Phoenix Acupuncture & Holistic Health

Welcome to the Phoenix Acupuncture and Holistic Health Blog


Gwen James

Posted on 12:15 06/06/2017

Welcome to the Phoenix Acupuncture and Holistic Health Blog!

In this blog I'll be looking at acupuncture topics, health related issues and talking about some of the things I do in clinic! I'll be posting a new blog every couple of weeks - so remember to check in!

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1 19:43 01/10/2017

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Managing Festive Stress


Gwen James

Posted on 05:09 10/11/2017

It was two weeks before Christmas when I got the call from one of my patients; she was so stressed that she'd taken the Christmas tree and thrown it out the door! Could I help her? There wasn't much I could do to resurrect the Christmas tree but I could certainly help distress her so she could enjoy Christmas!

Why am I bring up Christmas now? Well, it's about six weeks until Christmas and this is the time when stress starts to build! People are starting to make their plans for the Christmas-New Year period, organise travel arrangements, buy gifts and think about their budgets. Disagreements between family members are starting to erupt. Pressure is being put on people to meet expectations for gifts, to spend time with people and to provide holiday entertainment for their kids. All this creates stress!

In a couple of weeks Christmas parties will start which place a different type of stress on us: too many late nights, too much sweet or rich food and too much alcohol or sweet drinks. Is it any wonder that so many people are exhausted by the time Christmas actually arrives?!

The good news is there are a number of things we can do to manage the stress of the next six weeks! Here are my top eight tips!

1. Work out a Diet You can Stick to!

Christmas only rolls around once a year and it's a time known for rich and sweet food. Many of the treats we indulge in at this time are special to the festive period - so not only is it very easy to pack on the weight but we are often left feeling sluggish and irritable! Don't deny yourself all the treats - that will also leave you feeling irritable! The best idea is to work out a plan that builds lots of good tasting healthy food around the treats! Salads, seafood, lean meat like turkey and fresh fruit are all great healthy options - choose some of the things that you don't have at other times of the year to make it special: maybe roast turkey breast, some delicious lobster tails or fresh berries! Half fill your plate with salad (have the dressing on the side), add some meat or seafood and finish off with "treat" - maybe a rich potato salad made with a creamy dressing. Or maybe you want to made desert your treat! A fruit salad made with all the fresh summer fruits, blueberries, raspberries, mango, peaches, nectarines, is not only healthy but a real treat!! Yum!

2. Stick to Your Exercise Routine

When things get busy, it's often easy to skip that morning walk or the session at the gym. Try to stick to your routine as exercise is crucial not only in managing stress but in helping to keep your weight in check! If you're feeling stressed, a good workout can help you to burn off that extra adrenalin and you may also find it gives you energy and helps you to sleep! Choose whatever exercise you enjoy: a session at the gym, swimming, cycling or a walk in the morning sunshine! If you find that it's getting too hard to fit an exercise session in, get out an play a game: a round of backyard cricket or beach volleyball with the kids is loads of fun and gets your blood pumping.

3. Take Time to Relax

Spending time with family and friends may be enjoyable, but constant socialising can become stressful! It's important to spend a little time each day, even just half an hour, to recharge your batteries. A quiet walk with the dog in the coolness of the morning, meditating to some relaxing music or just some quiet time to read in the sun can leave you feeling calm and peaceful.

4. Get Plenty of Sleep

The rounds of parties and socialising often means you don't get as much sleep as usual. There are many side effects to not getting enough sleep including difficulty concentrating, headaches, irritability and trouble managing stress. If you know you're going to have a series of late nights, consider sleeping in a little later in the morning or having a nap during the day.

5. Drink in Moderation

Christmas functions and Christmas Day often mean lots of alcohol. Of course, excessive alcohol has many effects but even having a couple of extra drinks each day can have an impact on your concentration, sleep and moods. Alcohol is also dehydrating which can leave you sluggish and irritable. Consider having at least one glass of water or sparkling water between each alcoholic drink. If you're not keen on water, try squeezing some lime juice into a glass of cool sparking water - very refreshing! If you're going to a number of parties or events close together, think about not drinking alcohol at one of them or decide in advance that you'll only have a couple of alcoholic drinks at each event.

