The Treatment Of Heel Pain

Certain types of heel pain can respond well to acupuncture & moxibustion.

The very first thing to say about treating heel pain is this - I do not put needles in the sole of the foot.

I want the treatments I give to be comfortable and pleasant, which rules out needling the bottom of the foot. It’s too sensitive, and the skin is too thick.

I’m good with needles, but I’m not that good. I don’t think anyone is.

So what do I do? I use a technique called moxibustion.

It’s a technique that sends heat deep into the body. It is mild and pleasant, much easier to tolerate than needles in the sole.

Its therapeutic power can reach far beyond the surface of the skin to reach damaged muscle, tendon and bone. It triggers an immune system response at the treatment site, resulting in damaged tissue being recycled and replaced with new, healthy tissue.

If you have heel pain from an injury, overuse, or even for no detectable cause, moxibustion can help.

If your heel pain is caused by a spur, bone misalignment or tendon damage, I recommend you see a podiatrist. However, if those problems are being managed medically but still aren’t responding well, moxibustion can be an excellent adjunctive therapy.

Sinus Pain & Congestion

What causes sinus pain and congestion?

Sometimes it is a physical obstruction like a polyp, which can be surgically removed.

Sometimes it is caused by an infection, which inflames the sinuses.

Sometimes it is caused by sensitivity to pollen and dust.

Sometimes there is no clear physical impediment or infection - so why does it hurt? Or why can’t you breathe through your nose?

The answer often turns out to be in the digestive system.

The two most important meridians that run around the nose and sinuses are Stomach and Large Intestine meridians. There is a direct and powerful energetic connection between the digestive system and the sinuses. This means that dysfunction in the digestive system can be displayed symptomatically as sinus pain and congestion.

Therefore, in order to treat sinus pain and congestion, I do two things:

  1. Treat the root cause - the original digestive system disharmony. Acupuncture is applied to correct the specific error in the digestive system’s functioning. This usually involves points on the wrists and feet.

  2. Treat the symptoms - clean up the local damage in the sinuses that the digestive disharmony has generated. Acupuncture is applied to points on the face. I know that some will find this prospect distressing. However, the needles that I use are so incredibly thin (about the width of a human hair) and inserted so shallowly (1mm) that it produces little to no discomfort. I have had many people fall asleep with needles in their face.

Sinus problems caused by infections and pollen sensitivity can also be treated with acupuncture. Once an infection has been dealt with appropriately, acupuncture can be used to clear up the remaining inflammation. Pollen and dust senstivity can often have roots in the digestive system as well, so the above treatment method is also applicable here.

Understanding Food With Chinese Medicine

I have written a short introductory guidebook about the Chinese Medicine approach to food and drink.

Odds are you haven’t been told much about this unique and different perspective. But it’s one of the oldest dietary theories still in use, and the thing people ask me about the most in clinic.

The fact that it has a lower profile in this country than the Chinchilla Melon Festival does not reflect its outstanding usefulness (although, I hear that festival is pretty good).

I want to do my bit to raise the profile of this excellent knowledge base - so I am releasing the guidebook to members of my mailing list.

To sign up, just enter your email address in the field below and follow the instructions.

Fundamentals Of Energetic Anatomy

In the last three articles we have looked at the basic principles for understanding how acupuncture works (I believe these principles also apply to a number of other energy medicines). Up till now, though, I have been speaking very generally.

We have established that acupuncture has jurisdiction over the physical energies of the body. For those of you who have found the term "physical energies" vague - this post is for you! Let's explore the physical energies as they are understood in Chinese medicine.

There are four major types of energetic structures we deal with in acupuncture.

1. Organs (Zang Fu).

A couple of ways to think about these:

  • Reservoirs of energy
  • Like physical organs, the energy-based Zang Fu are structures that perform a wide array of physiological functions.

They are usually named after the physical organs, but they are not the physical organs themselves. Rather, they are energetic complexes that usually reside inside or near the physical organs, and assist the physical organs in the performance of their functions.

For instance, the physical liver and the energetic Liver both store and clean Blood. The physical liver stores and purifies physical blood, and the energetic liver stores and purifies a dense form of energy that we also call Blood (xue). This energetic Blood is a non-material correlate of physical blood, and it supports the function of physical blood.

