play a part in IBS. It is worth having your diet assessed by your practitioner to identify if there are any foods that are aggravating your system. I often refer patients for food sensitivity testing which takes some of the guess work out of finding out which foods aggravate your symptoms and diets based on this testing have significantly reduce symptoms in clinical trials. Not all patients need to follow a dairy and gluten free diet – however this does work well for some – testing helps us to identify which foods are causing your problems.
  • One of the most important factors in treating IBS is managing stress and anxiety. Seek assistance in resolving ongoing life stresses or anxieties. Hypnosis is well supported in research for managing IBS. Additionally, choose counselling, meditation, yoga, massage and relaxation techniques to help you feel more relaxed. Acupuncture is excellent for enhancing relaxation and has been used for thousands of years for alleviating digestive pain and bowel disorders too.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has several diagnostic patterns for IBS. One of the most common is known as “Liver invading the Spleen”. Basically, this means that when feeling emotions such as frustration, resentment, irritability and anger your digestion system is weakened and your symptoms are worse. If you have this pattern you may suffer from alternating constipation and diarrhoea, and it is hard to pinpoint any foods that make your condition worse. (Here’s a little more on Liver Qi Stagnation, the precursor to Liver invading the Spleen.) It is no surprise then that it is the antidepressant medications that have shown the greatest improvement in this condition from a pharmaceutical point of view. There are many drug-free stress reduction options, and these are listed in the last bullet point above. This brain-gut connection highlights the importance of an holistic strategy in the management of IBS.

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, emotional health, exercise, mental health, motivational, Traditional Chinese Medicine

The case of the stuck Liver

You wake up, slowly, you’ve already pressed snooze twelve times and still aren’t ready to face the day despite getting a good eight hours sleep. But the day cannot be delayed any further and so after a coffee and a hot shower you’re beginning to lose the grumbles and may actually be able to hold a civil conversation with another human being.

At work, you can’t believe how everyone else is wrong and can’t see how right you are. And on top of that technology is failing and it’s all just so damn FRUSTRATING, you could cry or maybe tear someone’s head off, or maybe both at the same time.

You’ve partially lost your appetite, except for chocolate, coffee and chips which temporarily provide comfort after skipping meals. Trouble is, when you do eat you either get nausea, bloating or some sort of bowel irregularity. You’re also feeling stiff and tight (your neck and shoulders have become a solid block), there’s the feeling of a lump in your throat and you can’t remember the last time you took a decent deep breath although you have done a helluva lot of sighing lately. And this is all made worse the more frustrated and irritated you get (and if you are a lady of reproductive age, just prior to your monthlies). At least you know there’ s a glass of wine/scotch/beer waiting for you at home. You wonder how you got stuck in this mess anyway: the job, the house, the relationship, the debt. Yep, stuck. And tired. And down. That sums it up.

Perhaps it looks a bit like this classic example of frustration:

Welcome to a classical (and slightly over-the-top) presentation of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) pattern of Liver Qi Stagnation.  It is a remarkably common syndrome in the modern world and I see a range of these symptoms presenting in patients. You can have one, some or all of these symptoms to be given this TCM diagnosis.

So, what can be done to return you back to your old easy-going self? You can choose one or more of the suggestions below. Addressing the emotional cause is essential to a longer term fix, however the other suggestions can support you through this and make you feel better.

  1. Address the cause of your ‘stuckness’.  If something or someone is bothering you, work it out.  Whether this is through discussion, a new plan or seeing a counselor – find a way to move past or remove your obstacle mentally. The idea is to express yourself and not to bottle everything up. Your aim is to be a ‘free and easy wanderer’ or like a gently bubbling stream meandering through the path of least resistance.
  2. Move your body. Exercise is an excellent way to physically move your stuckness (or stagnant Qi/energy). It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you are physically moving and feeling better for it. A mix of cardiovascular exercise (think runner’s high) and stretching (enhance flexibility of body and mind) might be most useful.
  3. Breath deeply. When we are frustrated or angry our breathing becomes fast and shallow. In an effort to get a decent breath out, we often sigh. Take the time to assess your own breathing and if necessary slow the rate down and fill your chest with air right down to your diaphragm. There is research to support that 15 minutes of deep breathing exercises at a rate of <10 breaths per minute with slower exhalations may even have an effect on lowering blood pressure (if it’s high).
  4. Laugh. Laughter, like exercise, physically moves your body. It also promotes a happy feeling and while you are laughing it’s hard to obsess over your frustrations. So go and support your local stand up comedy venue or put on your favourite laugh-out-loud comedy series. Or better still, spend some time with someone you know who makes you giggle – some people just have that knack.
  5. Be creative. Get those creative juices flowing – and the key word here is flowing. Express yourself. Even learn a new creative skill. Whether this is through visual art or writing, starting a crafty project, picking up your guitar or singing your heart out, it will help to coerce that stuck Qi along.
  6. Spice up your life. Okay, this doesn’t come back to the singing point again, what I mean here is to liven up your meals with some light, fragrant and pungent foods – in moderation. Think garlic, onions, ginger, chilli and fresh herbs to boost your circulation.  Of course, eating a diet based on whole foods which are tasty and nutritious will add to your sense of wellbeing.
  7. Take a break. Get away and have a change of scenery and routine for a fresh perspective. Here’s more ways a break can help.
  8. Release the pressure gauge with a treatment. Acupuncture is an excellent way to help you through stuck times. This treatment is excellent for an almost instant feeling of relaxation. Often when you know what have to do but lack the motivation to do them an acupuncture treatment and a few herbs can give you the kick you need to ‘get the ball rolling’.

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.

emotional health, health, mental health, motivational

There’s nothing like a break

GBR anemone fishHello!  It’s been a little while, but I’m back to you bursting with good health and wellbeing tips after a lovely little break.

Last year was a huge year filled with so many wonderful things including big days at the clinic with my lovely patients, teaching my eager beaver students about acupuncture at the Endeavour GBR clamCollege of Natural Health and recommencing my own studies with the Master of Health Science (Traditional Chinese Medicine) at the University of Western Sydney.  I spent the break between Christmas and New Year having an incredibly super time at the Woodford Folk Festival spreading the word on Traditional Chinese GBR sunsetMedicine dietary health at the Blue Lotus stage.  Add this all together, and well, I was feeling the need for some slow down time in the shape of a break come February.

So, off I took, to tropical North Queensland where the air is warm and the vibe is slow and relaxed.  I jumped onto a dive boat and spent the best part of three days underwater scuba diving with the fishes.  And those three days, well they felt longer.  They felt good and were just what I needed to unwind and relax.  Why is scuba diving so relaxing?

So, my message to you is this.  A holiday doesn’t need to be long or expensive or take you to far away places to have that refreshing effect. Short bursts in different surroundings (that do it for you), regularly, may be just what you need. Got one planned?  Pull out your diary/iphone calender now and block yourself out a short break or two to get you through to mid year.  A long weekend here and there can work wonders.

I’ve included a few photos of the underwater adventure land that we are so lucky to have only two hours flight from Brisbane.  The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living structure and needs to be explored to be really appreciated.  Do it!

And if you need another somewhat weather appropriate message of how a good break can pick you up, then this gem is it.  Enjoy!

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.