Insomnia

Insomnia is difficult in getting to sleep, or staying asleep.  A 'normal' amount of sleep is different for each person as there are many factors that affect the amount of sleep we all need.  However, when sleeplessness causes you to feel tired, irritable and unrefreshed in the morning then it's important to be seen by your doctor and to see what can be done to help.  

what can be done about insomnia?

Stress and anxiety are commonly associated with bouts of insomnia, although it can also be linked to some conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and asthma.  Your doctor may recommend cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or sleeping medication for use in the short-term.  However, stress-relieving treatments like acupuncture have also been increasingly popular and has been named by the World Health Organizaion (WHO) as being of potential use for sleeplessness.

What to do

There is a range of things you can do to help you get to sleep, such as:

  • avoiding caffeine later in the day
  • avoiding heavy meals late at night
  • setting regular times to wake up
  • using thick curtains or blinds, an eye mask and earplugs to stop you being woken up by light and noise

This is often referred to as 'good sleep hygiene'.

Relaxation can also help. Try taking a warm bath an hour before you go to bed or listening to calming music.

Read more self-help tips for insomnia.

How Can Chinese Medicine Help

Acupuncture and certain herbal medicines can regulate the autonomic nervous system and increase the amount of certain substances in the brain such as serotonin which promote relaxation and sleep within the body. Clinical studies of patients with sleep disturbances have suggested that acupuncture and acupressure can help patients with varying degrees of insomnia by enhancing sleep quality and decreasing awakenings through the night.

what to expect

We recommend a short 6-week course of treatments to help with sleeplessness.  In our experience, once a consistent quality of sleep over a period of several weeks has been achieved, we will advise reducing your treatments to once monthly to maintain the benefits. 


References

Sok SR, Erlen JA, Kim KB. Effects of acupuncture therapy on insomnia. J Adv Nurs. 2003 Nov;44(4):375-84. Review.

Suen LK, Wong TK, Leung AW, Ip WC. The long-term effects of auricular therapy using magnetic pearls on elderly with insomnia. Complement Ther Med. 2003 Jun;11(2):85-92.

Tsay SL, Cho YC, Chen ML. Acupressure and Transcutaneous Electrical Acupoint Stimulation in improving fatigue, sleep quality and depression in hemodialysis patients. Am J Chin Med. 2004;32(3):407-16.

Posted by Lily Lai.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic non-contagious skin problem that affects approximately 2-3% of the population.  This is caused by an overactive immune system triggering a cascade of events within the body and which leads onto inflammation and an acceleration of skin cell growth.  This causes your skin to experience a buildup of skin cells on the surface and which forms thick patches on the skin called plaques.  These have a red or pinkish appearance and which can sometimes be itchy, sore or painful.  Some types of psoriasis cause your fingernails to become thick, discoloured and pitted or can lead to joint stiffness and pain known as psoriatic arthritis.

What causes Psoriasis?

Your dermatologist will usually help identify the cause of your psoriasis.  For some patients, genetic factors are thought to be involved especially if you know somebody else in the family with psoriasis.  You may also have already identified triggering factors linked to when you first noticed having psoriasis, or which you might link with your flare-ups.  Some of these factors include stress, trauma to the skin such as sunburn or bruising, smoking, diet, excessive alcohol consumption or triggers related to the weather or hormones.

What can help psoriasis?

You may be recommended certain medications to help suppress the immune system or to slow down the production of skin cells.  Topical applications of tar can also benefit some patients by reducing inflammation and scaling, whilst some find UV light therapy helpful especially if the psoriasis is widespread.

If conventional treatments aren't working for you, you may be recommended other treatments such as acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine which are widely used in East Asian countries like China for psoriasis.  Clinical research has also suggested that these treatments may help with psoriasis by: 

  • Reducing inflammation thereby reducing irritation, pain and soreness;
  • Reducing the rate of turnover of new skin cells;
  • Changing the way your immune system attacks its own cells;
  • Reducing stress if this is a trigger for your symptoms.

