Blending the Best of Traditional and Modern Approaches to Treat Pain
What can you expect from a treatment at the West Hampstead Acupuncture Pain Clinic?
Stage 1 - Examination of the problem
When you arrive we will do an assessment of the pain you are suffering involving range of motion tests, detailed questioning about the location and nature of the pain, how it started and what makes it better and worse. We may palpate the area and related acupressure and trigger points.
Stage 2 - Modern diagnosis
From the above examination we can start to determine which structures in body are not performing as they should. For example some muscles may be in spasm and some may be overworking. We will always take into account the patient’s medical history and any conventional medical scans and tests that they have undergone. From this we can start to build up a picture of what is happening mechanically in our minds.
Stage 3 - Traditional Chinese diagnosis
One of the key ideas in Chinese medicine is of balance. When the body’s systems are balanced everything works as it should and circulation flows freely. When the body’s systems are disrupted blood circulation can become stagnated and blocked. In the traditional Chinese understanding this stagnation of blood is the main source of pain. Traditional Chinese diagnosis aims to understand why blood is not flowing freely and how it is related to the overall pattern of imbalance in the patient’s system. Fundamentally, Chinese medicine is about trying to maintain the body in a balance between heat and cold on the one hand and dryness and dampness on the other. Extremes in any direction can cause blood to move irregularly and cause pain in a particular area. Practitioners at West Hampstead Acupuncture will identify key signs of imbalance and try to address them in appropriate ways. This can be as simple as if the patient is cold, we use methods to warm them up!
Stage 4 - Treatments
At the West Hampstead Acupuncture Pain Clinic each practitioner uses different combinations of strategies to achieve the best effect for the client. From our detailed analysis of the problem we have an enormous range of strategies from which to choose from. Below are a list of these strategies that the practitioner may decide to use.
- Acupuncture – The insertion of fine needles into the body to promote circulation and rebalance the body’s systems. Acupuncture can work directly on the area in question to loosen muscles and promote circulation or it can work to rebalance the body as a whole and get to the root of the issue. In an acupuncture treatment for pain we will be using it for both reasons in the same treatment.
- Chinese Acupressure Massage (Tui Na) – This powerful massage works on the same principles as acupuncture but has a wider range of techniques. Each one has a particular effect on that area of tissue in the body but also in working to rebalance the whole system.
- Tendon-Stretching Massage – This modern technique is used to gently but effectively loosen muscles that have gone into spasm. A mechanical reason why we can have pain in a particular muscle is because it is overworking. It is overworking because it is pulling against another muscle that ‘won’t let go’. By using mechanical diagnostic techniques we can work out which muscle is involved and use gentle stretching techniques to remind it into ‘letting go’.
- Cupping – In 2004 Gwyneth Paltrow wore a low cut dress to a New York film premiere revealing circular bruises on her back which introduced the Western world to cupping! Cupping involves the creation of suction in a glass cup which is then placed on areas of the body. By drawing up the skin into the cup, it strongly affects the quality of circulation of fluids and blood in that area of the body. It is a powerful yet gentle way to encourage circulation to get back to normal in a particular area. Used with oil it can also be drawn along the surface of the skin in a technique called moving cupping. Most people find the treatment very relaxing.
- Moxibustion – Cold causes fluids to slow down in the Chinese way of thinking. Warmth encourages them to move again. Moxibustion, the burning of the herb ‘Chinese Mugwort’ close to the skin is the perfect antidote to the UK’s cold climate. Cold can come from the outside in extreme weather but it can also reflect an internal imbalance where the body loses the ability to properly heat itself. Both of these can be corrected with moxibustion.
- Gua Sha – Gua Sha involves the use of a smooth hard tool such as the back of a Chinese ceramic spoon to run along bands of tissue and the Chinese meridian system to encourage circulation but also to stimulate the acupuncture meridians into action.
- Electro-acupuncture – Electro-acupuncture was one of the main reasons why acupuncture caught the world’s attention in the 1970s. Western doctors were amazed by its seeming ability to act as a substitute for anaesthetics in major surgery. It is a well-known pain relief tool. You may have come across TENS machines for their use for pain in pregnant women. At West Hampstead Acupuncture we use both electro-acupuncture (electrodes attached to needles) and specially adapted TENS machines (which use adhesive electrode pads rather than needles).
- Ear Acupuncture and Ear Seeds – In Chinese Medicine each part of the ear is understood to reflect different parts of the body. It is now widely used for pain problems and particularly for addiction because of its perceived profound effects on balancing the nervous and endocrine systems. One of the advantages of this method is that ear seeds (tiny seeds on flesh coloured stickers) can be placed over the reflex points on the ear and left there to continue the treatment after the patient has left the clinic.
- Herbal patches, soaks and liniments – Herbal formulas have been used externally for thousands of years in China. These patches, soaks and liniments have a direct effect on the body’s circulation maintaining the balance between heat, cold, dampness and dryness.
- Warm bags (Nuan Nuan Bao) – Warm bags are cotton bags containing raw Chinese herbs. They are placed in the microwave for a short period of time to warm them up and then placed on areas of the body that are in pain. They have a miraculous effect to stimulate circulation and ‘unlock’ the stagnation in that area. They really have to be tried to be believed.
- Internal Herbal formulas – If you book in for a consultation with our resident herbalist, Alex, he will determine what the traditional reasons are behind the pain. The herbal formulas that he uses are generally modifications of formulas that have been tried and tested for thousands of years. Again they can help to balance the body between extremes of heat, cold, dryness and dampness and also to promote circulation and stop pain.
Any one of these strategies, correctly and effectively applied can go a long way to resolving one’s pain complaint. In combination under the guidance of a skilled and incisive practitioner, they are unbeatable.
At West Hampstead Acupuncture we offer a service that we believe to be unique. We take the best from the most useful theories of pain and apply that knowledge with a considerable range of techniques. You are in good hands at West Hampstead Acupuncture!
If you would like any more information, please get in touch with us on 020 7205 2888.