What’s the difference between Medical Acupuncture, Dry Needling and Traditional Acupuncture?

Medical acupuncture, dry needling and traditional acupuncture – which one to choose?

Acupuncture practice is getting a little confusing. It seems like many other therapies and clinic types are adopting some type of needle insertion for health.

The great thing is, almost everyone is in agreeance that acupuncture treats a range of conditions and benefits health – that can’t be a bad thing!

But if you are someone looking for the right type of acupuncture treatment (which I assume you might be if you are reading this!), it can get a little tricky. So I’ve summarised the three most common acupuncture practices with their pros and cons below.

Medical Acupuncture

This type of acupuncture is practised by a qualified medical doctor. On top of their extensive medical training, they complete between 10-20 hours of training in acupuncture practice. They mainly treat musculoskeletal conditions and some internal health conditions like reflux, constipation, headaches and migraines.

Pros – often cheaper or even bulk billed in certain clinics, treated by a trained medical doctor, good option for simple pain conditions like low back back, neck pain, heel pain

Cons – limited conditions to treat, reductionist view of health (not holistic), clinic setting is not generally as warm and relaxing as a traditional acupuncture clinic, not ideal for conditions like infertility or pregnancy

Dry Needling

Dry needling is probably the most controversial of the acupuncture-type practices. You may unaware that in July 2012, Acupuncture became a registered profession. This means we are now under the same registration as medical doctors, physiotherapists, nurses and chiropractors.

This also means that ‘acupuncture’ is a protected title, meaning you can’t use it to describe your needle insertion practice unless you have had minimal 4 years training in an approved degree program. The only exception to this, is of course the Medical Acupuncture.

So any other professions like remedial massage therapists, physiotherapists or chiropractors who don’t have this training, but who do use a type of needle insertion practice, need to call in dry needling.

Many acupuncturists have a problem with other professions using dry needling. I don’t. I think it’s a great technique to use for pain conditions. It is a very specific technique of inserting needles into trigger points. It can be very painful which is why I don’t like to do this to my clients.

Pros – good for musculoskeletal pain conditions like knee pain, low back pain, neck pain, often practised by qualified registered practitioners (physiotherapists, chiropractors)

Cons – often painful, reductionist view of health (not holistic), can’t treat internal conditions like fertility, pregnancy or digestive complaints, can be expensive if treated by registered practitioner

Traditional Acupuncture (Chinese)

This type of practice is the original acupuncture practice. Almost every Asian country has a history of some type of acupuncture practice. There is some indication that it has been around between 2000-5000 years.

It is based on a really complex understanding of the balance of energies between our bodies and the environment. And changes to this balance results in health concerns. Acupuncture works on correcting this energy imbalance.

Pros – practiced by practitioners with minimum four year degree in Chinese medicine and acupuncture, holistic view of health, can treat a broad range of conditions, treats all conditions from their root imbalance, preventative healthcare system, great for internal conditions like fertility and pregnancy, clinic setting perfect for helping you relax

Cons – can be expensive without private health in Australia, some conditions can take between 1 and 3 months to treat.

I actually can’t think of any more cons! They may be because I don’t find there are anymore. Of course I am a bit biased but I chose this practice as a career for this reason.

So there is nothing BAD about the other practices, they all have their strengths and weaknesses and I wanted to give you the information to help decide which one to choose for your health complaint.

Always happy to hear from you if you have any feedback on your experience with the different types of acupuncture practice.

Registered Acupuncturist and clinic owner of Gold Coast acupuncture clinic, The Point of Wellbeing

Thicken Your Lining for Transfer, Naturally.

A healthy, thick lining is important for a healthy menstrual cycle and the implantation and growth of your embryo.

The thickness of your lining changes throughout your cycle, ranging from between 2-4mm during menstruation, then building to between 7 and 16mm when it’s around the time for an embryo to land in your lining – around transfer time.