6. Manage You Sugar Intake

There's always heaps of sugary treats around at Christmas time: biscuits, Christmas cake, chocolates and deserts just to name a few. Then there are soft drinks or drinks made with fruit juice. Lots of sugar can also leave you feeling sluggish and irritable. Try to limit the amount of sugar you have. At meal times choose just one treat - maybe a bit of Christmas pudding - and enjoy! At the end of each meal, put all the biscuits, cakes and deserts away - out of sight, out of mind! Replace a soft drink with a refreshing sparkling water - add some ground mint or lemon juice to spice it up!

7. Treat Yourself to a Massage

After carrying around all that Christmas shopping, setting up the Christmas tree and preparing the Christmas treats, your body can be as tight as a band! Treat yourself to a massage to help to ease the kinks and stress out of those muscles! You'll feel like a million dollars and ready to take on the world!

8. Acupuncture - the Great De-Stressor!

When you feel that stress starting to build, help is at hand: acupuncture! There are some great techniques available to help you manage your stress so you can enjoy the Christmas festivities!

Category: Christmas Health    Tags: Acupuncture,Christmas,Stress management

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Why Didn't My Acupuuncture Treatment Work?


Gwen James

Posted on 10:24 23/08/2017

Often when I tell people I'm an acupuncturist they comment "Oh I tried that once but it didn't work"! Why is it that acupuncture works for some people and not for others? There can be a number of reasons! In the clinic there are a number that I see commonly - here are the top six!

1. Acupuncture Wasn't the Right Treatment!

Sadly acupuncture can't treat everything!  If you have a slipped disc, acupuncture can certainly help you with managing the pain but there is no way in the world that acupuncture can fix the problem. So how do you know it acupuncture can help? It can be tricky. Most acupuncturists have a website or other promotional material that gives you an idea of the things they treat most commonly. If you're still not sure, give them a call! Most acupuncturist will be quite happy to talk to you about your condition. Good questions to ask are: "Have you had experience in treating this condition?", "What kind of results do you usually get?" and "How do you usually treat it?".

Be aware that many acupuncturists will have promotional material or websites that say they "treat" various things. The word "treat" isn't always explained. A good acupuncturist will openly tell you that they can only help you manage the condition but can't resolve it. If you're unsure, ask them!

2.  Unrealistic Expectations

John hurt his back playing football and when it didn't improve after three months came to me saying a friend had "the same" problems and it was fixed after a single acupuncture session. When I examined him it was clear that the injury would required several treatments. Certainly, there are some conditions that only require a single session but the vast majority require more.  If you are seeking treatment for an injury that has occurred in the last day or so, it is more likely to be resolved in one or two sessions than an injury that occurred six months ago. In most cases there will some change after the first session but it may not last. A good acupuncturist will examine you and then give an idea of how many sessions you are looking at.

3. Too Long Between Treatments

When you first come for treatment, the acupuncturist will give you an idea of how often you need to come back. Generally, the treatments are closer together initially and then further apart as you get better. If there is too long between treatments, especially initially, there will be minimal, if any, improvement. Jossie rang me wanting to make an appointment for help with a irritable bowel syndrome. She told me she'd had for some time. During the conversation she mentioned she could come once but then would be away on holiday for a month. I recommended that she wait until she came back before starting treatment as a single treatment with a break of a month was unlikely to achieve anything. She agreed and made an appointment for the week she got back.

4. Missing Information

Susan came to me for treatment on a shoulder that had been sore for several months. After several treatments there had been improvement but no to the level I expected. As I was treating her one afternoon Susan mentioned her son had been killed in a traffic accident a month before she hurt her shoulder. She was still deeply traumatised by the loss. It was immediately clear to me that the emotional trauma caused by the loss of her son was impacting on the ability of her shoulder to heal! After talking to her, Susan agreed that we would change the focus of the treatment to supporting her in her grief with a secondary focus on the shoulder. To her surprise, the shoulder healed after a few more treatments. Most people would not see the link between grief and the shoulder injury but to an acupuncturist it is clear! Although a bit of information may not seem related to you, it's still important to mention it because it may be important to your treatment!

