Posted by: corneliadavies | December 28, 2015

Do I have to do anything to “help” acupuncture treatment work?

blog lifestyle changes


Q. If I have acupuncture do I have to do anything different in my life?

A. No, you don’t have to do anything, except show up in relaxed, comfortable clothes. You don’t even have to believe in acupuncture, because it works on a physiological level, via microscopic neural pathways that send messages to your brain. Your brain, in turn, sends messages to your body in order to kick off positive chemical, and often anti-inflammatory reactions. This means that by just lying on a treatment couch and having tiny needles inserted your health should begin to improve.

Q. That sounds great, but are there things I could do to help treatment work even better?

A. Yes, there are, but first let me explain how we get to that self-help place. When I work I consider myself to be part of a team with each patient.

Many people come to acupuncture seriously unwell, and pretty desperate to be “fixed”. In that case, I would simply ask quite a few questions, examine the tongue and pulses, and start treatment.

Frequently, acupuncture “newbies” are not just unwell, but also unfit and quite possibly eating inadvisably, too. However, at that beginning stage I actually prefer not to ask them to adjust exercise or diet. For the first few treatments I want to see what differences acupuncture, alone, makes.

However, once someone’s firmly on the road to better health we might decide it’s time to make some lifestyle changes. Those changes will be discussed by them and me in partnership. I will never “make” someone make changes: they need to want to be part of that process.

When that time comes we’ll discuss their needs, and work out, together, what their initial goals might be. This means that no one feels bullied or coerced.

For instance, some people who are overweight or unfit may decide to stay that way, rather than make changes, particularly if they are unwell enough that they’re struggling to get through the day as it is. This will become clear when we’ve had one or two discussions about eating habits or exercise. They may say, “Acupuncture is helping me to feel better as time goes on, but I really don’t think I can cope with doing stretching exercises as well as everything else.” If that’s really how they feel I’ll respect that, though I may revisit the question a few weeks later, to see whether things have changed. Sometimes they have, sometimes not.

Other people are (sometimes surprisingly) ready to make changes after a few weeks of acupuncture treatment. This is because as acupuncture has been “rewiring” them they feel fitter and more able to tackle lifestyle changes that previously felt out of reach.

In that case it might be time to talk to them about their diet and how it might be adjusted to suit their body type. Chinese medicine is clear that slightly different types of food suit and nourish different people. Some people are fine with wheat: others aren’t. Some people can cope with and even benefit from eating a lot of salads, even in a cold, damp climate: most can’t, but women’s magazines have been very unhelpful on that one! There are all sorts of dietary issues we can discuss, individually.

Exercise needs to be addressed personally, too. When a tired person with depleted energy tells me that they’ve started training for a marathon my heart sinks. But if they tell me they’ve stated yoga, tai chi, walking or swimming I’ll ask them some questions to see how their chosen exercise is suiting them. For some people the marathon option might be perfect, but it’s important to understand that different sorts of bodies, in different stages of health need different levels and types of exercise. Sometimes I’ll teach people suitable stretches for their needs. Sometimes I’ll recommend them to an expert in a certain field, or to the local gym.

For some people the issue might be around drinking too much, or smoking. Once again, I don’t ask people to change this at the start of treatment. After all, if someone could easily change a smoking or drinking habit they’d have succeeded already, wouldn’t they? They need to be feeling a bit healthier first.

But when someone who is drinking, say, a bottle of wine a day feels that now is the time to address it we address it. If someone flags smoking as an issue at the first consultation it might be several weeks into treatment that I start using acupuncture points known to help with kicking an addiction. This is because once I start using those points I want the person’s co-operation to gain extra benefit. Sometimes people simply aren’t well enough to make those sorts of changes immediately, and they need treatment on other levels first. I’m not there to “make” people do stuff. I’m there to help support them in their decisions, using acupuncture points that have been shown, over centuries, to help change chemical messaging in the brain.