You may have heard your fertility specialist say they like to see your lining thicker than 7mm to transfer your embryo.

Your fertility specialist also likes to see what’s called a ‘trilaminar’ appearance. This is when youcan clearly see the three healthy layers to your endometrium. Each layer has a particular function in being able to support a pregnancy so always good to know how yours is looking – you can always ask at your scan before your transfer.

When your lining is too thin, it may be missing some healthy characteristics that help support a healthy pregnancy, so it’s always a good idea to improve the health of your lining if you can.

There are three main causes of a thin uterine lining:

  1. Low estrogen
  2. Poor uterine blood flow
  3. Disruption to uterine lining – due to infection, caesarean section, pelvic inflammatory disease, laparoscopy surgery

Some natural things you can do to help:

  • Eat a warm, varied diet. Green vegetables are always good for estrogen metabolism. Meat or equivalent proteins are always good for blood building and blood flow. In Chinese medicine, cold foods can slow blood and cause pain in the pelvis so stick to cooked and warm foods.
  • Herbs (if in between IVF cycles or have the approval of your fertility specialist) – there are a huge variety of blood moving and estrogen supporting herbs but make sure you seek professional advice for the right ones for you
  • Exercise – so important for blood flow, walking helps move the hips, yoga helps move blood around the pelvis but running and extreme sports can negatively impact the blood flow to your pelvis so opt for more gentle exercises
  • Stress management – include more of the things you enjoy. When you feel stressed, you can experience symptoms like palpitations, breathlessness, tight neck and shoulders and sleeplessness which can all affect blood flow to your pelvis. If your body thinks you need energy for ‘fight or flight’, it starts to turn off your reproductive efforts
  • Mindfulness – a great practice to do every day to keep overthinking at bay. In Chinese medicine, overthinking uses up energy and blood that would otherwise be useful for your lining.
  • Castor oil packs – having warm, castor oil rubbed into your abdomen regularly can help warm and move blood around your pelvis

Lastly, acupuncture.

Acupuncture, by nature is calming and blood moving. Used with a heated herb, moxa, it can help warm the pelvis and direct blood flow to your pelvis and lining. It also works to keep you still and calm, reducing the effect stress can have on the growth of your lining.

Acupuncture is also anti-inflammatory which can help manage symptoms of pelvic inflammation and pain. This manual therapy is generally supported by fertility specialists because we’re not adding herbs or supplements that have unknown interactions with the IVF medications.

So there’s lots of natural ways you can improve your lining during your IVF cycle. We want to see a nice, beautiful thick, comfortable womb to grow your little embryo.

Registered acupuncturist and owner of Gold Coast acupuncture clinic, The Point of Wellbeing

Pomegranate Juice, Pineapple Cores and Brazil Nuts….can they make any difference to your IVF success?

I get asked about these foods often. There are forums and forums of information from women who have increased the consumption of these foods and had successful pregnancy stories.

There are plenty too that have had no success from including these foods, so how true is it, that eating these foods improves your chance of pregnancy with IVF?

I have a nutritional, research based and Chinese medicine viewpoint on this and some simple advice.

  1. Pomegranate Juice

In Chinese medicine, pomegranates have a sweet and sour taste which means they have an effect on the digestion and the liver. The red colour of the fruit means it has an effect on blood and its circulation. From a nutrition point of view, pomegranate contains high levels of antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamin C, B vitamins, iron, calcium, potassium and fiber. The down side is, they are very high in sugar. The juice especially and even more especially the store bought versions.

So pomegranate may have the potential to help with falling pregnant through boosting your immune system, soothing the liver energy (which in Chinese medicine has a big impact on your lining and menstrual cycle) and improving blood flow.

However, to really improve this function, I would mix your fresh pomegranate juice with a small amount of honey and a small sprinkle of cinnamon. These added ingredients will improve the blood and immune function of the pomegranate juice.

