Why is sore spot not necessarily the problem?

massage pointWhen it comes to muscles, there are two main reasons that pain or tension is caused by another area of the body; feedback issues from nerve compression or satellite referral via active trigger points.


If you have tension within your joints (hips, shoulders ect..) or areas with complex small muscle mass (neck), it is likely that you have some form of feedback issue in your extremities. Feedback refers to the nerve signal returning from your extremities to your brain, not the signal from your brain to your extremities. If nerves are compressed along the pathway back to the brain, the brain senses that there is a problem in the extremity due the nerve disruption. In actual fact, the extremity may be fine, however, due to the brain believing that there is damage of some form, the area is ordered to guard itself by tightening the muscles in the area. Short term this is not problematic, however, over a prolonged period of time this excessive tension results in muscular issues in the extremity (pain or weakness).

In treating this condition, it is not uncommon for a therapist to treat the local area of pain or tension, which does provide relief, however, if the compression causing feedback issue is still present the pain or tension will return fairly promptly.

Treatment for issues relating to extremities should always be treated from the point of referral outward, treating the catalyst before the presenting problem area.

Satellite Referral

Satellite referral is an effect caused by active trigger points in a muscle. Every trigger point has a specific referral pattern; however, at times this can change and puzzle therapists and practitioners, often resulting in poor diagnosis.

When a trigger point is active and referring for a long period of time, or the problem is more compound, due to injury etc.. the referred pattern from trigger point A will activate trigger points that fall within the initial referred pattern of point A and add their own referral range to the initial trigger point B referral, thus creating a domino effect.

Treating referral pain requires good knowledge of myofacial referral patterns in the body, muscular groups and connective tissues. Trigger point therapy and sports massage excel in treating this condition, so if this sounds familiar to you, then this is another option which you may not have considered.

Acupuncture and Later Pregnancy & Birth Preparation

Sacupuncture and pregnancyo you’re counting down the months (or even weeks or days) till you can meet the newest member of your family. This time should be all about nesting and preparing, but that’s hard to do if you are feeling exhausted by some of the conditions that can arise in late pregnancy. When these problems are severe, they can really detract from the experience of being pregnant. Issues that tend to flare up at this stage of the pregnancy include:

  • Swollen ankles, fingers and wrists (can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Iron-deficiency anaemia
  • Indigestion, acid reflux
  • Varicose veins
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Back pain, sciatica, as baby’s head presses on the nerves exiting the spinal column
  • Pubic symphysitis
  • Insomnia


Easing late pregnancy complaints with Acupuncture.

Thankfully, most of these issues tend to respond well to Acupuncture. You’ve probably already heard of the benefits of Acupuncture in back pain and sciatica, as well as aches and pains like carpal tunnel syndrome. I also use specific Acupuncture points to reduce water retention and aid fluid metabolism, improve indigestion, and ease the discomfort associated with swollen veins and haemorrhoids. Other points can help you sleep or to help nourish the blood (to combat anaemia). These are combined with points selected for your individual constitution and any other symptoms you might be experiencing. The overall result is a very relaxing experience that should help settle your discomfort and support you as your pregnancy advances.

I find that with some of these conditions, especially pubic symphysitis, but also back pain and sciatica, the best results are achieved with a combination of Acupuncture and Chiropractic.

Other issues in late pregnancy that are less common include:

  • Breech baby (head-up rather than the normal head-down position), and other positions not ideal for labour, such as posterior.
  • High blood pressure (pregnancy-induced hypertension or pre-eclampsia),
  • High blood sugar levels (gestational diabetes)
  • Complications of pregnancy like a low-lying placenta (placenta praevia).

Let’s look at how Acupuncture can help these complications.


Breech and other positions not ideal for labour.

If your baby is in breech position, its bottom or feet would be delivered first if you went into labour. Some obstetricians are confident in delivering breech babies. But because complications can occur, most will attempt to physically turn the baby (external cephalic version) if this is possible. If it doesn’t work, the usual advice is to have a Caesarean section, but this is not without its risks and complications. Apart from issues with labour, a prolonged period in some types of breech position can also lead to problems with baby’s hips after birth.