The main aim of our treatments is to reduce the rate of skin-cell turnover which is central to psoriasis.  Because of this, we recommend an initial 4-week course of sessions to establish progress to treatment and which is the usual time-frame within which our patients report seeing an improvement in symptoms.  

For more information about acupuncture and Chinese medicine, please get in touch - we'd be happy to speak to you about your symptoms and provide you with further advice where possible.


References

Bensky D, Gamble A. Chinese Herbal Medicine : Materia Medica (1993). Seattle: Eastland Press. Paige D. ‘Skin Disease’ in Clinical Medicine (2002).  UK : WB Saunders.

Tse WP, Che CT, Liu K, Lin ZX. Evalulation of the anti-proliferative properties of selected psoriasis-treating Chinese medicines on cultured HaCaT cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Nov 3;108(1):133-41.

Walling A. Therapeutic modulation of the psychoneuroimmune system by medical acupuncture creates enhanced feelings of well-being. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2006 Apr;18(4):135-43. Review.

Posted by Lily Lai.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are a group of complex problems of the jaw joints that lead to pain and/or dysfunction in these joints.  The jaw joints are composed of a network of muscles, tendons and bones which we rely on day to day to open and close our jaw for everyday tasks such as talking and eating.  TMJ disorders are caused by overuse of, or tension in the jaw muscles, typically caused by certain behaviours or conditions such as teeth grinding, dental problems, stress and chewing gum habitually.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of TMJ disorders include the following:

  • Headache and facial pain, especially with opening and closing the jaw;
  • Ear pain, usually in front of or below the ear.  Patients are often mistreated multiple times for a presumed ear infection;
  • Sounds such as grinding, popping and crunching;
  • Dizziness;
  • Fullness in the ear leading to a sensation of muffled or clogged ears.

These can be chronic debilitating symptoms that interfere with patients’ quality of life and often in their ability to work or function on a day to day basis.

What can be done for TMJ disorders?

Current biomedical treatment for TMJ disorders include anti-inflammatories, painkillers, muscle relaxants, physical therapy and corticosteroid injections.  These tend to offer short-term symptomatic relief and with some reporting unpleasant side effects.  A systematic review published in 2010 looked at randomised controlled trials investigating the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating TMJ symptoms.  It showed that acupuncture:

  • was more effective than physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication and no treatment;
  • had positive effects similar to those of occlusal splint therapy, where a plastic mouth guard is worn to cover your upper or bottom set of teeth;
  • posed no serious safety risk.

The review suggested that acupuncture was as effective as treatments that are currently offered and the study authors concluded that there was 'moderate evidence that acupuncture is an effective intervention to reduce symptoms associated with TMD'.

These effects are potentially due to the following effects that acupuncture has demonstrated in other studies:

  • reducing muscle tension and spasm to relax the affected area
  • reducing inflammation by encouraging the body to release naturally occurring anti-inflammatory chemicals;
  • encouraging your body to produce endorphins which help combat pain.

For more information about TMJ or if you're interested in discussing your symptoms with us, please get in touch and we'll be happy to advise you further. 


References

TMJ Disorders. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tmj-disorders/DS00355. Accessed May 4 2010. LINK

TMJ Disorders. Medline. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001227.htm. Accessed May 4 2010. LINK

Medications and Drugs : Prednisone. MedicineNet.com. http://www.medicinenet.com/prednisone/article.htm. Accessed May 4 2010. LINK

Medications and Drugs : Indomethacin. MedicineNet.com. http://www.medicinenet.com/indomethacin/article.htm. Accessed May 4 2010. LINK

Cho SH, Whang WW. Acupuncture for temporomandibular disorders:A systematic review. J Orofac Pain. 2010 Spring;24(2):152-62.

Posted by Lily Lai.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is an intensely painful condition affecting the trigeminal nerve that carries sensation from the face to the brain. Everyday actions like chewing, talking, brushing teeth can often bring on episodes of severe stabbing, shooting pains across the face that feels like an electric shock. Trigeminal neuralgia is one of the most painful conditions known to exist and is the most common neurological cause of facial pain.