The only research available looking into the effects of pomegranate juice and fertility is a study on pomegranate seed oil extract for sperm quality in rats. Having up to 5000mg/kg of the oil did improve final embryo development. For a human weighing 70kg, that would be 350,000mg of pomegranate seed oil…eeek! (Niksevesht et al., 2015). Can’t imagine how many pomegranate’s that would be.

  1. Brazil Nuts

In nutritional medicine, Brazil nuts have the highest source of selenium out of any other foods by the same weight. Selenium is an antioxidant mineral that helps protect cells from damage. From a fertility point of view, this helps prevent sperm, eggs and embryos from cellular damage which may be associated with chromosomal damage and miscarriage.

There are currently no available studies I could find looking into the improved outcomes of pregnancy with IVF with Brazil nuts. If you find one, please send it to me, would be happy to update this post.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, Brazil nuts are considered a sweet and neutral to warm food. They have a positive influence on the energy of your digestion, kidney system and lung system. Your kidney system has a big influence on fertility and pregnancy in Chinese medicine, so any foods which support this system can help pregnancy success.

However, be aware that selenium in high doses can be toxic so please don’t go obsessively overboard on the Brazil nuts. Whilst they’re a great food to include after transfer, so are all the other nuts.

  1. Pineapple Core

This tasty summer fruit core contains a helpful enzyme named bromelain. This enzyme helps aid digestion and may help reduce inflammation, pain and swelling. This all sounds very helpful for a fresh transfer after your egg retrieval procedure.

In Chinese medicine, this fruit is neutral in thermal nature and has sweet and sour flavours. It is used to remove excess heat from the liver system which is often seen as inflammation.

Some cautions with pineapple, is that it can cause increased bleeding so you will need to discuss this with your fertility specialist especially if you are taking aspirin or clexane injections.

It is reportedly (through online forums) helpful specifically for embryo implantation but I can’t find any research to back up that claim. I also couldn’t find any reliable research looking into the effect of pineapple on success rates of IVF at all.

So in summary – all three foods have great, healthy qualities. Are they specific to improved outcomes with IVF? I don’t think so.

In Chinese medicine, we never consider one particular food as being the fix for any conditions. It is always the combination with the rest of your diet.

My advice is to always eat a warm, balanced diet. Eat food in its most natural state, not in a concentrated juice or extract. Remember also, that these three foods aren’t the only sources of the nutrients they provide. Plenty of other nuts, fruit and vegetables contain these nutrients in a variety of amounts.

So whilst it won’t harm you to eat more of these foods after your embryo transfer, please don’t be obsessive in your consumption. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, starches and protein and you will be giving your body the best chance of health before, during and after your embryo transfer.

Lastly, if you’re eating fatty foods, other high sugar foods, not exercising, not sleeping well, not drinking enough water and not looking after your health in general, it is highly doubtful these foods on their own will make any difference to your IVF outcome.

Always happy to hear your thoughts.

info@thepointofwellbeing.com.au

References:

Pitchford, P (2002) Health with whole foods: Asian traditions and modern nutrition. 3rd ed, North Atlantic Books

Niksevesht, M et al. (2015) Effects of pomegranate seed oil on the fertilisation potency of rat’s sperm, J Clin Diagn Res, Vol. 19, No. 12, doi 10.7860/JCDR/2015/12576.6853

Women with Period Pain, Please Stop Eating Acai Bowls, here’s why…

Women with period pain, please stop eating Acai bowls…

A major cause of period pain in Chinese medicine is cold. Our bodies are designed to work best when warm. This means eating warm foods and keeping warm.

Your metabolic energy – the energy required for your body to function relies on this warmth. Kind of like a steam train relies on warm coal. Imagine putting ice in the engine firebox instead of coal.

Eating cold foods, being cold, not wearing clothes to cover your feet, back and low abdomen all contribute to reduced pelvic blood flow and pain.