Luckily, there is an alternative. At around 33-34 weeks, Acupuncturists use a specific point on the big toe, which is not needled but instead heated with moxa (a processed form of the herb Artemisia or Mugwort). You continue this treatment at home for 1-2 weeks. The moxibustion stimulates fetal movement, encouraging the baby to move itself into the normal head-down position. This form of treatment has been evaluated by research — it led to the baby turning in about 75% of cases (as a comparison, less than 50% of babies turned by themselves in women who did not have moxibustion treatment). No harmful effects were noted. There is another advantage of this approach. Because we are intervening relatively early in the pregnancy (compared with an external cephalic version at 37-38 weeks), if the moxibustion is successful, the baby is in the breech position for a shorter period, so we’d anticipate less chance of damage to the hips.

The best position for the baby to be born in is head-down, with the chin tucked right down into the chest, and in the head in the anterior position. This means that the back of baby’s head is directly under your pubic bone. This makes for a smoother birth. It is also more efficient, meaning you won’t get as tired during labour because the baby is already lined up correctly. Some babies don’t naturally adopt this position, but instead have their heads the other way up so that their forehead is directly below your pubic bone. This can lead to a longer, more tiring labour, with a lot of back pain, as the baby rotates into the anterior position (this does not always happen – the baby can be born in the posterior position, but this is not common).

We use a similar moxibustion technique if the baby is posterior, coupled with exercises to try and get gravity to work in your favour in encouraging baby to turn anterior.

In the following conditions, acupuncturists working with pregnant women have observed improvement in response to Acupuncture. However, little research has been done to back this up.


High blood pressure.

Your midwife or Obstetrician will be keeping a close eye on your blood pressure, because occasionally pregnant women develop a condition where the blood pressure rises out of control (and other problems develop). This is called pre-eclampsia and poses risks to the health of yourself and the baby.

While women with severe pre-eclampsia need to be hospitalised for monitoring and treatment, Acupuncture can be useful if there is just a mild increase in blood pressure. It can also help reduce the water retention that can also happen with this condition. Generally, the sooner treatment begins the more likely it is to have results. Of course, ongoing monitoring by your obstetric team is very important.


Gestational diabetes.

It’s normal for blood sugar (glucose) levels to rise slightly in pregnancy, but in some women this happens to the extent that diabetes develops. When severe, this can have complications. The concept of diabetes was recognised by the ancient Chinese, and several Acupuncture points have been proven to promote glucose metabolism and pancreatic function. By using these points, plus others for general wellbeing and the stage of pregnancy, we hope to help normalise glucose levels.


Low-lying placenta.

If your placenta is too low in the uterus, this can cause problems with bleeding later in pregnancy. In severe cases, a vaginal birth is not possible as the placenta obstructs the cervix. This condition often resolves by itself as the uterus enlarges and the placenta naturally rises away from the cervix. But in cases where it does not, we can add in Acupuncture points that have a lifting action according to Chinese Medical theory.


Pre-birth treatment – preparing for labour.

So you’re in the final weeks and no doubt you’ll be thinking about how to ease your passage through labour. Birth preparation Acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular since research has shown its effectiveness. One New Zealand study found that, overall, women who had birth preparation Acupuncture were 35% less likely to need their labour to be medically induced (43% less likely for women having their first baby). Women having these treatments also had a 31% reduction in epidural use.

I prefer to do weekly treatments from about 35 weeks, as the best effects are achieved when you have 4 treatments or more. In these sessions, we gently prepare your body for labour with specific points that act on the cervix and uterus. We also cover acupressure techniques for you or your support person to use during labour that can help you deal with the contractions and help the cervix dilate.


Inducing labour.

There’s no doubt that it’s best for your body to go into labour by itself. We don’t really understand the interplay between the mother and baby that sets off labour, and it’s likely to be complex and involve a cascade of factors. But sometimes, when the pregnancy goes more than a week – 10 days over the due date, then it’s wise to start weighing up the risks and working out a plan of action. In these cases, or when the Obstetrician wants to induce labour for medical reasons, Acupuncture can be very useful in kick-starting the process and potentially avoiding a medical induction. Feedback from midwives in New Zealand who started using Acupuncture in inductions has generally been positive, although the research is certainly not conclusive. In these circumstances, we stimulate points traditionally used to bring on labour, and do several treatments close together, ideally every couple of days.