2. Meridians (Jing Luo).

These are pathways along which physical energies flow in the body - in this respect they are similar to blood vessels. They carry the energies stored in the organs and circulate them around the body to perform different functions. Most meridians are connected to a particular organ. So, for instance, the Liver meridian carries Xue (the energy of blood mentioned above) up to the Liver organ, and then the Liver organ distributes this blood out along other meridians to nourish and strengthen the entire body.

In the last post I showed this diagram of the meridians. It's the only type of diagram of the meridians that most people ever see. Therefore it's important to note that this diagram is not comprehensive by a long shot - it only shows where the biggest meridians run on the surface of the skin. These meridians all have complicated internal branches, and there are thousands of smaller meridians branching off the larger ones, so that this system permeates the entire body thoroughly. Try to picture the entire vascular system down to the last capillary and you get the idea. For the strong of stomach, here is a picture showing a comprehensively preserved human vasculature, divorced from other body systems. Be advised, it's a little graphic. It does, however, convey the scale and complexity of energetic pathway distribution in the body quite well.

Although I have used the vascular system to illustrate, I should clarify that the meridians do not identically follow the pathways of blood vessels, nerves or any other physical system. The meridians have their own layout that is related to but different from the other systems, just like every other major bodily system.

3. Points (Tsubo).

This is the aspect of the physical energy system that most people have heard of. Mostly found on the meridians, these are places where our energy collects at the surface of the skin. This means we can efficiently interact with physical energies at these locations. By definition, acupuncture points exist at the surface of the skin. This means that deep needling is not usually necessary - needling depths between 1mm and 3mm are generally effective and much less painful.

One of the most crucial things to understand about acupuncture points is: they move. Yes, there are WHO-standardised acupuncture point locations based on anatomical landmarks, and they are correct. However, when a point exhibits pathological change, its location on the body changes. Therefore, the standard location of a point should considered as the place to start looking for the real point. Careful palpation is required to reveal the active point location, which will feel different to locations that are not the active point. The therapeutic value of treating an active point is significantly greater than that of treating the official location.

4. Defensive Qi Field (Wei Qi).

This is the energetic component of our immune system. For the Star Trek fans in the audience, imagine the shields on the Enterprise - it's similar. It is a field of warm energy that extends through and out past the material body, repelling pathogenic environmental influences. It is powered by energy supplied from the organs and distributed via the meridians. When it is disrupted or weak, we can become sick.

No, Really, How Does Acupuncture Work?

In the last article I described human beings as multi-layered organisms, with those layers arranged along a continuum from dense/material to subtle/non-material. A spectrum from physical body to eternal spirit.

At the point on the spectrum where we first move from material to non-material, we have the physical energies. Despite not being material, these energies are crucial to the function of the material form. This is the area where acupuncture has its jurisdiction.

This is a very interesting place from which to interface with the body. Because we are now dealing with energy rather than matter, making changes is easier. Why is that?

Subtle energies are easier to influence than matter because density creates structure, stability and resistance to change.

To illustrate, imagine the difference between a piece of seasoned mahogany and a piece of balsa wood. Due to the balsa's lesser density, it has less structural strength and can be easily broken by hand. The mahogany, on the other hand, being dense, is strong, and cannot be changed without effort and tools.

So, this finally brings us to the core of the issue - how acupuncture works.

An acupuncturist leverages their own consciousness, using technique and intention, to influence the consciousness aspect within the patient's physical energies, and in turn these physical energies leverage the material aspect within them to influence the matter of the patient's body.

With correct technique, small, subtle interventions applied to physical energies can create large changes in those energies. Then, these physical energies go on to exert their usual strong influence on the material form (with the enhancements from treatment), generating improvements in our physical health.

This is how we can take small interventions (such as with a tiny acupuncture needle) and turn them into seemingly disproportionately large changes in material form.

What Is A Human?

I won't even try to be comprehensive here. I want to focus specifically and briefly on two things - some relevant assumptions we make about human nature in the west, and what is needed to put acupuncture in its proper context.

