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Ear Points for Headache

Headaches and migraines can be painful at best and debilitating at worst. There are so many triggers for headaches including food, stress, hypertension, hormonal surges, bright lights, and strong smells (to name but a few). To ease a headache, many of us will reach for the painkillers to get through the day.

In this post, I’d like to share 3 ear points to use for the symptom of headache. Find each point, add gentle pressure using finger and thumb, rotate and release. Do this no more than once to begin with, and then wait as the body digests the action. Note that over stimulation can create feelings of nausia and dizziness, so “less is more” in this case. If any point is sensitive, this is a good indication of imbalance.

Point 1: Liver Yang

This is on the outer edge of the ear known as the Helix. Gently palpate in this area to see if there is a sensitive spot. Then gently add pressure, rotate and release.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Liver energy is responsible for the smooth flow of Blood and Qi, as well as emotions. If you are feeling angry or frustrated then Liver Yang might be accumilating in the upper body and head, causing symptom of headache.

Point 2: Subcortex.

The area marked here includes the Brain and Head. Gently squeeze this area placing the forefinger inside of this flap (known as the Antitragus) and the thumb on the outside. Add pressure, rotate and release.

As the symptom we are addressing is located in this body part, it is a straightforward action of stimulating the reflex point to have a corresponding effect on the body.

Point 3: Ear Shenmen.

This point is great for regulation and calm, and also used for the relief of pain. Place forefinger on the point, and support with thumb behind the ear. Add pressure, rotate and release.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shenmen translates to “door of the mind”. By using this point we not only aim to calm the mind, but we also look to calm the heart.

By using these points, the intention is to provide rapid pain relief, or reduction of pain, from the symptom of headache. As with all self-help information, use at your own risk and do not substitite for prescribed medication or consultation with your GP/medical practitioner.

Acupoints for Self Help

This short article outlines some key point prescriptions for common ailments that can be used at home with gentle acupressure or stick-on magnets. Use all the points within each combination bi-laterally.

These points are fairly easy to find via a search engine in order for you to see the locations. Massage each point gently for approximately 2 minutes, at least once a day but more often if you can. Notice a difference straight away or after a few sessions.

Inflammation

Any ailments caused by an excess of heat and inflammation, use Large Intestine 11 and 4, as well as Spleen 6. Magnets would be an excellent choice for this point combination as they are naturally cooling.

Pain

As a general prescription for pain, use Stomach 36, Large Intestine 4 and Liver 3.

Anxiety

For any anxiety related symptoms especially nausea, use Pericardium 6 and Heart 7, found on the wrists.

Toothache

To reduce pain and discomfort from toothache, use Stomach 44 and Large Intestine 4.

Sore Throat

To ease a sore throat use Kidney 6 and Lung 7 together.

[Perspectives in Foot Reading #2] – An Example

One of the services I provide is “Foot Reading” which can be done in person, or remotely via photographs, messages and/or phone/video calls. This blog gives an outline as to what you might expect to see in a Foot Reading, what information you might receive from my observations, and what kind of suggestions you might be asked to pursue to improve your overall health based on my findings. I hope you find it interesting and useful! If you would like to use this service please get in touch or see this page for further info on price.

Markers observed on the feet are categorised into 4 elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. We all need an even balance of these elements, and when one becomes deficient or in excess, this an reveal where imbalances reside and provide a greater awareness into our own physical and mental/emotional health and well-being.

The feet are a wonderful extremity: we tend to neglect our feet, stuffing them into socks and shoes and walking on them all day, however they hold such fascinating insights into our bodies, emotions and our overall health.

As a general guide, the left foot represents the left side of the body and what is going on in the present moment, while the right foot represents the right side of the body and what is still being processed from the past. Together, they form a perfect picture of present and past experiences, as well as a map of the whole body.