For some people lifestyle changes might include the introduction of meditation or relaxation techniques. Some might start taking supplements. Others might take up a new hobby. Some of this will happen spontaneously, i.e. the person will come in and say, “I’ve been to a mindfulness day,” or “I’ve joined a life drawing class. I’ve wanted to do that for years, but now I finally feel ready to do it”. Other times I will feel it’s time to ask questions, and maybe suggest something new.

Once we’ve progressed to this self-help phase, part of my consultation will include questions about how someone is getting on with whatever it is that they’re working on. Are they happy with their diet or exercise? Are they following up? Have they given up? (In which case we need to work out why and revisit/adjust what it is they need to be doing.)

This means that some people will get the “How much coffee are you drinking?” question, or “What time are you managing to get to bed?” Or “How’s your exercise going?”

If the answer is something like, “Mumble, mumble” we need to talk! Bullying a patient to do something is not an option. Walking beside someone and encouraging them with one’s words as well as carefully-chosen acupuncture points most definitely is an option and a jolly good idea.

In acupuncture every single patient is an individual, so everyone has a personally worked out treatment “package”. This might be just those clever acupuncture points, or it might be acupuncture points along with some good work from the patient him/herself.

Whichever is right for you, your acupuncturist will support you in that choice.

© Cornelia Davies December 2015


Posted by: corneliadavies | October 19, 2015

My other office doesn’t need windows


People frequently demonise the mobile phone and its intrusion in our lives. Sometimes I disagree. Without my mobile I would have missed out on some fresh air and exercise towards the end of an admin day today. With a couple more calls still to come in I appreciated having the choice to go outside and pick them up wherever.

The photo shows where I was around the time a colleague returned my call. This has to be better than hanging around indoors waiting for the phone to ring!

The outside world is not just my part-time second office. It’s also my open-air gym. Long, sloping pathways and uneven steps are a great way of exercising, and I’m constantly grateful to the lovely outdoors for providing this.

How would you like to use your environment, wherever that may be, to enrich your life?

© Cornelia Davies October 2015

Posted by: corneliadavies | October 11, 2015

Jenny’s Here to Stay! Acupuncture Kingsbridge Practice News

Jenny photoMany of you will have met or been treated by my acupuncturist colleague, Jenny Sercombe, who provides locum cover for me from time to time.

We’ve now come to the happy conclusion that she should work here for more hours, with her own patients. This means that if you or someone you know books a first acupuncture appointment you’ll have a choice of who you see.

During her years practising in Manchester Jenny treated people with the extraordinarily wide range of problems that most acupuncturists are presented with. Additionally, because of the particular clinic she worked in she saw more women undergoing IVF fertility treatment than some of us do. I’m extremely glad to welcome Jenny more fully into the clinic with this particular area of expertise. Most acupuncturists see some women with fertility issues (and many with gynae problems) but it’s great to have someone with Jenny’s special interest on board.

Jenny and I have wide and varied acupuncture experience. Jenny is probably 20 years younger than me, which I think is a great plus. While I hope I have some of the wisdom that comes with age, Jenny has a wisdom that comes with a more youthful approach to life! I think both are really relevant qualities in a practitioner. We’ve trained in similar but slightly different ways, and at different times. Working closely together gives us opportunities to pool our acupuncture knowledge, which is of benefit to everyone who comes to the clinic.

All acupuncturists bring other skills and life experience to our professional practises. One particular area of expertise that I always welcome here in the clinic is Jenny’s work as an aromatherapy masseuse. I speak from personal experience when I say that she is excellent at that part of her work! So if you want a delicious and therapeutic massage you can call to arrange that, too.

Apart from her time spent training in London and working in Manchester, Jenny is very much a local girl, from a local family. Not only did she attend KCC, but her primary schooling was here in Loddiswell.

As always, anyone is welcome to book a free, no commitment chat with either of us, to find out whether acupuncture is for you.

Here’s to this new, exciting chapter for the clinic!

And by the way, NO, I am NOT planning to retire! I’ll still be here, too.