In the west, the dominant idea is that a human is their physical body. In this model, all consciousness phenomena is the result of exceptionally complex neural activity in the brain, and every physiological phenomena explainable via biochemistry and electrical signal. Abrupt, permanent cessation of existence results when the body ceases to function.

In this model, there is certainly room to understand how acupuncture can work. There is a significant body of Cochrane-grade scientific research that demonstrates how acupuncture can improve neural transmission, adjust inflammatory processes, and cause the production or release of chemicals that inhibit pain, like endorphins.

Entire schools of acupuncture have been developed around this western material sciences model of human nature, and their techniques can certainly be effective.

However, this model is not remotely close to the ontology around which acupuncture was originally designed.

In extremely short form, this is what I understand as the fundamental premise upon which acupuncture is based:

A human consists of a material form, and many layers of progressively more refined energetic forms as well.

Consider the physical body, not as a monolith, but as a composite of many systems. Picture the skeleton, then overlay the muscles, the internal organs, the blood vessels, the lymphatic system, the nervous system, the fascia, and finally the skin. A multitude of systems that all interact with each other, forming, in aggregate, the human body.

This basic organising principle extends beyond the material form. We just need to keep overlaying systems to form a fuller picture of human structure.

The next systems to overlay are systems of physical energy - the organ-meridian complexes - where acupuncture works. Here is a map of how the meridians are arranged in the body:

This diagram indicates just the major pathways that run on the surface of the skin. There are other energy pathways of different sizes that permeate every cubic centimetre of the body.

At this point we are out of the realm of the material and the tangible. However, the energies contained within the organ-meridian complexes have a deep and powerful connection to the function of tangible/material systems in the body.

It is the level of physical energies where acupuncture has its jurisdiction. While a needle certainly causes chemical changes, these are not a direct result of chemical interactions caused by the introduction of a small piece of metal in the skin. These chemical changes are a secondary effect of changes to the physical energies of the body caused by techniques that were specifically designed to influence these energies.

We can consider the spirit to be yet another system to be overlaid onto our understanding of the human body. This is the aspect of the human being that is the most subtle, the most refined. This is the immortal part of ourselves, that survives the decay and death of all our denser systems. Fundamentally, humans are beings of spirit that have chosen to experience life as material beings.

If you place the physical body, physical energies and the spirit on a continuum from dense to subtle, you can also see how there is a progression from form to consciousness. Of course, there are many more points in between on this continuum.

Now that we have sketched out the most fundamental context required for discussing acupuncture, next time we can move on to actually talking about how it works.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

I have been asked, hundreds of times, this question:

"How does acupuncture work?"

And no matter how many times I am asked it, it throws me a little. Every time.

I have spent nearly a decade of my life pursuing the answer.

People usually ask the question at the end of their first treatment. We're not about to sit down over coffee and talk about this for hours - I've got about a minute before the appointment ends and they get on with their lives.

This is difficult.

Being asked this question triggers such an avalanche of data in my brain.

There is no quick and easy answer for how acupuncture works.

To summarize it concisely requires the listener to have a significant amount of prior knowledge.

If I were to describe it to another acupuncturist, then I could do it in one sentence, and it would look like this:

"Acupuncture works by tonifying deficiency and circulating or removing excess in the organs and meridians".

However, the acupuncturist should already understand this sentence, and it is pure jargon to everyone else.

Part of the problem is cultural. Broady speaking, western culture either lacks or rejects important concepts and language that are fundamental to understanding acupuncture.

In the articles that follow, I am going to do the best that I can to explain How Acupuncture Works.

To answer that question properly, we need to go back to the very beginning. And I mean the very beginning. To this question:

What Is A Human Being?

Easy, right?

I Don't Recommend Exercise Therapy For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Many health professionals, particularly physios and doctors, will tell Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sufferers that their fatigue is caused by "deconditioning" due to lack of exercise.

Alright, Smart Guys who push this theory, answer me this:

How come elite athletes at their peak also get CFS?

The fact is, deconditioning is a symptom, not a cause of CFS.

So, when Smart Guys prescribe exercise regimens to my CFS patients, some of whom can barely walk? It makes me want to tear my hair out in frustration.