Popped dorsal tendons reveal upper back tension. Popped tendons are a fire marker and tell us that there is potentially heat, over exertion, strain, tension and/or tightness. These tendons are on the top of the foot and beneath the toes, so this is the reflex point for the upper back area across the shoulders and upper thoracic. We can see clearly that the tendons presenting here are beneath the 2nd, 3rd and 4th toes. These represent vertical zones of the feet and are “influencers”. So we could say here that the torso and pelvic regions are influencing the tension held in the upper back.

In addition, these markers are apparent on the top of the foot, which tells us that these issues are exposed to the outside world. Markers on the bottom (or plantar) surface are hidden and are more about what is going on inside of ourselves and which are not as visible or “on show”.

Looking at the bottom or plantar aspect of these feet, we can see that the right foot appears fairly uniform in its position, compared to the left which turns inwards. The left foot is also presenting with more colour which is again a fire marker.

When one foot turns inwards this can reveal an imbalance in the skeletal structure of the body; more weight is likely being put through the lateral edge of the foot where the shoulder, knee and pelvic reflexes reside.

So this can tell us that there is likely to be an issue further up the body, the root cause possibly on the right side of the body causing the left side to compensate.

Lets focus on the toes. These reveal a lot about what is going on in the head, neck and shoulders. Looking at the right foot, the toes seem fairly regular until the 5th toe which is turned and sits tucked underneath the 4th toe. This lateral area of the foot underneath the 5th toe is the shoulder reflex. I often find that 5th toe irregularities are to do with the shoulder leading up into the neck. In addition, and fascinatingly, this individual also has a skin-coloured mole in the right eyebrow; another indication of congestion in the general shoulder area (according to face reading).

Any skeletal irregularities in the feet (and a skin-coloured mole) would be regarded as earth markers; a build up around a vulnerable area, congestion, restriction. Too much earth will result in less mobility and flexibility. In addition too much fire can consume a lot of air (mobility) and dry out the water (flow), leaving an excess of earth (tension, less mobility, feeling stuck).

Mentally and emotionally all of these markers reveal that this person carries a lot on their shoulders, they feel under pressure (from others, or from themselves) and potentially are doing more than they should. Fire markers indicate tendencies to over-do things without scheduling enough rest periods.

Irregularities in the 5th toes indicate emotional insecurities; topics such as finance, home, and their ability to feel confident moving forward in life can be challenging. They represent our sense of security. As this is more apparent on the right foot, it is an indicator of emotional battles from the past still being processed. On the flip side though, these toes also show me that this person has a huge sense of fun!

This person also tends to keep their head separate from their heart; the space between the 1st and 2nd toes reveals a lot about their perceived importance in doing the sensible thing and pushing their hearts desire away, and focussing on the “what I should do” rather than following the freedom of life. As this person has fairly long 2nd toes this shows that they have natural leadership qualities.

To balance out an “infection” of earth, from a physical point of view activities such as massage, stretching and breath-work can help to increase mobility and flexibility. Internally, a lot of hoarding has taken place, so a release of this mental/emotional build up can come from journalling or any form of writing, counselling, crafts and meditation. Reflexology can also be a lovely way to promote deep relaxation and balancing and easing the body and the mind.

To balance out an “infection” of fire, we want to “reduce the forest fire to the hearth”; we don’t want to put it right out, just get it under control and set some boundaries. Physically we can look at hydration, restorative and gentle activities such as yoga and walking. Internally, routines and time budgets can help, as well as venting instead of stoking up the fire with stored anger, and spending time looking at and questioning the real priorities of one’s life.

What are you shouldering?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Large Intestine channel starts at the tip of the radial side (thumb side) of the second finger and runs up along the arm to the elbow crease then up to the anterior (front) shoulder,a cross to the neck and ending at the nose. It is a primary channel to be affected when it comes to shoulder and elbow problems.

I have recently treated many clients with acupoints on the shoulder, elbow and arm. One client in particular presented with debilitating hip and sciatic pain on the left. After assessing her feet for foot-reading and reflexology based markers it was plain to see that the right shoulder was not happy. This reflex point was screaming red and presenting with a lot of heat; it was particularly eye-catching. After discussing my findings we agreed to use acupuncture moving forward. Palpating particular points around the shoulder and into the arm indicated tenderness and a desire to be “worked” and released. After two sessions the client is enjoying significant pain reduction and improved sleep patterns.