Cornelia Davies October 2015

For appointments please ring 01548 550251

Yesterday two patients initiated conversations about what they’re eating, mainly at lunchtime.

Both pretty much know what they should be eating, and both were very aware that they were struggling to achieve this.

Talking around the subject with each of them we arrived at two conclusions:

  • They didn’t have adequate time to think about or prepare what they knew to be good food for themselves at lunchtime.
  • They hadn’t taken on board how the change from summer to autumn had changed their appetite desires as well as the food that was available around them, and this was contributing to their lunchtime choices being unsatisfactory, leading to them eating “wrong” food for them or to snacking.

So, how can we address these issues?

I think that part of the problem is that we carry on headlong into autumn without giving much thought to the fact that things are changing food-wise as well as weather-wise. We also have to deal with a lot of other changes at this time: end of holiday season, beginning of term, new projects, new evening classes and activities, different family commitments, and more. So the simple question, “Do I need to re-think my lunch options to suit the season?” doesn’t get much, if any head space.

Salads: if you’ve had acupuncture you’re probably aware that Chinese medicine doesn’t particularly endorse eating lots of salads. But you can get away with it or even thrive on some salads in summer, because your body has extra outside help with keeping warm. Salads are cooling to the system, so if we carry on eating them after summer our digestive systems have to heat up our stomach contents more in order to metabolise successfully, and this uses up more energy that we could do with using elsewhere in the body. This can lead to tiredness and possibly even weight problems when it leads to a sluggish system.

But wait, this is not the standard Chinese medicine “don’t eat salads” conversation. It’s quite likely that you’ve been eating, enjoying and benefitting from the freshly-available nutrients in salads during the summer. But now autumn is here your body will be trying to tell you that it wants something slightly different. The question is, have you had time to listen to your body and have you given yourself time to remember/assess what delicious things are available with the turning of the seasons?

Personally, I slightly regret the passing of the time of plentiful bowls of strawberries. But the truth is, even if good-tasting strawberries were available throughout the cooler months I don’t think I’d want them so much. Now I find myself wanting warmer, more deeply nourishing foods; foods which feel as though they’re upgrading the building blocks deep inside me, ready to withstand the cold of winter. Now that I’ve given my head the space to think about what I need in my larder, and to actually go out to get it, it’s full of winter nourishing vegetables and I have a chicken casserole on the go, which I relish. And I’ll be brewing up chicken stock and baking some squash soon. And eating all the green vegetables I can get my hands on (no change there, then!)

Sometimes getting out of sync with you eating can be a case of needing a seasonal change in shopping habits. Rewind your mental clock and remember what you enjoyed eating last autumn or winter. It may simply be that you’ve forgotten you need some of those things in your kitchen. At this end of the growing season wonderful fresh, locally grown food is appearing in the green grocers’ shops: parsnips, squash, sweet potatoes, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, seasonal cabbages, leeks, and there are still things like carrots, green beans and courgettes around.

Now is a good time to make a deeply nourishing 3-day pot of soup or a casserole, particularly if it’s just you in for lunch, and you may not have the time or inclination to make something new every day. Or if that sounds like too much hassle, you could buy a couple of cartons of chilled soup to keep ready in the fridge, but make sure they’re ones without added sugar: Covent Garden and, I think, Waitrose chilled soups are sugar-free, and you may find other brands. Or make some chicken stock and freeze it in small pots. Then you can defrost one and add it to yesterday evening’s left over veg and potatoes; incredibly quick, and particularly yummy if you’ve managed to rescue some of the potatoes or parsnips that went with a roast dinner. Keep miso in the fridge for a quick and nourishing soup wherever you are. Be brazen and buy tinned organic lentils or beans (no, not baked beans!) all ready to make stews.