If only it were a mere matter of effort! Who would bother having CFS for years, if only a little daily exercise would send it packing?

I believe that prescribing exercise as a cure for CFS sends a nasty message - that if only the patient would work a bit harder, if only they wanted it a little more, they would recover.

I reject this premise utterly.

"The Biggest Loser" is Big Bull%^@&

Think about how much exercise the participants have to do to lose all that weight.

Just about every waking minute of their every day, for months, is consumed with high intensity exercise, and the recovery from that.

It is a full time job, a 24/7 obsession.

Of course some of them will lose weight! It is all they have focused on for months.

This is completely incompatible with having a real life once the show ends.

And yet, even then, quite a few of them make no real progress in weight loss during the show.

Further on from that, many of the participants who do become thin, return to their old weight after a couple of years.

This show has held itself up as the champion of everyday accessibility for weight loss for everybody.

Yet it achieves its unusual results by extreme methods that are not replicable outside of the show's weird laboratory conditions.

How is this accessible for most people?

I'm not sure why it took me so long to notice how effortlessly self-defeating the entire premise of the show is.

Your Weight Is None Of My Business

I will never tell you that you are fat.

I will never tell you to lose weight.

So many health professionals of every kind seem to have this overwhelming urge to "put fat people in their place." To tell them a few "hard truths".

I hate it.

There's so much that's wrong with the health industry's obsession with weight.

This obsession engenders a dangerously simplistic conflation of health with slenderness.

Some people are born skinny, though!

Some of these genetically blessed folk can eat garbage, binge drink and never exercise, but it won't show in their physique. People who live this way are Not Healthy.

They fit the conventional definition of a healthy appearance, though, and so, at a glance, people will generally assume they are doing all the right things.

On the other hand, some people are born to be big. It's part of their genetics, their constitutional make up.

They can exercise regularly and have a clean, balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and no junk - but they'll still look "fat".

These "fat" people are Way Healthier than the naturally skinny folk who just coast on their genetics.

Even if you are big but you aren't "doing all the right things", though, it's still not ok for me to offer commentary about your appearance.

It's unforgivably rude.

Weight is complicated. Illness, genetics, constitution, social pressures, emotional and spiritual factors... All of this and more can have an effect on your weight.

Consequently, I have no idea why you are the weight you are! And you don't owe me (or anyone else) an explanation.

I was born skinny. I have never had to do a lick of work to stay trim. I will probably never know what it is like to be fat.

Who the hell am I to tell anyone that they need to lose weight?

I won't do it.

The only time I might want to discuss your weight is when there has been a sudden, drastic, and unexplained fluctuation, particularly sudden weight loss. This can be a red flag for very serious illnesses such as cancer.

When Should You Come In For Acupuncture?

Recently encountered an interesting article on acupuncture & fertility over at Stanford Medical School's blog, Scope: "Patients turning to acupuncture to boost fertility" From the article:

  "Several years ago, I had a short-lived experience with acupuncture:

  • After just a few sessions I discovered I was pregnant and had to stop.

I had sought out the treatment to help with a chronic illness – not for fertility reasons – but in the back of my mind, I’ve always wondered if those early sessions might have helped move things along in the reproduction department." 

Emphasis mine. 

It's common for people to assume a very narrow range of indications for acupuncture, I think. Many of my patients initially come in to see me regarding back pain or headaches, and are suprised when I tell them we should also look at treating their erratic menstrual cycle (or their diarrhoea, or their insomnia, or their urinary difficulties). Colds, flus and coughs, in my experience, also respond well to acupuncture. 

So I'm always a bit disappointed when a patient cancels an appointment because "they're too sick". Because that's the time to come in and get treatment! 

Nauseous with morning sickness? Come in!

Headache is really bad right now? Yep, come on in! 

Just starting to get a cold? Definitely come in! 

Getting back to the article above - in my experience, pregancy is also no reason to stop acupuncture treatment. I have treated women from pre-conception to post-delivery and every stage in between, with excellent results. 

