All about acupuncture

acupuncture information education

Dating back hundreds of years, acupuncture is a traditional method used in ancient Chinese medicine. You probably have heard of it thanks to its efficacy to relive pains and maladies and its unorthodox method based inserting needles at certain areas of the body patient.

Although acupuncture has been widely used in China for hundreds of years, it has only become popular in the West during the last century fo to its therapeutic and preventive purposes. It is only used in the West, however, as a form of complementary or alternative medicine, rather than the main and only form to cure a patient, unless the malady is mild and easlity treatable with acupuncture. While you might find acupuncture treatments at clinics and hospitals, they are more widely used at spas and wellness centres.

Whether you get in one place or the other, acupuncture consists in stimulating sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles of the body. This process causes the body to produce natural substances, namely pain-relieving endorphins. There's reason to believe that these naturally released substances are responsible for the beneficial effects experienced with acupuncture. To perceive longer-lasting pain relief effects of acupuncture, however, it is advisable to book more than one session.

Traditionally, it was widely believed that acupuncture works thanks to an energy, or "life force", which flows through the body in channels called meridians. This life force is known as Qi (pronounced "chee"). According to traditionalists, Qi not flowing freely through the body leads to illness. They also firmly believe that acupuncture is the answer to restore the flow of Qi and, therefore, health.

Uses of acupuncture

Acupuncture is used to treat a large range of maladies, from chronic tension-type heads, migraines, musculoskeletal conditions (of the bones and muscles) and pain conditions, such as chronic pain (namely neck pain, joint pain, dental pain, postoperative pain, among others).

How acupuncture works

Practitioners insert needles into specific places on the body (acupuncture points). The needles used are fine, a few centimetres long, pre-sterilised and should used only once.

Practitioners choose specific points to place the needle depending on your condition. You can expect up to 12 points to be used during a typical session. This number can vary depending on your symptoms. Once the needles are in position - reaching either under the skin or deeper in the muscle tissue - they may be left in place for a varying amount of time, ranging from a few minutes to half an hour.

When the needles are inserted, you may feel a tingling or a dull ache. This process shouldn't be too painful, so if it is, you'll be better off telling your practitioner.

Techniques

Although conventional acupuncture is more widely spread, there are several techniques in applying acupuncture:

Electro-Acupuncture

Sometimes your practitioner may rotate the needles or stimulate them with a mild electric current. This method is known as electro acupuncture. In this method, inserted needles are coupled to the electrodes of an electro-acupuncture apparatus, designed to deliver a difference range of amplitudes and frequencies of electrical impulses.

Low frequency electro acupuncture is designed to reduce pain by stimulating chemicals from the brain which will aid analgesia, relaxation and sleep. It is particularly helpful in cases of chronic pain.

Acupressure

It involves the practitioner applying pressure with over Acupuncture or trigger points in order to decrease muscle tightness and to stimulate Qi flow. The amount of pressure varies depending on the condition. It is most suitable for patients with a needle phobia, children and frail patients.

Laser Acupuncture

Laser stimulation is used with any acupuncture treatment and is particularly suited for nervous patients, children, sports injuries, sensitive areas and ears.

Moxabustion and Cupping

These techniques are employed to introduce warmth into the Acupuncture points, either at the end of the Acupuncture needle - which is Moxabustion - or to areas which require increased stimulation of QI flow like in the case of Cupping. These techniques have the effect of increasing the circulation, removing waste products, reducing muscle spasm and pain.

Moreover, these treatments may also be used as before the Physiotherapist stretches the damaged tissue or mobilising a joint. Conditions treated with these techniques include Osteo-Arthritis, which areas of poor QI flow or cold conditions.

All about deep tissue massage

deep tissue massage

Although it is not commonly known, deep tissue massage has been used for thousands of years throughout the world due to its miraculous effects on physical and psychological stress. Recent studies show that deep tissue therapy is an effective way to treat common conditions like arthritis, anxiety and chronic lower back pain.

If you've tried a large range of massages, but none of them has solved your aches and tension issues, it might be time to turn to a deep tissue massage. This massage therapy consists of applying firm pressure and slow strokes to the affected area in order to reach deeper layers of muscle and fascia (the connecting tissue surrounding muscles).

As the pressure is stronger and concentrated on the problematic area, it might cause a bit discomfort. The results, however, are worth the struggle as the therapy helps assuage the pain in the long term. Given it's intensity, it is used for chronic aches and pain and contracted areas such as a stiff neck and upper back, low back pain, leg muscle tightness, and sore shoulders. It is also used to treat chronic tension and injuries from overuse, such as tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome.

How does it work?

Although some of the strokes might resemble those used in Swedish massage therapy and acupressure, deep tissue massage involves more pressure; while it's similar to the other therapies in that they all involve moving the body into certain positions,the pace in deep tissue massages tends to be slower and pressure is applied more strongly, focused on affected areas to break up scar tissue and physically break down muscle "knots" or adhesions (bands of painful, rigid tissue) that can disrupt circulation and cause pain, limited range of motion, and inflammation.