Cold causes the body to constrict blood vessels and slow blood movement. When your period is due to start and this blood needs to move, it’s like the blood is ‘stuck’ and causes pain when it starts to move.

If you find putting a hot water bottle or a wheat heat bag over your abdomen helps with period pain, you mist likely have some type of cold stagnation in your pelvis.

We don’t notice this cold in our abdomen during the rest of the month because blood doesn’t need to move as much in the pelvis…until your period is due.

Imagine it like a delayed ice-cream headache…but in your pelvis. 

One of the worst ‘health crazes’ is Acai bowls. I seriously think they are a serious risk to women’s menstrual health. I cringe every time I see a young women sitting out the front of a popular Gold Coast cafe in winter with ugg boots on and a jumper….and eating an Acai bowl.

Do you know, that the main ingredient in Acai bowls is actually sugar filled sorbet? You are literally eating ice cream (plus some frozen berries) for breakfast. Not only are they incredibly high in sugar, but the cold is having an impact on your health.

If you suffer from period pain, you really need to stop eating these, especially in winter. You need to look at warm porridge, cooked eggs, warming broth, even soup for breakfast. Try this for a few months and you could notice an improvement in your period pain.

I wonder if a craze of warming breakfasts could take over the Gold Coast…

In Chinese medicine, I use acupuncture, moxibustion (a type of warming herb) and heat lamps to remove this cold and warm the pelvis to help with period pain as well as improve fertility.

Remember, a baby doesn’t want to grow in a cold environment either. It needs warmth.

So eliminate Acai bowls and any cold breakfasts and see how your menstrual health and your fertility changes.

I always love hearing from you, so if you want to let me know how you went with making these changes, please let me know!

 

Registered Acupuncturist and Owner of The Point of Wellbeing, a Gold Coast acupuncture clinic focused on improving women’s health, fertility and pregnancy…naturally.

Acupuncture Relieves Period Pain

Acupuncture relieves period pain…

I need to start this post with a sentence that might shock many women.

Period pain is not normal. It might be common, but it is not normal. 

Pain of any kind is a type of body signal, telling you something is wrong.

If this was understood more clearly, it wouldn’t be taking on average 11 years to diagnose endometriosis, a pelvic pain condition that is characterised by period pain.

The thing is though, period pain is not usually fatal. Women can and have lived their whole lives with period pain.

Unless you’re quality of life is severely diminished or you are having trouble conceiving, there aren’t a lot of mainstream treatments available to you, other than pain medication or the oral contraceptive.

Both have side effects and aren’t ideal if you’re trying to conceive.

 

From a Chinese medicine point of view, the arrival and the flow of your period occurs due to a number of carefully orchestrated blood and energy movements.

Anything that affects these blood and energy movements can result in pain.

There are a number of patterns of period pain we treat depending on your pain presentation.

For example, a cold, twisting type of period pain that comes on with your period, which is alleviated by a warm shower or wheat heat bag is a cold type of period pain. The cold constricts blood vessels, causing pain when blood tries to move.

Another example is a type of dropping, severe ache type of period pain, which worsens a day or two after your period. You have a blood deficient type of period pain. Your body doesn’t have enough vital essences and is aching in pain with the loss of more blood.

Last one, a stabbing, severe fixed pain that comes and goes even starting the day before your period is due is a type of blood stagnation pain. Blood is not moving as it should through your pelvis and so when it needs to move for your period to arrive, it gets stuck and causes pain.

There are others, but these are the main patterns I see. There are treatment methods for each of these type, depending on the rest of your presentation.

Acupuncture, used with a type of warming herb can warm the pelvis, alleviate pain, improve pelvic blood flow and circulation to alleviate period pain.

Some patterns respond really quickly and some take time. Dietary factors make a big impact too, as does your level of exercise and emotional wellbeing.

Research has found that acupuncture and moxibustion are effective, safe and cost effective treatment options for period pain with long term health changes.