Of course, the obligatory caveat - if you're ill enough to be staying home from work, consider seeing your GP as well to rule out anything medically serious. I'm not a substitute for antibiotics or emergency surgery. If I suspect you have a medical issue outside of my therapeutic remit, I will direct you towards the professional who can help you. 

But if you're suffering from something for which your doctor has prescribed aspirin and bed rest, then I might be able to offer you something even better :-)

How long does it take for acupuncture to work?

Probably the question I am asked most consistently by new patients is: "How many treatments will I need?"

I get it. Complementary therapies aren't cheap in Australia. While I'm far from the most expensive acupuncturist in Canberra, I'm not the cheapest either. Like most people, I feel more comfortable going into any kind of financial arrangement when I have a clear idea of how much it will cost in total.

Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question. Here are the factors I take into account:

1. How severe is the problem?

Generally speaking, there is a positive correlation between how bad the problem is and how many treatments it will take to fix. For instance, if your back pain is just due to muscular spasm, you'll need far fewer treatments then you would if you had ruptured an intervertebral disk.

As a general rule, problems that are related to physical structures, such as torn tendons, broken bones, damaged cartilage etc take quite a bit of work.

2. How long has the patient had the problem?

Have you been having headaches for the last 10 years? Then that will probably take a lot longer for me to fix then someone who just started having headaches in the last month.

Long-term problems are, by definition, stubborn; if they were easy to fix, you probably wouldn't be coming in to see me :-)

3. What, exactly, is the problem?

Some conditions are inherently difficult to treat. That doesn't mean we won't get excellent results, just that we probably won't get them quickly.

A prime example of this is chronic fatigue syndrome. To treat this, the patient's exhausted energy reserves must be slowly, steadily rebuilt. This generally takes several months.

However, some conditions do respond very quickly. Even if someone has had hayfever for years, I can generally get a good result for them within 1- 3 treatments.

4. How does the patient respond to the first couple of treatments?

Generally speaking, it's difficult to know how each individual will respond to treatment until they have been treated once or twice. The patient's overall state of health and the strength of their constitution significantly affect how much mileage we get out of any given treatment. After a couple of treatments, we can start to see the rate of progress that can be expected in the future. From this we can get a rough idea of how many treatments will be required to fix the problem.

I hope this helps you make an informed decision regarding your healthcare expenditure.

Stay well,


To Japan!

Tomorrow I will be leaving sunny Canberra for Osaka, Japan.

From there I will be traveling to Imabari, the home of Masakazu Ikeda Sensei, one of the world's foremost practitioners of acupuncture and moxibustion. I will be spending five days learning from him and observing in his clinic.

I am very excited to have been extended this great honor by Ikeda Sensei. I have been studying his teachings for the better part of the last four years. As you might imagine, I have many questions!

I look forward to this opportunity to improve my clinical skills and to bring these benefits back to you, the people of Canberra.

My first day back in clinic will be November 16.

See you then!

Right Running & The Root Of Illness/Injury

On Saturday I had the chance to attend a running workshop held by my colleague Pete Garbutt.

I had always found running excessively laborious in the past, and avoided it where possible. It had only vaguely occurred to me that my self-taught running technique could be woeful, making running far harder than necessary.

Down at Nara Park that afternoon, Pete systematically explained and demonstrated just how inefficient many of my running habits were. Many of these bad habits are very common in a country shod with thick-soled running shoes, as it turns out.

Having shown me the worst faults in my running, Pete then assembled a new technique for me, one component at a time. Each new aspect was added to the foundation of the previous, until, voila! My running style changed completely. It is now vastly more energy efficient. More importantly, my new running technique is far less likely to generate a back, hip, knee, ankle or foot injury.

This got me thinking about the root causes of illness, a topic of fierce debate throughout history :-)

In the Meridian Therapy style of acupuncture, the root cause of disease is considered to be a weakness or deficiency in either the Lung, Spleen, Liver or Kidney organs. Although a patient's presentation may be fantastically complex,  the best results are generally obtained by focusing on strengthening just one of these major organs. Of course, this approach does need to be highly customised for each patient and their problems, but this is the basic theoretical thrust of the Meridian Therapy method. I have found this approach to be effective time and time again.