Mentally and emotionally we can “shoulder” a lot of emotion, burden and responsibility. If we don’t address this then physical pain can manifest. What I find interesting is that the Large Intestine channel runs along here, and if we consider what it does as a physical functioning organ; to process and eliminate waste, then mentally and emotionally we have to work on “letting go” of the burdens and responsibilities that we unnecessarily place on our (metaphorical) shoulders.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Large Intestine is paired with the Lung. We breathe in new life force (Qi) with the Lungs and eliminate the old (waste) through the Large Intestine. In many clients I have seen with issues affecting the shoulder and/or elbow is that there is often an imbalance in the chest too (smokers, COPD, grief). If we continue to hold on to things that do not serve us, it will start backing up and impacting on how much new energy we can let in.

As a therapist I have experienced my own health issues (and continue to) as well as observed health issues in others. I can help my clients feel better but ultimately it is down to them to go away and do the work. We cannot treat the physical without looking at the mental/emotional aspect too. I share what I learn with them in clinic and through this blog in the hope that I live a life from which others can benefit by realising or recognising aspects in themselves.

Liver Season

Within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Spring is the season to support the Liver and Gallbladder.

You might think that we are a little early for talk about Spring in early February, however although it may feel very wintery still, and there may be snow on the ground or snow still yet to come, new life is already rising up from the ground with the sight of new shoots and buds, and the arrival of crocus and snowdrops.

The colour associated with the Liver is Green, and the element is Wood. If we consider what Wood is, we can see that it is both being and becoming; it is consistent yet it is always growing steadily, gently, persistently. As the tree moves into Spring we visualise it flowing and spreading its branches ready for new growth and the warmer seasons ahead.

So with Spring we feel a new surge of energy rising up, we can feel a creative impulse. We can feel on the edge of new beginnings. Yet we are only in February! So be aware that this can create a sense of irritability and impatience.

The Liver is responsible for maintaining the smooth flow of Qi and blood. This isn’t just in a physical form, but also emotionally, helping our emotions to flow smoothly. Mood swings, bad moods and anger can come from unbalanced Liver Qi. Insomnia can also be another indicator of imbalanced Liver Qi, as it’s most active time is between 1am and 3am, a period where we should be experiencing deep sleep. Other symptoms might include:

  • Headaches
  • Tendon problems
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Eye issues
  • Indigestion
  • Bloating
  • PMS

There are many things you can do to support your Liver energy at this time. But if you choose to do any of these things, do them gently! Remember the steady way the tree grows. We want to support ourselves in a kind and nurturing way, so make small changes over a period of time, and choose changes that resonate with you and where you are in your life at this moment:

  • Move. If you don’t already exercise then start doing something gentle now.
  • Tidy up your diet. Cut down on fried and fatty foods and replace them with healthy fats and oils, reduce sugar and processed foods, manage portion sizes and snacking, enjoy fresh foods, eat slowly.
  • Hydrate with plenty of water and perhaps a squeeze of lemon or some apple cider vinegar, which nourish the Liver.
  • Recreate order out of chaos: declutter emotionally/mentally as well as physically. Let go of old resentments and practice forgiveness. Make a start on your inner self.
  • Sew your seeds! Try something new, and be a little daring.
  • Book in for some acupuncture.
  • Buy yourself a new scarf!

We have talked about Liver season and it’s element of Wood and it’s colour Green, but one final aspect to point out is it’s climate: Wind. So although we feel that Spring is just around the corner, make sure you continue to wrap up warm particularly around the neck, shoulders and ears. This is known as your “Wind Gate” area and will be vulnerable to Wind invasion as we go through periods of temperamental weather, adjusting from Winter through to the warmer part of the year.

Have a great Spring!