How can Trigeminal Neuralgia be treated?

Trigeminal neuralgia has been linked with increased pressure on the trigeminal nerve and which causes nerve pain.  Doctors can prescribe you medication such as carbamazepine to relieve pain and which can work very effectively by reducing or blocking the electrical signals in the nerves.  However, medications can become less effective with time and the intensity of the pain can gradually become increasingly severe.

Treatments such as acupuncture can help reduce the severity of pain as well as frequency of episodes.  A Turkish case study was published in 2009 by a medical team which reported on a treatment-resistant trigeminal neuralgia patient suffering from severe pain for the last 25 years.  After receiving 6 weeks of acupuncture, the patient reported being completely pain-free - an effect that continued when she was followed up at 6 months.  

The pain-relieving aspects of acupuncture is well documented now, especially in light of recommendations by NICE that acupuncture be offered for painful conditions such as chronic headaches, migraines and lower back pain.  As in other pain conditions, acupuncture may help trigeminal neuralgia by increasing levels of opioids, endorphins, encephalins and serotonin, all of which play a important role in relieving pain.

What can I expect from treatments?

If you are suffering severe and frequent attacks, we recommend weekly treatments in the initial stage to settle symptoms down.  When the treatment focuses on taking a preventative course of action, we advise that sessions are spaced further apart.   

For further information about acupuncture, do get in touch - we'd be more than happy to answer any questions that you have about acupuncture or any of the treatments that we offer.

 

Posted by Lily Lai.

Tension headaches and Migraines

Tension headaches cause a constant sensation of tightness or pressure around your head.  You may also notice getting these headaches when particularly stressed or anxious, or if you have muscular tightness linked with inactivity or poor posture.  

Migraines are severe headaches and is the most common nerve-related condition.  Migraines can be completely disabling and can prevent you from carrying out normal activities for anything from 4 hours to three days.  

what can help with headaches and migraines?

If you suffer from tension headaches or migraines, your doctor may recommend that you take painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.  Stronger medications may also be prescribed and which may include anti-sickness tablets.  

Your doctor will also discuss with you preventative strategies such as yoga, exercise or acupuncture.  Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture over a 5 to 8 week period can be beneficial in preventing chronic tension-type headaches.  This recommendation is based on research which found that acupuncture was significantly better than normal care or no treatment, and was just as effective as drug treatment without side-effects.  Clinical research has also suggested that acupuncture may help prevent headaches and migraines by:  

  • reducing frequency of attacks (Li 2009)
  • reducing severity of attacks
  • reducing the duration of attacks
  • reducing inflammation (Kim 2008)
  • increasing levels of endorphins and providing pain relief (Zhao 2008)
  • regulation of serotonin levels in the brain (Zhong 2007)

what can i expect with acupuncture?

We recommend that a course of 8 sessions to be carried out weekly or fortnightly for optimal effect.  This will be based on the frequency of your headaches and migraines and for some patients, benefit will be evident within just the first three sessions.  To see a video account of a migraine-sufferer's experience of acupuncture, please access the NHS Choices website by clicking here.

For more information and further advice for your symptoms, make use of our complimentary no-obligation telephone consultation and get in touch with us today.   

 

 

Posted by Lily Lai.

Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition where the shoulder becomes very painful, stiff and restricted in movement. Symptoms can often be debilitating and you may find that everyday tasks such as driving, dressing and sleeping very difficult.

The exact cause of frozen shoulder is not clear but it is thought to be due to inflammation in the shoulder capsule and the formation of scar tissue.  If you've been diagnosed with frozen shoulder, you may have noticed that it followed a shoulder injury but in most cases, the symptoms come up without any apparent reason.

what can be done FOR FROZEN SHOULDER?

Your doctor may recommend that you use painkillers or corticosteroid injections to help with the pain.  If these are not helping, physiotherapy and acupuncture is often recommended as the next stage of treatment.   