If you’re not home at lunchtime and you can’t afford to pick up a takeaway soup or eat out you still might want to take some food with you. If you’d still prefer to take a salad in a box, or perhaps some cold (but not chilled) roast veg or chicken with a salad on the side, try to include some “warm” salad ingredients, such as watercress or rocket, or add some fresh grated ginger. This will give your digestive system a helping hand. A handful or two of nuts goes a long way to providing a protein boost; perhaps some unsalted almonds, cashews or a few brazils to add to what you have, instead of those tempting crisps or chocolate.

Above all, do what you want to do and eat what feels right for your body. We’re all gloriously individual and our needs change all the time. We just need time to listen to our bodies and take a few minutes to process that conversation.

© Cornelia Davies September 2015

Posted by: corneliadavies | February 17, 2015

Salt of the earth              salt of the earth

Salt: eating a certain amount is essential to our bodies’ fluid balance. Too much is harmful. How much to add to your cooking or food depends, largely, on whether you eat mostly home-prepared food or shop bought ready-made food.

How much salt to we need? According to most conventional dietary advice once we’re over 11 years old we need approximately 6 grams of salt daily. That’s about 1.2 teaspoons.

Considering all the advice we’ve had over the years that sounds a lot, doesn’t it?

If you eat a ready meal from a supermarket it’ll have a fair amount of salt in it to preserve it, and probably to make it seem more flavoursome than a competitor’s ready meal. You could have a look at the pack and see how much salt it has in it.

If you eat homemade food it will most likely have some salt in it, but a lot less than the ready meal.

As long as your taste buds haven’t become “addicted” to salt you should know whether or not to add salt to a meal. However, if you’re a junk food or salt “addict” you probably need to cut down. All those things like crisps, instant soups, baked beans, ready-made pizzas, salted peanuts etc have added salt in them. Generally it won’t be good, wholesome sea salt or rock salt either. It’ll be the cheaper table salt, produced in a factory, and less recognisable for your body’s absorption process.

So, some final points, don’t add the whole teaspoon and a bit… you certainly won’t need to. Don’t add any if you eat more than a tiny amount of ready-made food. But don’t deprive yourself of salt, either. And DO use natural sea salt or rock salt, both of which are more nutritious.

Be discerning and check several internet sources for advice on salt, and do check the ingredients listed on ready meals and snacks.

Posted by: corneliadavies | September 25, 2014

Acupuncture Insights

Acupuncture Insights…

In acupuncture, tongue and pulse diagnosis give such an accurate view into the body-mind-spirit that sometimes when I ask people questions based on what I’ve identified they think I’m psychic, and that I can see the workings of their very minds. Luckily I’m not, and I can’t read their minds! However, the findings from tongue and pulse help enormously when planning effective treatment strategies.

Acupuncture Kingsbridge Cornelia Davies 2014

This is really true. Frequently, after I’ve taken someone’s pulses I’ll consider what I’ve felt, and I’ll ask something like, “Do you get indigestion or heartburn?” and they’ll answer with a slightly surprised affirmative. Or I may ask an affable, friendly person, “Oh… what’s your temper like?” and they’ll sheepishly admit that things can get a bit fiery for their loved ones. They’ll ask me how I know and I’ll say, “I felt a certain quality on a particular pulse that relates to anger and frustration, and I wondered whether it meant you can have a slightly short fuse…“ Usually this produces a bit of embarrassed laughter. We then set to with specific acupuncture points that, over a period of time, can help wind down frustration.

Then there are the people who hide their tiredness very well, and don’t mention this when they list their symptoms. I may look at someone’s tongue and be shocked at how lacking in energy it is compared to how they present themselves to the world. “Hold on, I’ll say, just how tired ARE you?” “Exhausted,” they’ll reply, but they’re so used to covering it and carrying on that they can look deceptively alert.

One of the things I like most about these insights into the inner workings of individuals is that they flag up problems that people become so used to that they forget to ask for help in solving them. In fact, usually, people don’t think there are possible solutions to these things that are so deeply entrenched. I wouldn’t claim that we can “cure” everything with acupuncture, but it’s amazing how many “side” issues begin to resolve while we’re working on the main problem someone came to acupuncture with.