Response to treatment

Imagine a beautiful waterfall. The water is clean and clear running down off the mountain. It is full of energy and vibrancy. As it comes down through the waterfall it flows over many rocks and forms smaller pools, before it continues down through to the river below.

Now imagine that one of the rock pools becomes blocked. Perhaps some debris has lodged itself across the opening and the pool starts to get slower as the water backs up. As the blockage becomes settled, the water diverts away and finds a new path. There is now a stagnant pool of water. The flow is blocked. No energy is running through it. It starts to build up residue; nothing is moving, nothing fresh is moving in and nothing is moving out. Gross things start to grow in the stagnant water. Parasites start to breed. It starts to become murky and smell. The water thickens.

Now imagine that the pool of water is a reflection of the human body, and what is happening to it is a representation of symptoms; pain, immobility, feeling stuck, poor circulation, thickened body fluids, poor diet, germs, parasites, bad bacteria, virus, poor oxygen intake, lack of energy, lethargy, no life force flowing to cleanse and provide vibrancy, excess heat, brain fog, dampness and phlegm.

To improve the symptoms, the environment must be improved. But the water is so thick and murky, we can’t see where the blockage is. So we take a stick, and gently disturb the water, stirring it up as we look for the blockage. Now imagine the dirt, the debris, the residue at the bottom of the pool being disturbed. Imagine it swirling up into the upper water and imagine the colour of the water now; even dirtier and murkier, with particles swirling and floating around as we try to navigate to the blockage.

We are disturbing lots of things which have settled and gradually built up over time. We are starting to move things which haven’t been moved in a long time. Imagine this is a representation of addressing a chronic illness, or chronic pain, or chronic immobility. Starting a course of reflexology could well create a disturbance like this, and could create symptoms of feeling worse before you start to feel better.

How long will it take to clear and cleanse the pool? We don’t know. It could take a few sessions, or it could take longer. But the real question is, are you willing to do the work? Are you willing to start cleaning the water? Are you willing to work through the debris and the murkiness? Are you willing to change habits, beliefs, patterns?

What does your pool look like?

Understanding puberty in girls from a TCM perspective

We can all remember the struggles of our teenage years; problems such as acne, the start of our periods, breasts forming, getting used to wearing bras, peer pressure, increasing levels of school work and home work, not being able to get out of bed in the mornings.

As a parent, I want my own daughters to have an easier time than I did. As a therapist, I am more aware of the strains put upon children and teenagers, and how this can effect them physically, psychologically and emotionally.

In my previous blog post, I explained in general terms about our Kidney energy being responsible for our growth and development, and reproductive health. If we experience a painful puberty it is likely that we will experience a more difficult menopause. We also want to optimise fertility, pregnancy and childbirth in between these two milestones, as well as general health and wellness, and they are all interlinked.

The following behaviours can have a significant impact on a young woman’s health:

  1. Early sexual activity. This can have an impact on uterine health at such a vulnerable time, causing imbalances such as blood stasis.
  2. Excessive physical work and exercise, During puberty, this may cause weakness and deficiency in the developing body (Spleen and Kidney), which in turn can lead to stagnation. Of course this depends on the individual constitution, but it is important to be aware of as a parent.
  3. Exposure to external cold. Young women are vulnerable to invasion of external cold, particularly during puberty. Social pressure to wear clothes that reveal the lower back and abdomen, going out without a coat and scarf, prioritising their physical appearance over their well-being can leave them prone to being attacked by the external pathogen of cold. If cold attacks the uterus, it will contract and cause stagnation.
  4. The use of tampons blocks the natural downward flow of blood and can cause stagnation. There are also many other health risks associated with tampons including the exposure to environmental oestrogens which is covered in a different blog post.
  5. Emotional stress and anxiety will have a massive impact on energy levels, depleting the Kidneys and creating excess Heart energy. If it is held onto then this can cause stagnation.

Taking care during this sensitive time will have a massive impact on our young women’s health as they get older. Common problems such as period pain, irregular periods, heavy/scanty periods, infertility, endometriosis, anxiety and depression, fatigue can all be improved through gentle communication, education and sensitivity around these issues at a young age.