Some clinical trials have shown that acupuncture can help improve recovery from frozen shoulder.  This might be through regulating the nervous system which increases the production of pain-killing biochemicals such as endorphins to reduce the pain itself. It may also reduce inflammation within the shoulder joint and increase the activity of immune system cells at specific sites of the body aiding in local repair and healing.

what can i expect during treatment?

After carrying out a physical assessment, we will often recommend a short course of acupuncture treatment and which might be combined with moxibustion.  Both treatments offer a gentle means of treating a deep rooted problem, particularly if you are in severe pain and cannot tolerate spinal manipulation or deep tissue massage.  Our patients commonly report reduced levels of pain and stiffness after two treatments.

If you have been diagnosed with frozen shoulder and are interested in finding out more about our treatments, please do get in touch for a free no-obligation consultation.   

 

Posted by Lily Lai.

Breech Babies

The majority of babies are lying head down by around 37 weeks towards the end of a pregnancy, ready for birth.  But for 3% of women, their babies are in a breech position, meaning that their babies are lying bottom or feet first in the uterus (RCOG 2008).  Breech presentations can sometimes lead to complications and your obstetrician will discuss with you whether to try to turn your baby, to offer you a Caesarean section or to allow you to have a vaginal breech birth.  

What can be done to turn my baby?

Your obstetrician or midwife may recommend an external cephalic version (ECV) which involves a skilled obstetrician firmly pushing on your abdomen to turn the baby around.  Postural exercises such as involving knee to chest positions on a daily basis may also be recommended.  However, an increasing number of patients are recommended acupuncture and moxibustion as more research evidence is coming to light for its effectiveness in correcting breech presentations.  

A Dutch review of clinical studies was carried out to assess the relative effectiveness of acupuncture and moxibustion treatments on the acupuncture point BL67 (Zhiyin), versus ‘expectant management’ which included ECV (van der Berg 2010).  It also took into account treatment compliance and costs for stimulated breech presentations.

The results were that:

  • 53% of women treated with expectant management for breech presentation were still breech, versus 32% of women treated with moxibustion;
  • 50% of women treated with expectant management for breech presentation still required a caesarean section, versus 37% of women treated with moxibustion;
  • Moxibustion was more effective and less costly than expectant management. 

The authors of the study concluded that 'offering BVA-T (moxibustion therapy) to women with a breech foetus at 33 weeks gestation reduces the number of breech presentations at term, thus reducing the number of caesarean sections, and is cost-effective compared to expectant management, including external cephalic version’.

These findings are similar to those in a Spanish review published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology which found moxibustion at the point BL67 to be 30% more effective than no treatment or postural management (Vas 2009).  This review found that moxibustion may also reduce the need for oxytocin during labour, a hormone prescribed to start or strengthen contractions, and that it presented no additional safety risks such as Caesarian section, pre-term delivery or premature rupture or membranes.

When do I need to get in touch?

Most breech babies will have turned by themselves by 35 weeks.  If your baby is still breech at 35 weeks, get in touch with us for more information.  

We recommend undergoing moxibustion treatment as close to 35 weeks as possible for optimal effect as the baby has more room to manoeuvre.  You will usually only require one treatment, although in some circumstances two treatments may be necessary.  

For further information about moxibustion, please get in touch and we'd be happy to advise you further, or to speak to your midwife.  


REFERENCES

Royal College of Obstricians and Gynaecologists. A breech baby at the end of pregnancy: Information for you. 2008. LINK

van der Berg I, Kaandorp GC, Bosch JL, Duvekot JJ, Arends LR, Hunink MG. Cost effectiveness of breech version by acupuncture-type interventions on BL67, including moxibustion, for women with a breech foetus at 33 weeks gestation: a modelling approach. Complement Ther Med. 2010 Apr;18(2). LINK

Vas J, Aranda J, Nishishinya B, Mendez C, Martin M, Pons J, Liu J, Wang C, Perea-Milla E. Correction of nonvertex presentation with moxibustion: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Sep;201(3):241-59. LINK

Posted by Lily Lai.