So enjoy the last months and weeks of your pregnancy, and don’t forget that Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be great after the birth for promoting healing and dealing with breastfeeding issues like mastitis.


Acupuncture for Fertility

acupuncture fertilityIf you’re having fertility issues, we recommend you seriously look into having Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine. Many conditions reducing fertility can be helped with this combination of treatments. These include:

  • Endometriosis
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Unexplained infertility
  • Male fertility issues

If you are thinking about starting a family (or adding to it!), our Acupuncturists recommend a 3 month pre-conception programme of Acupuncture (with Chinese Herbal Medicine if required). This allows us to find the root cause of any issues and get you in the healthiest possible state to conceive.

For those with known fertility problems, or those needing assisted reproduction techniques like IVF, Acupuncture really comes into its own. It is very useful in maximising your response to treatment and coping with the stress associated with these procedures. For IVF, there are key times in the cycle that it’s important to have acupuncture treatment for the best results.

Our Acupuncturists are experienced in helping couples boost their fertility naturally, and in working in with an IVF regime. Health-fund rebates are available for Acupuncture treatments.


Oriental medicine and fertility – a personal and professional view.

acupuncture fertilityFacing fertility problems can be a very stressful experience. I have always had an interest in this area of health and have worked with many couples trying to conceive. But it wasn’t until I battled with infertility myself that I really understood how deeply it can affect you. I now know first-hand that it can take you to some very dark places. The experience has made me passionate about helping people in the same predicament.

In my case, a combination of issues meant the odds were not looking good, even with IVF. I’m sure that following a pre-conception program of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, and continuing the acupuncture to support the IVF cycles, was instrumental in having a successful pregnancy. Other things helped too, which I will go into later.


First, let’s look at how Oriental medicine boosts fertility.

Oriental medicine looks at the body as being governed by the flow of energy (Qi), which in turn influences the flow of Blood. (The concept of Blood in Oriental medicine is a bit broader than that in Western medicine, so we are talking about more than just the fluid that we know as blood in the West.) The smooth flow of Qi and Blood in the meridians (energetic channels) is vital to the various organ systems working harmoniously together. This is especially true when it comes to the reproductive system. Oriental medical theory sees the Kidney, Liver and Heart organ and meridian systems as being particularly important, but others can be involved as well.

By regulating Qi and Blood flow, Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine help regulate the menstrual cycle and calm the mind, so that your body is in the optimum state to conceive and carry a baby. One way that this works is by increasing the blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, something that has been measured in scientific studies.


Preparing the ground.

In Oriental medicine, we see preparation for pregnancy as being very important. In the same way as a farmer would carefully prepare the soil to grow crops, we work on your internal environment so that it is ideal for an embryo to implant and grow for the next nine months. I recommend a pre-conception program of around 3 months, as this is the time an egg takes to mature in the ovary. During this time we focus on observing your body’s natural signs, regulating the menstrual cycle and calming the mind, as well as looking at any lifestyle changes that may be beneficial.

Similarly, it takes between 2 to 3 months for sperm to develop, so this time-frame works well for men too. Ideally, both partners should come in for treatment for best results.


Specific fertility issues.

Many conditions affecting fertility can be helped with Oriental medicine. These include endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and sperm problems.
A recently published review of several studies showed that women taking Chinese herbal medicine for fertility problems were 3.5 times more likely to conceive than those having drug therapy alone.


Supporting IVF or ART (assisted reproduction technology).

In some cases, IVF or ART are needed, and acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine work well with these treatments. In fact, research shows that they can improve the success rate of IVF, particularly in poor responders (when few eggs develop in response to hormonal stimulation) and women over 35.

Again, it is important to prepare the body adequately before having these invasive procedures. During this time, acupuncture and Chinese herbs are useful. When the IVF cycle starts (hormonal injections begin), we usually continue with acupuncture alone, to avoid interactions with fertility drugs. It is important to have acupuncture at key times in the IVF cycle, with a treatment before and after embryo transfer being very important in maximising the chances of implantation. We also tailor the acupuncture program to the type of IVF cycle (long down-regulation, antagonist etc.).