However, sometimes the root of a problem can lie outside an organ. Sometimes, a lifestyle pattern or habit is at the real core of the problem. Certain habits may continually weaken our organs, rendering treatments that strengthen those organs less effective.

For instance, a person who is continually experiencing problems related to Lung disharmonies (poor immunity, persistent cough etc) may improve if an acupuncturist treats their lungs. However, if that person is a pack-a-day smoker, no treatment will be as powerful as just quitting smoking.

Similarly, a person with persistent low back, hip, knee & foot problems may be treated effectively for Kidney disharmony. However, what if that person is a runner with abysmal, injurious technique? Until correct running form is learnt, acupuncture treatment will function only as a bandaid. In this situation, poor technique is the real "root" of the problem.

As Einstein's Razor says, Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” 

Menstrual Cycle Issues & Acupuncture

So many people have problems with their menstrual cycles these days. Modern medications (especially the pill), modern stress... so much pressure been brought to bear against a regular, pain-free menstrual cycle. PMS has become a simple fact of life for many people, like the sun setting at night. Some have struggled with menstrual irregularities since their very first period.

Let's take a look at the menstrual cycle through the lens of Chinese medicine. To do this, we need to look at the liver.

In both western and Chinese medicine, it is understood that blood is stored in the liver. When we are active, blood travels from the liver to the muscles to provide power. When we are at rest, a significant quantity of our blood returns to the liver to be cleansed and re-energised. The state of our blood depends very heavily on the liver. It stands to reason, therefore, that menstrual problems signify some kind of malfunctioning in the liver.

In Chinese medicine, there are two major types of issues that can occur with the liver - what we call excess and deficiency. Both can affect the menstrual cycle in their own way.

When the liver is deficient, this means there is insufficient blood in the liver for optimal function. When blood is taken from the already-deficient liver to the uterus for menstruation this can tax the system severely. There may be extreme tiredness, diarrhoea and cramping. Ironically the period may be unusually heavy despite this systemic insufficiency of blood, adding further insult to injury.

Broadly speaking, liver excess equates to stagnation. Poorly circulating blood can stagnate in the liver and uterus, impeding free menstrual flow. This can result in particularly sharp abdominal pain, clotting, spotting, irritation, sore breasts and constipation. Both excess and deficiency can cause the period to come at irregular times in the month, or be too short or long in duration.

Proper differentiation of liver syndromes is critical when treating menstrual issues. Treatments for liver excess will aggravate cases of liver deficiency and vice versa. Unfortunately, this differentiation is not made with conventional treatments for menstrual issues, making these treatments mostly hit and miss.

The pill is a particularly common treatment for menstrual disharmony. However, long-term use of the pill often causes significant liver excess or deficiency states which are revealed only when consumption is discontinued. At this point a person may suddenly discover they have problems conceiving, or suffer from frequent miscarriages. The pill can mask energetic imbalances causing menstrual dysfunction, but these imbalances will only grow stronger while they are masked. The root cause, the excess or deficiency, must be corrected for long-term relief.

Japanese Acupuncture is purpose-built to address excess and deficiency states in the body. Using this toolkit, I have been able to provide relief to many people suffering from a range of menstrual issues. 

Treatment Of Heel Pain, Part 1

I thought I'd share another case with you from my clinic room.

Ron is a construction worker who had the misfortune to bruise his heel very badly while on site. Doesn't sound too bad, though, right? Heels are tough, and a few days rest should settle it all down...

Unfortunately, Ron was not so lucky. Those "few days" rest stretched into a month, then three, then seven months of inability to walk without pain. For some reason the pain would just. not. leave.

Seven months of painful hobbling and enforced unemployment. Not my idea of fun, nor Ron's.

During this time, Ron tried everything to get rid of the pain. Chiropractic and massage only put a small dent into the problem.

A GP even administered a cortisone injection into the heel. 

Can you imagine a big hypodermic needle inserted directly into the bottom of your heel, through the thickest callus on your body? Especially if your heel is already agonisingly painful?

Unsurprisingly, Ron (who is a big, tough, very physical bloke) described this injection as the worst pain he had ever felt in his life. And it didn't help his heel one bit.