Male Subfertility

When couples have been struggling to conceive for some time, the female partner will often be referred for hormonal blood tests and structural investigations, whilst the male partner will have a physical assessment and a basic semen analysis.

Male fertility problems account for at least 40% of all infertility cases and a semen analysis will look at various aspects of the sperm and seminal fluid.  This includes the pH, the number of sperm per sample and the physical shape and movement of the sperm.  Results can be affected by factors such as how many days of abstinence, time between ejaculation and analysis, so be sure to follow the guidance you've been given by your clinic.  

Semen Analysis Results

If you receive an abnormal test result,  your doctor will usually ask for this to be repeated after 3 months.  This is around the time it takes for sperm to develop and will help your doctor be more certain about your results.  The most common problems in sperm analysis are:

  • Fewer sperm than normal (oligospermia / oligozoospermia)
  • Abnormal shape, or morphology, of sperm (teratospermia / teratozoospermia)
  • Abnormal movement, or motility, of sperm (asthenospermia / asthenozoospermia)

In some cases, these results can be related to hormonal conditions such as diabetes, immune-system problems, infections or structural issues.  However, in 30-40% of cases of male infertility, no known causes can be found and this is referred to as unexplained - or idiopathic - male infertility.  

What does the research say about male subfertility?

If you've been diagnosed with idiopathic male infertility, ask your doctor about ways in which you can improve your sperm health.  Researchers and doctors have described a number of factors that are thought to be linked with poor sperm health and includes:

  • psychological stress affects testicular function and development of sperm
  • poor dietary habits and thus poor nutritional health
  • lack of physical activity leading to reduced circulation, obesity and poor sperm and male hormone levels
  • caffeine, alcohol and smoking which affect sperm count, quality and movement

(Nargund 2015, Jungwirth 2015, Sharma 2013, Tremellen 2008).  

Although these factors can be modified with lifestyle changes and nutritional therapy, there has also been increasing interest in using Chinese medicine.  Clinical research to date have investigated treatments such as acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, moxibustion and Chinese herbal medicine in male patients with varying degrees of subfertility.  These studies report a range of potential benefits which include:

  • higher percentage of progressively motile sperm (Jerng 2014, Dieterle 2009);
  • significant improvements in sperm concentration (Jerng 2014, Siterman 2000); 
  • increased sperm count (Siterman 2000);
  • improved shape, or morphology, and structural integrity of sperm, (Pei 2005, Gurfinkel 2003);
  • reduced sperm clumping, or agglutination (Sun 2006);
  • reduced inflammation of the genital tract which can lead to an increase in scrotal temperature (Siterman 2000);
  • lowered scrotal temperature (Siterman 2009);
  • increased testicular circulation (Cakmak 2008).

It's important to note that the research studies published do not provide evidence for Chinese medicine where structural or genetic abnormalities have clearly been diagnosed and where our treatments will not improve the primary cause of male infertility.  

what treatments are available?

Whether you and your partner are trying naturally, or whether you are preparing to go through assisted conception such as IVF or ICSI, the good news is that there are ways in which you can personally take control by optimising your health and improving chances of success.  

At our practice, we offer a tailored 12-week treatment programme which includes acupuncture treatment as well as lifestyle and dietary advice.  We recommend carrying out a sperm evaluation before starting treatment and to test again at the end of the programme to evaluate your progress.   

To find out more about acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine, or if you are interested in using acupuncture in tandem with nutritional therapy, take advantage of our complimentary 10 minute no-obligation consultation by clicking on the 'Book now' button - we'll get back in touch with you to arrange a suitable time to call. 


References

Cakmak Y, Akpinar I, Ekinci G, Bekiroglu N. Point- and frequency-specific response of the testicular artery to abdominal electroacupuncture in humans. Fertil Steril. 2008 Nov;90(5):1732-8.

Cooper T, Noonan E, von Eckardstein S, Auger J, Baker H, Behre H, Haugen T, Kruger T, Wang C, Mbizvo M, Vogelsong K. World Health Organization reference values for human semen characteristics. Hum Reprod Update 2010 May-Jun;16(3):231-45.