Just to reiterate, I’m NOT psychic: acupuncture diagnosis is a beautifully worked-out and logical system.

Posted by: corneliadavies | June 4, 2014

Scalp Acupuncture

Scalp Acupuncture

Photo goes with previous blog on scalp acupuncture. Scalp acupuncture treatment in progress.

Posted by: corneliadavies | June 4, 2014

Scalp Acupuncture

Scalp acupuncture

I’ve recently been on a post-graduate course in scalp acupuncture. While most of us acupuncturists use points on the scalp, scalp acupuncture is a different discipline, which uses joined-up zones on the scalp, and which has a different theory behind it. As is the case for many acupuncturists, some of the theory was covered during my TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) training in China, but no practical was included. I’ve wanted to do a hands-on scalp acupuncture course for ages, as I’ve had a growing suspicion that it would enhance the treatment I can offer to a specific handful of people in my practice. However, there aren’t often scalp acupuncture courses available in the UK, so this was an exciting opportunity.

The course was great: we covered theory, and we also spent some happy practical time working out how to locate the zones, measuring each other’s heads, and finally, carefully and gently, learning the needling techniques, which are slightly different from regular acupuncture ones. So I had my head zones needled as well as trying it out on my fellow work-shoppers. (Don’t ever let me hear you say I don’t practise what I preach!)

One of my colleagues, a lovely man called Paul had the “right” sort of haircut (shaved!) and, inevitably, he went home with felt pen lines drawn on his head, which he encouraged us all to photograph and film. Our lecturer, Dr Liu, was worried about marking up Paul’s head: “But you’ll go home with marks showing on your head…”  “It wouldn’t be the first time,” answered Paul with a genial smile, “Acupuncturists always want to draw on my head!”

Scalp acupuncture was pioneered in the 1970s by various Chinese doctors. One of these, Dr Jiao Shunfa, was a doctor of neurology who developed scalp acupuncture as a further method of benefitting brain function.  Because of his neurological expertise, he was able to identify specific area of the brain that he felt might benefit from the insertion of acupuncture needles close by, though on the outside of the scull, in the scalp. All Chinese doctors study both Western medicine and TCM during their training, which puts them in a strong position when it comes to combining knowledge of both disciplines.

Nowadays, scalp acupuncture is used in Chinese hospital departments, particularly ones working in the fields of neurological problems, such as stroke rehabilitation and Parkinson’s disease.

Not all Western acupuncturists use scalp (zone) acupuncture, as there are all sorts of different post-graduate training opportunities open to us each year, and we each make our own choices on how best to advance our professional skills.

For the majority of patients TCM alone is a very, very good option. However, I’m beginning to experience that the addition of scalp acupuncture is useful with certain people with specific, mainly neurological issues.

If you’d like to read more about scalp acupuncture you could try googling and see what comes up, or try this link:

Posted by: corneliadavies | May 3, 2012

Update on ‘Oetzi’ the acupuncture iceman

Here’s an update on ‘Oetzi’ the 5,300 year-old man found in an Austrian glacier. Oetzi has acupuncture points tattooed on him. These points are in the same positions as ones that could be used in modern times to treat the sort of degenerative bone issues that showed up on scans of Oetzi’s mummified body. This is interesting as it shows that there was knowledge of acupuncture points as early as 3,000 BC.  Ancient stone acupuncture needles have been found in Mongolia, dating from 7,000 years ago, but this is the oldest body showing such marks.

Scientists are still examining his body and have recently discovered that he didn’t die immediately from an arrow wound that was previously thought to have killed him and they’ve managed to identify traces of blood around the wound.

Posted by: corneliadavies | April 19, 2012

Here’s a link …

Here’s a link to an interesting research pilot study on acupuncture and depression from the University of York. Results so far show that GP referral patients are as likely to choose acupuncture as seeing their GP in cases of depression, and are more likely to choose acupuncture than counselling. A full research study is likely to follow now that these results are out.

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