Besides acupuncture, there are a couple of natural things you can do to treat period pain:

  • Warmth – a bath, wheat heat bag, hot water bottle
  • Keep your feet warm – warm feet helps pelvic blood flow
  • Keep your abdomen and low back warm (avoid midriff tops and layer up with singlets)
  • Take a good quality, practitioner brand magnesium, zinc and fish oils – all show great results in reducing period pain
  • Eat really good quality, warm, cooked nourishing foods
  • Castor oil packs
  • Eliminate cold breakfasts, cold smoothies, ice cream, juices and sorbets from your diet for at least 6 months
  • Eliminate dairy – dairy has been found to cause inflammation that worsens period pain

Keep in mind that your period acts as a kind of report card for your month of health.

If you’ve been eating a sugar loaded, alcohol filled, fatty food filled, dairy filled diet, sat on the couch all month and neglected your health, you will experience a worse period.

Give the healthy tips a go. If they don’t make a change within three months, get in touch with me and we’ll start making some more specific changes.

You may in fact have endometriosis, which could require surgery. You can still implement these health tips and seek acupuncture treatments for pain management and support as well as seek medical care from a medical specialist.

Don’t accept that you will forever experience period pain.

With love,

Registered Acupuncture and Owner of The Point of Wellbeing, a Gold Coast acupuncture clinic dedicated to supporting women’s health, fertility and pregnancy…naturally!

 

Acupuncture Support in Early Pregnancy

Acupuncture support in early pregnancy can be a great alternative to ‘waiting and seeing.’

So you’ve just found out that you’re pregnant. Congratulations! You might only be 4 weeks along with your embryo no bigger than a chia seed.

You may have waited for years or months or it’s a complete surprise.

You’ve might have had your beta HCG tested and booked in your first scan, but it’s not for 3 more weeks…seems like a lifetime away.

You may have already read what seems like thousands of articles about women who have experienced miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies and you’re so scared about wondering what could happen in your pregnancy.

You’re feeling lost as to what you can do to support your pregnancy but there are a few natural things you can do.

First, take a breath. At this moment, all you know is that you have created the beginnings of a tiny human. This is wonderful!

Also plan to rest a little bit more than normal.  This doesn’t mean sleeping 10 hours per night or napping for 2-3 hours during the day. It just means slow down, pay attention to what your body is telling you.

Plan to eat warm, healthy foods while you don’t feel queasy just yet. This may change soon so enjoy.

You can of course start to read about what your body is going through and know what foods to be mindful of eating.

If you’ve experienced a miscarriage before or can’t stop negative thoughts, try replacing those thoughts with positive affirmations. Some examples:

  • I got this
  • I set my worries aside and I allow my body to do its job
  • I have within myself all the necessary resources to grow a beautiful, healthy baby
  • I trust my body
  • I am relaxed and calm (this one may need more repeating than most!)
  • I have complete confidence that my body is working perfectly

Another thing you can do, is make an appointment with an experienced acupuncturist, as early as 4-5 weeks.

“Acupuncture has been used for centuries to help women conceive, grow and give birth to healthy babies, naturally.”

Treatments are based on preventative care and support. They work to ‘uplift’ pregnancy energy which can help to hold a pregnancy in place. It can work to strengthen digestive energy to alleviate pregnancy sickness and can help you improve hormonal symptoms like headaches, constipation, low back pain  and emotional volatility – all common in early pregnancy.

Seeing an experienced healthcare practitioner in early pregnancy can also help you with reassurance. This doesn’t seem big…until you’re in your first trimester and you’re overthinking every single symptom and wondering whether you’re doing all you can to make sure your embryo becomes a healthy baby.

Gaining confidence in your body’s ability to nourish and support your  can make a difference for how you experience your first trimester.

So enjoy your positive news and please get in touch if you have any questions about your pregnancy.

Registered Acupuncturist and Owner of Gold Coast Acupuncture Clinic – The Point of Wellbeing