Dieterle S, Li A, Greb R, Bartzsch F, Hatzmann W, Huang D. A prospective randomized placebo-controlled study of the effect of acupuncture in infertile patients with severe oligoasthenozoospermia. Fertil Steril. 2009 Oct;92(4):1340-3.

Gurfinkel E, Cedenho AP, Yamamura Y, Srougi M. Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities. Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec;5(4):345-8.

Jerng U, Jo J, Lee S, Lee J, Kwon O. The effectiveness and safety of acupuncture for poor semen quality in infertile males: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Asian J Androl. 2014 Aug;16:884-91.

Jungwirth A, Diemer T, Dohle G, Giwercman A, Kopa Z, Krausz C, Tournaye H. Guidelines on Male Infertility. European Association of Urologists. Mar 2014.

Nargund V. Effects of psychological stress on male fertility. Nature Reviews Urology. 2015;12:373-382

Pei J, Strehler E, Noss U, Abt M, Piomboni P, Baccetti B, Sterzik K. Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility. Fertil Steril. 2005 Jul;84(1):141-7.

Sharma R, Biedenharn K, Fedor J, Agarwal A. Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 2013;11:66.

Siterman S, Eltes F, Schechter L, Maimon Y, Lederman H, Bartoov B. Success of acupuncture treatment in patients with initially low sperm output is associated with a decrease in scrotal skin temperature. Asian J Androl. 2009 Mar;11(2):200-8.

Siterman, S., Eltes, F., Wolfson, V., Lederman, H. and Bartoov, B. (2000), Does acupuncture treatment affect sperm density in males with very low sperm count? A pilot study. Andrologia, 32: 31–39. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0272.2000.tb02862.x

Sun Z, Bao Y. TCM treatment of male immune infertility - a report of 100 cases. J Tradit Chin Med 2006 Mar;26(1):36-8.

Tremellen K. Oxidative stress and male infertility - a clinical perspective. Hum Reprod Update 2008 May-Jun;14(3):243-58.
Posted by Lily Lai.

Female subfertility

In most couples who are trying for a baby, over 80% will conceive within 12 months.  However, 1 in 7 heterosexual couples in the UK have fertility problems, of which 25% are due to ovulation disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome, 25% are unexplained and 20% due to blocked or scarring of fallopian tubes frequently caused by pelvic infection, pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis (NICE 2013). 

what can be done about subfertility? 

Your gynaecologist or reproductive endocrinologist may offer treatments or medications to help address any underlying causes for delayed conception.  For example you may be offered medication to help you ovulate if you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and are not having any periods; or in the case of endometriosis, laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery may be advised to remove the tissue.  An increasing number of women are also advised to consider acupuncture when trying to conceive naturally.  In 2002, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report reviewing controlled clinical trials of acupuncture for various health concerns and listed over 40 conditions which acupuncture could help with, recommending it for both female and male infertility.  

Acupuncture is particularly helpful if you experience irregular ovulation, pre-menstrual symptoms or if you feel that stress and anxiety could be a significant contributing factor to subfertility.  Clinical studies have suggested that acupuncture and certain herbs can help by:

  • regulating the menstrual cycle and stimulating ovulation (Johansson 2013)
  • helping to rebalance hormones such as FSH, LH, progesterone, insulin and testosterone (Kort 2014, Akdogan 2007)
  • improving egg quality
  • increasing the blood flow to the ovaries and uterus (Chang 2002)
  • improving thickness and quality of the endometrial lining 
  • relieving stress-related dysfunction 
  • improving success of IVF or ICSI (Paulus 2002, Westergaard 2006)

A German study published by the National Library of Medicine in April 2002 concluded that acupuncture can increase a couple's chance of conception when used in conjunction with conventional infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). In this study, 160 participants were divided into two groups, both receiving standard IVF procedure but with one group also receiving acupuncture before and after implantation. The standard IVF group had a 26.3% pregnancy rate whilst the IVF plus acupuncture group showed a 42.5% success rate.

what is typically recommended in chinese medicine?

