Acupuncture: East meets West

AcuA HAIR-THIN needle pricks the skin. What happens next depends on who you ask. A traditional Chinese practitioner will tell you that acupuncture manipulates the body’s vital energy, Qi (pronounced chee), balancing the opposing forces of Yin and Yang. When Yin and Yang are in harmony, Qi flows freely along pathways called meridians and you stay healthy, but when the Qi gets blocked you become ill. Inserting needles into points along a meridian unblocks Qi and restores the body’s healthy balance.

Western scientists explain it differently. They say inserting needles at acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release morphine-like substances that block pain signals. It may also trigger neurotransmitters and neurohormones, which influence such dynamic systems as circulation and the immune response.

Ever since acupuncture caught on in the West, we’ve been seeking to replace the Eastern mysticism with hard facts. But clinical trials so far have produced a disappointingly mixed bag of results that don’t seem to back up the anecdotal claims for the wonders of acupuncture. There might be a steadily building case for clinical relief of some types of pain and nausea. But the inconclusive studies still outweigh the positive ones. Continue reading Acupuncture: East meets West

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Whiplash study says no benefits from intensive treatment

Intensive whiplash treatment is no better than standard care, a study suggests.

The study, in the Lancet looked at the treatment of more than 2,700 people with mild to moderate whiplash.

No additional benefits were seen in those who had more intensive care – which included suggesting a rapid return to normal activities.


A Canadian expert said the study showed the lack of benefit from “unnecessary treatments”.

Whiplash injuries cost the UK economy about £3.1bn a year, mainly due to the expense of treating those with chronic symptoms (between 30-50%) and their subsequent need to take time off work.

Long-term problems can include pain from even the smallest movement, difficulty sleeping and even being unable to work. Continue reading Whiplash study says no benefits from intensive treatment

Medication overuse Headaches

Up to a million people in the UK have completely preventable  severe Headaches caused by taking too many painkillers, doctors have said.

They said some were trapped in a “vicious cycle” of taking pain relief, which then caused even more headaches.

The warning came as part of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s (NICE) first guidelines for treating headaches.

NICE is also recommending Acupuncture in some circumstances.

This can end up getting into a vicious cycle where your headache gets worse, so you take more painkillers, so your headache gets worse and this just becomes worse and worse and worse”

Medication overuse headaches” feel the same as other common headaches or migraines.

There is no definitive UK data on the incidence of the condition, but studies in other countries suggest 1-2% of people are affected, while the World Health Organisation says figures closer to 5% have been reported.

While painkillers would be many people’s instant response, they could be making sufferers feel even worse. Continue reading Medication overuse Headaches

Acupuncture studies by NCCAM


Physical pain is a common occurrence for many People; in fact, a national survey found that more than one-quarter of U.S. adults had recently experienced some sort of pain lasting more than a day. In addition to conventional treatments, such as over-the-counter and prescription medications, people may try Acupuncture in an effort to relieve pain. This fact sheet provides basic information about pain and acupuncture, summarizes scientific research on acupuncture for specific kinds of pain, and suggests sources for additional information.

Key Points

  • People use acupuncture for various types of pain. Back pain is the most commonly reported use, followed by joint pain, neck pain, and headache.
  • Acupuncture is being studied for its efficacy in alleviating many kinds of pain. There are promising findings in some conditions, such as chronic low-back pain and osteoarthritis of the knee; but, for most other conditions, additional research is needed. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) sponsors a wide range of acupuncture research.
  • Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed correctly.
  • In traditional Chinese medicine theory, acupuncture regulates the flow of qi (vital energy) through the body. Research to test scientific theories about how acupuncture might work to relieve pain is under way. Continue reading Acupuncture studies by NCCAM

Is Migraine all in your Head ?

IF YOU have ever absent-mindedly rubbed your eyes or nose after chopping up chilli peppers, you’ll have some idea of the suffering of one group of scientists in the name of medical research. A team at the Institute of Neurology in London have been injecting chilli juice into each others’ foreheads. Lab technician Paul Hammond, who got roped into the experiment, says it felt like acid was burning into his skin. “It was one of the most excruciating pains you can imagine,” he recalls.

The researchers weren’t sadomasochists, as far as we know. Their actions were part of a much larger research effort that has been shedding light on migraine. For although in the past few decades we have learned a great deal about the condition, we still have no idea of its root cause. And while we have drugs that help some patients, some of the time, understanding the underlying defect is the best way to boost our chances of discovering a sure-fire cure.

Continue reading Is Migraine all in your Head ?

Coffee & Pain

COFFEE addicts may be unusually sensitive to pain and prone to panic disorders. 

A team led by Björn Johansson of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden looked at mice that had had the gene coding for an adenosine receptor in their brains disabled. A high dose of caffeine has the same effect in people. The mice seemed healthy, with normal growth and heart rates, but tests showed they were unusually anxious and sensitive to pain (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 98, p 9407).

People who drink up to around six coffees a day should be all right, since this amount of caffeine blocks only half their adenosine receptors. But higher doses might cause similar symptoms.