After this, Ron showed up at my clinic.

At this point I want to give Ron a citation for outstanding courage. He'd just experienced the worst pain of his life from a needle in his heel, and yet still turned up for an acupuncture appointment!

 Luckily for him, I had no intention of putting needles anywhere near his foot.

With my next post, I'll tell you all about what I did do, and how it put Ron back on his feet (and back at work) in short order.

The Treatment Of Heel Pain, Part 2

As I mentioned in the last article, Ron had received an excruciatingly painful cortisone injection in his heel. This experience had made him wary of the use of needles in that area, and I didn't want to treat Ron in a similar fashion.

So - what options were left? As usual, moxibustion comes to the rescue.

What's moxibustion you ask?  I have a post that explains it here.

I think it's ironic: the gentlest, most humane (and effective) way of treating heel pain that I've encountered, appears to be burning the heel. I know it sounds awful, but it really is a very comfortable procedure. So far, every patient I have treated for heel pain falls asleep while I work.

What makes it so humane is that nothing physical is inserted into the foot. Instead, the heat from moxibustion has unique properties that allow it to penetrate deeply to the site of the problem. As the practitioner, my job is to ensure that the amount of heat felt in the foot is noticeable, but not uncomfortable. No damage is done to the heel in the process.

So how did I treat Ron? First, I checked out his overall state of health, and applied an acupuncture treatment designed to improve his energy levels and wellbeing. As a rule, I do this for most of my patients irrespective of their complaint.

Then, I pressed around the heel and looked for the most sensitive spots. I marked them with a pen, then applied moxibustion until Ron could feel the heat consistently.

That's it. Nothing too complicated.

After the first treatment Ron reported that his pain levels had gone down from 8/10 to 4/10. After four treatments the pain was completely gone, with only residual minor discomfort. After 6 treatments, Ron was back at work with full use of the heel restored.

Gentle Japanese Acupuncture & The Common Cold, Part 2

So how exactly can you use acupuncture and moxibustion to treat a cold? Let's look at a recent case.

Jane had been receiving treatment for fatigue and insomnia. However, on the day in question, Jane's clinical presentation was quite different than usual. Sore throat, chills and fevers, neck stiffness and a headache: it was clear that Jane was in the early stages of coming down with a cold.

It is crucial to determine how far the cold has progressed, and in what fashion. If a person has a cough, fatigue and no appetite, then you would treat them very differently to someone who has just begun to feel sniffly in the last few hours. Poor-quality or incorrect treatment can exacerbate the symptoms.

Jane still had her appetite, no cough, and decent energy levels, plus her symptoms had only begun that morning. Combined with pulse diagnosis techniques, I was able to diagnose her with what we call Lung Deficiency/Yang Excess/Heat Syndrome.

Basically, this means that her Defensive Qi (explained in my last post) had become deficient. This allowed the cold to penetrate to a small extent, where it was met by violent but not-completely-effective resistance (hence the chills, fevers and other symptoms).

If we directly strengthen the Defensive Qi at this point, Jane's body will have the resources it needs to repel the pathogen and halt/reverse the progression of the cold.

As mentioned in my last post, Defensive Qi circulates around the exterior of the body, at the level of the skin and body hair. Therefore, if we want to stimulate Defensive Qi our intervention needs to take place at the skin's surface. Deep needling will at best have little effect, and at worst cause significant deterioration of the patient's condition.

Defensive Qi is produced by the Lung and the Spleen/Stomach/digestive complex. Therefore, by contact needling the Lung and Spleen meridians at particular points we send the body a twofold message:

1. Produce more Defensive Qi

2. Send it to the surface of the skin (where the battle between the body and the pathogen is taking place).

Supplemented by other needling and moxibustion techniques, this treatment can be very effective in restoring the body's immunity (allowing the body to expel the pathogen and return to health).

After applying the treatment, I advised Jane to go home and eat something warm for dinner (to further strengthen her Defensive Qi). The next morning, Jane woke up feeling as if the cold had never threatened to strike in the first place!

If you can't afford to take a few days off work just to entertain a cold, why not book an appointment on 6241 6060?

Stay well,

Adam McIntosh