Our treatments are personalised to your needs and will always consider the stage at which you are experiencing delayed conception.  

If you have been trying for 3-12 months are with no pre-existing gynaecological problems, one consultation and treatment may be sufficient as a fertility health-check to make sure you're doing the right things to support yourself at this early stage.  If you have been recently diagnosed with a gynaecological condition such as PCOS or endometriosis or are considering undergoing IVF/ICSI, we see the best results for patients who undergo regular monthly or fortnightly treatments and who can benefit from having treatments that are focused at key points of their cycles.

We are frequently approached by women who wish to find out more about what we do so if you'd like to find out more about acupuncture and Chinese medicine, please take advantage of our complimentary initial telephone consultation.          


References

Chang R, Chung PH, Rosenwaks Z. Role of acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility. Fertil Steril. 2002 Dec;78(6):1149-53. Review.

Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertil Steril. 2002 Apr;77(4):721-4.

Westergaard LG, Mao Q, Krogslund M, Sandrini S, Lenz S, Grinsted J. Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial. Fertil Steril. 2006 May;85(5):1341-6. Epub 2006 Apr 5.

World Health Organization. Acupuncture : review and analysis of reports on controlled clinical trials. 2002. Geneva. Available from: http://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/42414#sthash.7l3dQ5tN.dpuf. Last accessed August 2015.
Posted by Lily Lai.

IVF and ICSI support

What is IVF and ICSI?

IVF (in vitro fertilisation) and ICSI (intro-cytoplasmic sperm injection) are assisted reproductive techniques that may be offered to you if you and your partner have been experienced trouble conceiving.  IVF involves the fertilisation of an egg with sperm in the laboratory (in vitro) followed by the transfer of one or more fertilised embryos back into the womb.  In ICSI a single sperm is chosen and injected directly into an egg and may be recommended to you and your partner if sperm abnormalities are apparent, or where low fertilisation rates have been seen in your previous IVF attempts.  

How can I access IVF and ICSI treatment?

You can fund IVF and ICSI treatments yourself privately but you may also be eligible for help through the NHS if this is part of the guidance provided by your local clinical commissioning group (CCG).  Although the decision to provide funding rests with your CCG, they must take into consideration national recommendations laid out in the most recent NICE guidance.  Success rates for IVF/ICSI treatments vary from around 32.3% for women under 35, gradually decreasing to approximately 1.9% for women aged over 44.  

Our patients have received treatment from some of the most successful fertility clinics in the London and Hertfordshire areas and the success rates published by each clinic are:

*All success rates shown are for females under 35 where pregnancies have led to a baby i.e. 'live-birth', rather than relying only on detection of a foetal heartbeat at 8 weeks, known as a 'clinical pregnancy'.

What does the research say about acupuncture and chinese medicine?

If you and your partner have opted for IVF treatment, your clinic may also recommend other ways to supplement your treatment such as acupuncture.  Research published in the British Medical Journal in 2008 suggested that acupuncture used alongside IVF treatments can increase the chances of achieving a live birth by 91% and clinical pregnancy by a considerable 65%.     

Clinical studies and reviews to date have suggested that acupuncture may improve chances of success during IVF in a number of ways:

  • Improving response to hormonal medications and embryo quality (Rashidi 2013)
  • Improving implantation rates (Villahermosa 2013)
  • Reducing rates of miscarriage (Hullender Rubin 2013)
  • Reducing anxiety levels (Anderson 2007)
  • Reducing side effects of IVF medications and surgical procedures (Sator-Katzenschlager 2006)
  • Reducing pain during egg collection (Kwan 2003)

When should I start Acupuncture or chinese medicine?

We find that patients get the most benefit when they undergo a 3-month fertility preparation programme before undergoing IVF or ICSI treatment.  This is always a tailored package of sessions that give you and your body the chance to prepare for upcoming treatment by: 

  • regulating different aspects of the cycle
  • reducing stress and anxiety
  • providing additional focus on wellbeing and nutrition.  