5. Stopping Treatment Early

Most acupuncturists will give you an idea of how many treatments you are going to need. In some cases, the condition may not respond as expected and more sessions will be required. It is always sad when a person stops coming just as they start to improve! Of course, there are many reasons for this: they may not be able to afford more treatment, they may change shifts and are unable to attend or they may not believe it is making a difference. If you don't think it's making a difference, talk to the acupuncturist about it. Sometimes the change is so gradual you don't notice it and other times the acupuncturist may change their treatment to get a better result. Robert came to me for treatment for his depression. After 6 treatments he told me that he didn't think it was making any difference and thought he might stop. I went back through his file with him and reminded him of some of the things he had said in the first session. Many of the things he had forgotten and it helped him to realise that there had been quite a difference since the first treatment but it had been so gradual he hadn't noticed. He was happy to continue treatment and every few weeks we would review his file to see the progress he had made.

6. Not Following Through

Most acupuncturist give their patients advice: what to eat or not to eat, drink more water or stay warm. Some will give specific exercises or stretches and some will recommend herbs or other supplements. Sometimes you may even be referred to a massage therapist or chiropractor for treatment which complements the acupuncture. These suggestions are made after the acupuncturist has considered your cases and worked out what will be most beneficial for your condition. Not doing the things suggested may mean the treatment isn't as successful or may mean your condition takes longer to improve. Matthew came to me for treatment after he'd had a stroke. His memory had been affected, had trouble articulating thoughts and had limited movement in one arm. I worked out a treatment regime which included acupuncture, some exercises to complement the acupuncture treatment and some speech exercises based on nursery rhymes. After a few treatments we were making progress but it was limited. Matthew admitted that he was having trouble remembering to do the exercises I had recommended. We discussed possible options that might help and Matthew decided the best way was to put a reminder on his phone. Once he started doing the exercises twice a day and the treatment became much more effective.

There are many other reasons why treatment may not work. If you feel your acupuncture treatment isn't work, talk to the acupuncturist. By discussing what is going on, you may actually find the problem and be able to resolve it so the treatment becomes more effective!

Category: Acupuncture Treatment    Tags: Acupuncture,Treatment,Treatment effectiveness

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When Pain is Impacting Your Life


Gwen James

Posted on 08:38 28/07/2017

Everybody suffers pain at some time in their lives. It can affect any part of your body, be short lived and due to a small event such as stubbing your toe or it can be chronic, severe and debilitating. Pain can not only be physical, such as muscular or neurological, it can also be emotional and may lead to conditions such as depression. No matter what it's cause, what part of the body it is effecting or it's duration, pain is a stress on us. And sometimes a significant stress! What can you do to help it?

Pain is one of the things that I treat most often in my clinic - both physical pain and emotional pain. From a Chinese Medicine point of view, pain is a blockage or stagnation in the energy in the body. This sounds very vague so consider it this way: when you break your leg you have pain because the energy in the leg - the blood flow, the nerves, the muscles are disrupted and can't work properly. How do we fix it? We remove the blockage! And that's exactly what Chinese Medicine does to help people manage pain! That's not to say that Chinese Medicine can fix a broken leg - you are much better advised to see a doctor about that - but managing the pain as the leg heals is something that Chinese Medicine can definitely help with!