If you are interested in receiving some acupuncture or reflexology sessions please contact me directly for an initial chat.

Jackie Marsden is a Reflexologist, Acupuncturist and Foot Reading Practitioner, based at Elder Cottage Clinic, Warton, Preston, PR4. She is a full member of the Association of Reflexologists.

A healthy mid-life means an easier menopause

The most important thing to know about the menopause is prevention, so if you are a woman in your midlife, getting the support and balance you need will help you in your menopausal years. This blog aims to explains the menopause in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) terms, and gives indicators on how you can support yourself as well as receiving treatments in-clinic.

As a therapist with a predominantly female clientele, and a 40-something woman myself, I have a particular interest in this subject. Many women suffer with the two main symptoms of menopause: hot flushes and dryness (an excess of heat and a lack of moisture). In addition to these symptoms, women can also feel emotionally unstable, have difficultly sleeping and concentrating, experience frequent headaches, feel lethargic and tired, irritable, anxious, depressed and nervous.

Although the menopause usually comes at around the age of 50, the decline in the ovarian follicles and in oestrogen occurs throughout our lives. The number of follicles at birth has already halved by puberty, and continues to decline up to the menopause. Thus the menopausal symptoms can start to appear at an earlier stage in life, so we are never too young to take notice.

In TCM, from our conception, our Kidneys store our vital life essence (Jing). Jing circulates over long periods, dominating our developmental stages (usually 7 year cycles in women and 8 year cycles in men). Our Kidneys dominate growth and reproduction. They also dominate water metabolism and bone, and produce marrow (brain). So you can see that our Kidney energy is very important in not only giving us our life force and will-power, it also governs our reproductive systems, and works closely with the lungs to moisten the body, as well as strengthens our skeletal system. These are all closely linked to common health problems in women (osteoporosis, dryness, infertility, irregular menstrual cycles and fatigue to name a few).

Thinking about menopause, anything that will weaken our Kidney energy is going to have an impact on our menopause. Our busy modern day lives seem to dictate a very stressful way of living. For example, parents going out to work as well as looking after children will often feel overwhelmed and unrested, causing tiredness, fatigue and irritability. Tobacco smoking will “burn fluids” and dry out moisture. Irregular diets high in beige carbs, processed foods and sugars will create “phlegm” (this is a TCM term for thick stagnation). Too much tea, coffee and alcohol is very “yang” in nature and therefore will add heat to the body and thus aggravate symptoms such as hot flushes. Not enough fluid/water intake will have an effect on moisture levels. Emotional stress will also deplete Kidney energy.

As women, we need to create space in our lives to allow balance. We need to replenish our Kidney energy with enough rest between busy times, we need to eat and drink in moderation and eat well; foods that are nutrient dense and foods that add moisture. Drink enough fluids. Only do what we can comfortably do and don’t over stretch ourselves. If we do all of this then we will naturally regulate our day-to-day emotional stresses, but anything lying deeper should be dealt with and not “carried” as this will also deplete the Kidneys, as well as create excess Heart energy adding fire/heat, exacerbating hot flushes, irritability and dryness.

If you are interested in receiving some acupuncture or reflexology sessions please contact me directly for an initial chat.

Jackie Marsden is a Reflexologist, Acupuncturist and Foot Reading Practitioner, based at Elder Cottage Clinic, Warton, Preston, PR4. She is a full member of the Association of Reflexologists.

Reflexology for Diabetics

It is well known that people with diabetes need to lookafter their feet. In very basic terms, when the blood is not releasing the sugars into the cells ofthe body, the blood can get syrupy and thick, which means that it isn’t flowingsmoothly and is not getting to the extremities as efficiently and aseffectively as it should. Because of this, some of the smaller blood vesselsbecome restricted and nerve endings can start to become damaged, causingperipheral neuropathy.