Acupuncture is the most commonly used as supportive treatment but this may also be used alongside other treatments such as moxibustion (commonly used to regulate ovulation, or after egg collection to reduce pain, or during stimulation phase to improve pelvic circulation); and ear-acupuncture (useful for reducing stress and anxiety, and on the day of embryo transfer).  

Although we believe it's important for all women to feel prepared for their IVF treatment, those with gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome may find our treatments particularly beneficial.   

what can i expect during my IVF treatment?

Our recommendation is for acupuncture to be carried out once a week during down-regulation and stimulation phases of your IVF treatment.  Treatment is frequently offered at the particularly influential times of egg collection and embryo transfer, and can be tailored to any specific previous problems you may have had - for example, we would recommend a different schedule if a previous IVF attempt was not successful because of suspected implantation issues. 

We will always discuss optimal treatment times with you as you come up to your fertility treatment and provide you with specific advice or recommendations to help support you during what can be a stressful and busy time.

If you are interested in finding out more about acupuncture and Chinese medicine to support you during upcoming fertility treatment, please drop us a call for a no-obligation consultation and further advice for your particular situation. 

Posted by Lily Lai.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common, chronic condition of the digestive system and can cause you to experience symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, cramps and sickness.  IBS affects up to one in five of us at some point in our lives and is usually a life-long condition.  You might find that your symptoms are linked with certain foods such as alcohol or processed foods, or stress which can cause chemical changes which influence the normal functioning of your digestive system.

what can be done about irritable bowel syndrome?

IBS symptoms have been thought to be caused by an increased sensitivity of the gut and problems with digesting food which causes pain and discomfort.  Dietary elimination can prove very helpful to many, as can supplementation with herbs.  Because of the link between hyperactivity of the nervous system and hormone levels and stress, stress-reduction techniques such as acupuncture, mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) should also be considered as a way of preventing or minimising flare-ups of your symptoms.  

Research suggests that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can play an important role in IBS in a number of ways:

  • decreasing muscle spasm in the digestive tract
  • improving abdominal discomfort and bloating
  • improving nausea
  • reducing sensitivities within the gut
  • reducing stress and anxiety

what can i expect from having treatments?

At our clinic, we recommend undergoing core sessions of either acupuncture or Chinese herbal treatment.  This will depend on a number of factors such as what kinds of symptoms you have and what you've identified as triggers for your symptoms.  In our experience, a benefit is seen within 5 or 6 weeks of starting treatment.

If you have an enquiry relating to IBS and are interested in finding out more, feel free to get in touch and we'd be happy to provide you with further advice.   


References

Bensoussan A, Talley NJ, Hing M, Menzies R, Guo A, Ngu M. Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with Chinese herbal medicine: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 1998 Nov 11;280(18):1585-9.

Bian Z, Wu T, Liu L, Miao J, Wong H, Song L, Sung JJ. Effectiveness of the Chinese herbal formula TongXieYaoFang for irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review. J Altern Complement Med. 2006 May;12(4):401-7. Review.

Chaiyakunapruk N, Kitikannakorn N, Nathisuwan S, Leeprakobboon K, Leelasettagool C. The efficacy of ginger for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting: a meta-analysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Jan;194(1):95-9. Review.

Ito N, Nagai T, Yabe T, Nunome S, Hanawa T, Yamada H. Antidepressant-like activity of a Kampo (Japanese herbal) medicine, Koso-san (Xiang-Su-San), and its mode of action via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Phytomedicine. 2006 Mar 2

Liu JP, Yang M, Liu YX, Wei ML, Grimsgaard S. Herbal medicines for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Jan 25;(1):CD004116. Review.

Ohya T, Usui Y, Arii S, Iwai T, Susumu T. Effect of dai-kenchu-to on obstructive bowel disease in children. Am J Chin Med. 2003;31(1):129-35.

Posted by Lily Lai.