These bands of rigid tissue can cause pain and inflammation, and restrict movement and circulation in muscle tissue. You might have a stiff neck and upper back, lower back pain, tight legs or sore shoulders.

This therapy is meant to realign the different layers of tissue, treating the tendons, ligaments, fascia (the protective layer of tissue which surrounds the bones, joints and muscles), and the muscles to release tension and provide pain relief.

The massage therapy starts with light pressure applied to warm up and prep the muscles. Then, specific techniques are applied. The most common ones are:

The stripping technique involves deep, gliding pressure along the length of the muscle rivers using the elbow, forearm, knuckles, and thumbs.

The friction technique consists in applying pressure across the grain of a muscle to release adhesions and realign tissue fibers.

Benefits

Deep tissue therapy is usually employed to deal with a specific problem, the likes of chronic muscle pain, injury rehabilitation, low back pain, limited mobility, recovery from injuries - such as whiplash and falls), repetitive strain injury and postural problems.

Deep tissue massage also lowers high blood pressure, decreases the symptoms of arthritis, relieves stress, increases joint mobility and reduces chronic pain.

To make the most of the benefits of deep tissue therapy is to be as relaxed as you can and trust your therapist to relieve your pain.

The massage helps stimulate blood flow and relieve muscle tension, at the same time it lowers psychological stress and releases happy hormones like serotonin and oxytocin.

Precautions

Given the intensity of this massage, there are some precautions you must take before getting a deep tissue massage. First of all, avoid a deep tissue massage if you have been diagnosed with blood clots in the past; this is because the massage may dislodge the clots. If you are at risk of forming blood clots, talk to your doctor before getting a deep tissue massage.

You should also check with your doctor if you have had chemotherapy, radiation, recent surgery, or any medical condition. You should also avoid this type of massage if you have osteoporosis.

Bear in mind that deep tissue massage is mainly for therapy or rehabilitation rather than relaxation. Therefore, you have to be prepared to feel discomfort to some extent during the session and even after.

How to prevent wrinkles

How to prevent wrinkles

Many have tried and many have failed to come up with the great antidote to the aging process of the skin. After one fad and another, one expensive magical cream and a visibly fake plastic surgery, the best ways to prevent wrinkles remain the most natural and obvious ones. Although it's impossible to find the fountain of youth, there are ways to minimise the damage of the skin and the infamous wrinkles.

Before jumping into the ways to prevent wrinkles, it's best to delve into what causes. As you might know, our skin has two layers: the epidermis (outer layer) and the dermis (below the epidermis). Wrinkles are formed in the dermis, which is made up of collagen - what makes our skin elastic and smooth - and other proteins. As our bodies produce less collagen as we age, the passing of the years results in saggy skin with wrinkles. There are external factors that accelerate this process, namely sun damage, smoking, dehydration, poor nutrition, facial expressions - laughing and squinting -, pollution and toxins, natural aging and sleeping on your side, with your cheek pushed against your pillow.

Here are some of the best ways to prevent and erase wrinkles naturally:

Hydration

Dry skin equals wrinkled skin. That is why it's important to moisturise from within. Also, you need to stay hydrated to flush out your body toxins. If you are not big on plain water, try coconut water or green tea, which is packed with antioxidants that help to detox your body.

Don't smoke

Smoking can speed up the aging process of your skin. It might take years to see its effect, but smoking is the major cause of facial wrinkling in men and women. This is because the nicotine in cigarettes leads to narrowing of the blood vessels in the outermost layers of your skin. As there is less blood flow, your skin gets less oxygen and important nutrients, including vitamin A. Moreover, many of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke also damage collagen and elasticity. Besides, repeated exposure to the heat from burning cigarettes and the facial expressions we make - such as pursing your lips when inhaling and squinting your eyes to keep out smoke - contribute to wrinkles. In the interest of full disclosure, avoiding aging prematurely is only one of the many reasons you shouldn't smoke.

Get your fill of antioxidants

Antioxidants keep free radicals - unstable molecules that damage our skin, such as pollution and toxins - at bay. That is why a good nutrition packed with antioxidants leads to beautiful skin. Some sources of antioxidants include blueberries, spinach, kale, walnuts, artichokes, cranberries, beans, prunes, kiwis, and most fruits and vegetables.

Nontoxic moisturiser

Although there are endless anti aging creams and moisturisers in the market, the real miracle workers are natural oils like coconut and argan oil.

Coconut oil is a treasure trove of wellness benefits and one of them is its moisturising effect when used topically and may reduce age spots, wrinkles and even cellulite. You can also use coconut oil with vitamin E - a topical antioxidant - as a body moisturiser and as a makeup remover.