Lifestyle is also very important in the management of pain. Whether the pain is emotional or physical, the following are important:

  • Getting enough sleep - sleep is when our body heals itself. If you're not getting enough sleep or your sleep is disturbed by the pain, your body will have trouble healing.
  • Eating a good balanced diet - your body needs nutrition to heal especially carbohydrates to fuel the healing process and protein to heal tissue. Often people in pain don't feel like eating much so eating small amounts regularly or drinking protein smoothies can be a great help.
  • Drink plenty of water - the tissues need to be fully hydrated to heal.
  • Exercise - when you're in pain, your body releases hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol, to let you know you're under stress. Exercise can help you burn off some of those hormones. Many people who are in pain don't feel like exercising - they have little energy and it hurts to do things. Choose exercise that is suitable for you - some gentle walking or maybe a swim.
  • Get outside - having the sun on your face and breathing fresh air can give you a real lift.
  • Stay warm - cold is an enemy of pain! Muscles exposed to cold will contract - this is a natural, normal reaction! But when you have an injury or pain and the muscles around it contract, it may cause spasm which will increase the pain! Staying warm can not only help to stop spasms, it also encourages a normal blood flow to the area bringing in the nutrients it needs to heal and flushing out the waste products.

Sometimes, severe pain can threaten to consume your life. The is an old saying: "No pain, no gain". We may learn some things about ourselves through severe pain, such as our resilience and ability to keep going when all we want to do is curl up in bed, but generally, but we gain much more if we can manage our pain! If you are in pain and it is becoming overwhelming, don't try and do it alone! Try some of the lifestyle changes but also get some people around you who can help: acupuncturists, massage therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists and doctors.  Finding the right group of people may take a little time but rest assured, they are out there and keen to help!

Category: Pain Management    Tags: Pain,Pain management,Chinese medicine,Holistic health

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Embrace Your Yin!


Gwen James

Posted on 08:07 07/07/2017

As many people know, Yin and Yang are the basis of Chinese Medicine. The Yang is all about energy, activity and movement while the Yin is about quietness, calmness and introspection. If you consider the bustle and activity of summer as Yang, then winter with it's cold temperatures and long dark nights encouraging us to spend more time in sedentary actives is definitely Yin! Winter is certainly a time when we eat and rest more, building up our inner reserves - so we can bloom back into action when the warmer weather comes! But wouldn't it be great is we could build up some of those inner reserves all year around? Well, of course, you can!

Many years ago, I did a month long meditation retreat. The rules were simple but strict: only one hour of talking allowed each afternoon, one  vegetarian meal each day, no telephones, email or other contact with the outside world, no sex and no alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. We rose at 5am for the first meditation session and the last meditation session was in the evening. At the end of the month, most people had become surprisingly calm and tranquil but we didn't fully appreciate it until we left the retreat and returned to the clamour of ordinary life.

While doing a month meditation retreat is a wonderful way to cultivate your Yin, it isn't possible for most people and even those who do have the opportunity rarely get more than one chance! Luckily we can take some of the lessons from it and use them in daily life to develop a bit of serenity each day - and it's not that hard! Set aside ten minutes a day and find a quiet place to sit - somewhere were you won't be disturbed by kids, partners or pets. You don't have to sit in any special posture or on the floor but do sit with your back straight so you can breathe deeply. Close your eyes a little and put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and try to concentrate on your breath. Sounds easy? Actually, it's not! As soon as you try not to think of anything except observing your breath, your mind will start chattering away, trying to distract you. That's okay! It's normal! When you suddenly become aware it is going on, just bring your attention back to your breath.

Some people find concentrating on their breath difficult. If that's you, concentrate on something else: imagine a place you'd like to be and concentrate on that. Or put on some gentle music and concentrate on hearing each note. Or put a picture or even a burning candle in front of you and concentrate on that. The idea is just to concentrate on one thing and put aside other chaotic thoughts that enter your mind.  

Winter is a great time to start this practice - the season encourages us to spend more time in gentle, enriching activities. Finding time for a short meditative practice each day in winter will make it a habit and much easier to continue in the more active summer months. So go ahead! Embrace your Yin!

Category: Mental Health    Tags: Meditation,Yin,Holistic health,Winter

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The Age of Anxiety


Gwen James

Posted on 11:20 15/06/2017

We live in a time of bad and sometimes horrific events: terrorist attacks, wars, home invasions, domestic violence, job insecurity and rising prices. Not only do we hear about them on the news, we're assaulted by images on the television, internet and social media. Not surprising, there's been an escalation in people's anxiety! Some people have become so anxious, they don't even like to leave home and they don't like members of their family being out.

Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, uneasiness or concern about things that have an uncertain outcome. It normal and it can be even beneficial - it causes hormones, such as adrenalin, to pump through and this can make us more alert! Think about the feeling of anxiety when you're about to go for a job interview; it can actually help you think of the answers to the questions!

But anxiety isn't good when it's prolonged. All that adrenalin doesn't go away and can cause an increase in blood pressure, insomnia and muscle tension. Not only that, because we're constantly anxious we change some of our behaviour - going out less so we become more isolated and spending more time thinking about the things that worry us!

So what can we do?

The first thing - turn off! It's good to know what's going on in the world but when it comes to the distressing images, interviews and commentaries, hit the off button.

Next: if you can change something to lessen the anxiety, do it! Sometimes you can totally remove the source of the anxiety: for somebody who has become very anxious because of working in a toxic environment, finding a new job may alleviate it altogether. You can't always alleviate the problem but maybe you can do little things to help: being anxious about your house being broken into may be eased by putting new deadlocks on the doors or switching the garage doors off at the power source at night so they stay locked down.

And then there are lifestyle things that can help you manage the anxiety. Maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding illicit drugs and alcohol and getting enough sleep all help. Exercise is essential - it helps to burn off that adrenalin! Even a short walk a day is great - you get outside, feel the sun on your face, breath deeply and come back feeling good. Acupuncture is great to help you manage anxiety and massage can you release those tight muscles.

Of course relaxation is vital for managing anxiety - but that's easier said than done, isn't it? Sometimes relaxing can be the hardest thing when you're all tensed up. Consider going to a meditation or stretch class or maybe having a sauna or relaxation massage. There is also a huge number of relaxation CDs, DVDs, podcasts or apps so check out one that suits you.

Connecting with people you like and doing enjoyable things has so many beneficial effects they can't be all listed here! It reminds you that you aren't alone - we're all in this together! Doing things you enjoy with people you like means you smile and maybe even laugh - and that gets all the "feel good" hormones pumping. And giving somebody a hug - or receiving one - is perhaps the best therapeutic thing you could do! So go ahead - hug somebody you care about!

Category: Anxiety and Mental Health    Tags: Acupuncture,Holistich health,Phoenix centre for acupuncture,Relaxation,Mental health,Anxiety

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I didn't know acupuncture could treat that!


Gwen James

Posted on 08:55 09/06/2017

Sometimes when I tell people about the kind of work I do in clinic they look surprised and say "I didn't know acupuncture could treat that"!

Many people know that acupuncture is good for treating sore backs or sore shoulders - but that's just the tip of the iceberg! There is so much more that acupuncture can help treat! In fact, some conditions which aren't very responsive to biomedicine - such as endometriosis or fibromyalgia - are treated very effectively by acupuncture! So what exactly can acupuncture treat? Well, the list is so long that it would fill several pages! Basically, acupuncture treats the external body such as skin conditions or torn muscles, the internal body such as digestive problems or menstrual issues and the mind such as anxiety and depression. Acupuncture also treats things where it is hard to pinpoint exactly what is causing them: headaches, chronic tiredness or fatigue and sleep problems.

But I don't mean to suggest that acupuncture can treat all conditions. In some cases, the treatment I provide is to help the patient manage their condition such as a person who comes in with a prolapsed disc in their back. I certainly cannot "fix" the prolapse but I can provide some pain relief. In fact, many of the patients I treat with back pain or shoulder pain are waiting for surgery and I assist them with pain relief until the surgery can be scheduled.

I have also had people come into my clinic with diabetes, epilepsy or high blood pressure who want to stop taking their medication and have seen there are traditional Chinese medicine treatments for these conditions. This is true - historically, these conditions were treated by acupuncture and Chinese herbs - but acupuncturists in Australia cannot treat these conditions.

On my website I list the six conditions I treat most often: various types of pain, hayfever, menstrual and menopause conditions, stress and boosting the immune system but these are just the start!

Category: Conditions Treated    Tags: Acupuncture,Condition,Pain relief,Hayfever,Menstural,Menopause,Chinese medicine

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