Acupuncture increases blood flow to the reproductive organs, helping follicle development, and preparing the endometrium (lining of the uterus) for implantation. It may also help stop the uterus from contracting after the transfer, thereby helping implantation. It also has a key role in balancing the emotions and counteracting stress. Which is useful, as undergoing IVF can be extremely stressful, and you may find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster.


What else can help with fertility issues?

Here are some of the things I found useful:

  • Research. Spend some time educating yourself about any diagnosed fertility problems, so that you can ask the right questions of your health care team. If further medical help is needed, think carefully about the best specialist and clinic for you. I can help you with some factors to consider.
  • Have your diet looked at by a Naturopath. Many nutrients and supplements are important in boosting fertility. But you need a dietary approach that is sustainable and that doesn’t add to your stress. If you need to lose weight (and this can be important in some types of fertility issues), slow and steady is best.
  • Relaxation / stress reduction. This is important in dealing with infertility, especially if you need ART or IVF. Keeping a balanced frame of mind can be difficult but is important from an Oriental medicine point of view. Yoga worked well for me, but for others the answer might be reflexology or massage. Some people deal with stress through exercise, and this is certainly beneficial. But it’s important not to do intense exercise from a few days after ovulation (or after the embryo transfer if you are doing IVF) until the end of the cycle, as this can be counter productive.
  • Find an outlet. Talking with friends or family that understand, online discussion forums, counselling – these can all save your sanity.


Does sitting affect your health?

Health In The Bay Massage HandsWithin the last 30 years, our world has seen astounding advances in our technological capabilities, which has affected the way people carry out their daily lives. Nowadays, most people are required to spend the majority of their working day in an office environment sat at a desk in front of a computer.

Our bodies, however, were not designed to remain in one position for long periods of time; they were made to move. When we are sedentary, our body responds by burning fewer calories and slowing down our circulation. Such a lifestyle also leads to postural problems, which can develop into chronic health issues.

In a seated position, certain postural muscles, especially in our back and neck, start to become short and tight from being overworked. This then leads to issues such as upper or lower back pain, stiff shoulders, neck pain, tight hamstrings, headaches and migraines. The muscles that support our spine also become weak, like our gluteal and abdominal muscles.

Repetitive strain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, are also becoming more widespread and it is not uncommon for keyboard users to complain of wrist, arm and shoulder pain or discomfort.

I am sure the majority of us, including myself, will have experienced some or all of these above symptoms at some point in our lives.

So what can we do about it? Take time to get up and move about, as well as to stretch. Whilst seated, be aware of your own posture and at work try to change the nature of your tasks as often as you can. In addition, try to develop a regular exercise routine even as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day.

Massage therapy is also extremely effective in this situation to release and relax the muscles, as well as to reduce overall tension and fatigue found within the body. Regular massage sessions are thoroughly recommended to assist in maintaining good body health and well-being.

Why do we get Back Pain?

Pain is very important to us. It is the body’s warning signal to us that something is not right. It is a signal that usually makes us stop and take notice and then hopefully take action to change it.
Health In The Bay spoonBack pain can come from several structures. The spine is made of 24 moving bones which are interconnected at joints, called Facet Joints, along the back of the spine. Between the ends of the bones in the spine there is a disc which is soft to allow mobility as well as shock absorption.
If the Facet Joints are not moving freely then there will be irritation at these nerve-rich joints, resulting in pain.
The same change in movement in the joints, or acute trauma, can result in the dics becoming inflamed and swollen, or even ruptured. The disc can then push on the nerve exiting the spine, again resulting in pain.
Together with these issues the muscles along the spine will spasm which is again a common source of back pain and stiffness.
Chiropractic care has helped many people with these problems by utilising appropriate techniques which improve the movement of the facet joints and the relationship between the vertebrae of the spine, hence reduce any of these sources of pain. If you don’t already have a Chiropractor, or would like to try a different approach schedule an appointment today.