Argan oil can also be used to moisturise your skin. As it is less oily than coconut oil, it might be more suitable for oily skin complexions. Apart from being a natural moisturiser, argan oil is also full of antioxidants and it's a natural anti-inflammatory.

Other oils that can be used as moisturisers are jojoba, grapeseed and olive oil.

Gelatin

As gelatin is made from cooked collagen, it's a great wrinkle fighting trick when our body starts producing less collagen. As you take gelatin as a dietary supplement, it fills in the lines and erases wrinkles. Add this dietary supplement to your morning juice or smoothie, sprinkle it on your yogurt or cereal, or add it to anything else you fancy.

Get plenty of sleep

While we sleep, our bodies produce HGH (human growth hormone) which leads to growth and cell reproduction. When we don't enough sleep, conversely, our bodies produce cortisol, a stress hormone, which slows growth, tissue maintenance and, thus causes dry skin.

Fermented cod liver oil

Since it is packed with vitamins and Omega 3, fermented cod liver oil doesn't only boosts the immune system preventing cold and flu, but it also protects the skin from sun damage. As an anti-inflammatory, this oil prevents the inflammation of the skin caused by UV rays.

Coconut oil: uses and benefits

coconut oil

Depending on how and where you use it, coconut oil can benefit your health, hair and skin. This versatile oil can be used in cooking, beauty recipes and around the home. According to research, adding coconut oil to your diet and using it on your exterior can improve your health, well-being and appearance.

Coconut oil for hair

Have you ever noticed that women in tropical coastal regions boast beautiful healthy hair. Their secret is coconut oil, which helps in a healthy grow of your hair and gives a shine to those strands.

Thanks to its unique fat composition, coconut oil is especially beneficial for certain hair types and to repair damaged hair. Coconut oil is full of fatty acids that can protect dandruff or dry hair against hair damage. This oil is an excellent conditioner and helps the regrowth of process of damaged hair. Besides, it provides proteins that are essential to nourish and heal damaged hair. Studies show that it protects hair from damage caused by hygral fatigue.

You can use it as a hair mask, hot oil treatment or in homemade hair products. To make the most of coconut oil's benefits, apply it topically to your hair or use a coconut oil hair mask. If you massage your head regularly with coconut oil, you can ensure that it is dandruff free.

Coconut oil for skin

Thanks to its natural antioxidant properties, coconut oil can be used as a skin lotion to stop wrinkles and skin irritation. If you rub it directly on your skin, it can help lighten age spots.

Coconut oil is also used to moisturize and nourish the skin. It can also improve the lipid content of the skin.

If you whip it with shea butter, it becomes a very soothing body balm.

You can also use coconut oil to remove your makeup, and that can become part of your ritual to moisturize your skin. Thanks to its well-known antioxidant properties, coconut oil can delay the appearance of wrinkles and sagging of skin caused by aging.

Coconut is also effective as a sunscreen and it can block out about 20% of the sun's ultraviolet rays. It can also be used to treat various skin problems, such as psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections.

Coconut oil digestive benefits

Coconut oil's concentration of beneficial fats in coconut oil makes it helpful for digestion. As coconut oil helps the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, calcium, and magnesium, it improves digestion. This effect is doubled if coconut oil is taken with omega-3 fatty acids.

Its antimicrobial properties can help fight irritation and infection in the gut by destroying bad bacteria and candida. Candida imbalance may decrease stomach acid, which may lead to inflammation and poor digestion.

The MCT's of coconut oil are easy to digest, and therefore, they don't need pancreatic enzymes to be broken down. As a result, taking coconut oil reduces the metabolic strain on the pancreas.

Coconut oil for weight loss

According to a study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health back in 1985 showed how an injection of capric acid (which abounds in coconut oil) caused "initially rapid, then a gradual decrease in food consumption and a parallel loss of body weight" in male rats. Other studies have shown that the capric acid and other medium chain triglycerides (MCT) in coconut oil can boost 24-hour energy expenditure in humans up to 5%

Studies have also shown that coconut oil may reduce appetite given the way the fatty acids in it are metabolised.

Dental care

As coconut oil helps the absorption of calcium by the body, it leads to stronger teeth. Apart from facilitating the absorption of calcium, it also stops tooth decay, reduces plaque formation and plaque-induced gingivitis.

Speeds up healing

When you apply coconut oil to infected areas, it forms a chemical layer that protects the infected body part from external dust, air, fungi, bacteria, and viruses. It also speeds up the healing process of damaged tissues when applied to bruises.

Coconut oil can also be used as a stress reliever as it is very soothing. To eliminate mental fatigue, apply it to your head followed by a gentle massage.

Athletes, bodybuilder and those on a diet often use coconut oil to boost energy and endurance, and enhance their performance. This is because it contains less calories than other oils and its fat content is easily converted into energy, so doesn't generate the accumulation of fat in the heart and arteries.