My first ever reflexology client I booked after qualifyingwas an elderly lady with type 2 diabetes. She was keen to have her feet touchedand worked on because of the peripheral neuropathy she was experiencing. Hersymptoms were numbness and tingling, making it difficult for her to walk and difficultto sleep. She found the treatments soothing, comforting and relaxing.

It is well known that reflexology can improve circulation within the body: the main contraindication for the treatment is thrombosis and clotting, simply because the improved flow of blood could cause the clot to move. With this in mind, it is a great treatment for diabetics.

Being diagnosed with any type of diabetes, but especially atype 2 diabetes diagnosis in later life, can be very difficult to manage.  A massive change in lifestyle, eating habitsand general discipline around food choices, exercise, blood sugar monitoringand medication timings can be very stressful not just for those with thediabetes but also the surrounding friends and family. This is where regularreflexology treatments can be so beneficial for so many of life’s illnesses andproblems, because it is such a great stress-buster.

Regular reflexology will also optimize the condition and health of the skin of the feet and ankles. As diabetics will have restricted blood flow (particularly to the extremities), this can cause excessive dryness, making the skin fragile and thin, and causing serious problems if a wound occurs. Healing will take much longer and may lead to other complications such as infections and ulcers. Ensuring that the skin is thoroughly moisturized and nourished will be hugely beneficial in maintaining the overall health of the feet.

In addition to general reflexology, the specialized sequence of Reflexology Lymph Drainage (RLD) may also be a good choice to make in a multi-faceted approach to managing diabetes. Diabetes causes the lymph vessels to become weak and too permeable, compromising the flow of lymph and thus the immune system.[1] We know that it is likely that the RLD sequence has a causal effect on the lymphatic system through studies conducted and results published around managing breast cancer related lymphoedema.[2] Of course more research is needed to present evidence, but I wholeheartedly believe in the modality of reflexology and the powerful effect it can have on the mind and body.

[1] http://revistaseletronicas.pucrs.br/ojs/index.php/scientiamedica/article/view/10095

[2] http://www.reflexologylymphdrainage.co.uk/abstract-2016.html

Jackie Marsden is a Reflexologist, Acupuncturist and Foot Reading Practitioner, based at Elder Cottage Clinic, Warton, Preston, PR4. She is a full member of the Association of Reflexologists.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin Sea?

Vitamin Sea? What is this I hear you cry?!

During 2018 I discovered my love for wild swimming, and this has become a regular outing for me: in particular, sea-swimming, even during the winter.

What has this got to do with anything?

Well, there are many health benefits to cold water swimming, of which I won’t go into detail about here because they are not relevant to every reader.

What is relevant and universal to all, is the identification of that certain something that makes your heart sing, what excites you, what do you look forward to the most? What is that sparkly thing that gets you out of bed in the morning? What is that one element that keeps you going during the tough times?

We all have these special connections within our lives. Yours might not be sea-swimming, but it could be another sport, or it could be a particular place, activity, food, book, music, event.

It is also important to note that your special connection to something may change over time, and perhaps you fall out of love with it, or it evolves into something else. This is absolutely fine too. Don’t hold onto it if it no longer serves you. Change is always inevitable.

Continue to explore your life, try new things, keep going, be aware of everything, appreciate each moment and those moments that sparkle will stand out (if you are paying attention).

And if you do this, you will find a happiness, a contentment, an eagerness, and a drive that you wholeheartedly know.

But sometimes the hardest part is the identification. We don’t really know what it is we want, or what will bring us happiness or joy. This is where courage has to play a part; we have to face our fears. For example, it may be finding the courage to go forward alone, try something new, it might be doing something that gets the adrenaline pumping, it might be overcoming self-doubt, it might be perseverance, hard work, a struggle of some kind.

Set out to make small steps forward. The greater your fear the higher the sense of achievement. The more nervous you are, the more there is to gain. The steeper the learning curve, the further there is to travel and grow. Don’t compare yourself to others, go at your own pace. If you are surrounded in darkness, don’t try to pull the curtains drawn all at once. Be kind to yourself.

You are in control of your own well being, and what better way to be well? To find your passion and follow it.