Lower back pain is one of the top 5 treatments for which clients regularly book to see Mark for acupuncture and herbs. This includes sciatica and coccyx (coccygeal) pain.
Mark practices a distal style of acupuncture which is super effective for both upper and lower back pain. Although Dry Needling is also an option for treating pain, Mark believes that putting needles into a local inflamed area of pain is something similar to ‘slapping a crying baby!’ needles inserted into locally inflamed tissue will only cause exacerbated pain; and for that reason, no needle is ever located on the lower back (for lower back pain.)
Although it sounds like a stretch of the imagination for instant relief of back pain when a needle is placed in the hand or on the head, this is a typical result of the application of distal acupuncture, pain is typically reduced in the first session and resolved over a course of treatment.
If you are still a little unsure of how this works, there is an excellent you tube video by one of Mark’s mentoring group by the founding member, the late Dr Richard Tan.
The video is geared to those studying his style of acupuncture, however you will get the idea of how it works.
Mark has been studying Balance Method distal acupuncture for more than 4 years. Clients report excellent results.
Herbal Formulas are also excellent to take between appointments as they increase inflammation and prolong the pain relief effectively increasing momentum between appointments; every herbal formula prescription is tailor made to match your individual circumstances and no two formulas are ever the same.
Plantar Fasciitis is a condition which affects the heel and the arch of the foot. Typically, people who have the condition may experience pain all day, but especially experience heel pain when first getting out of bed in the mornings. This condition constantly generates ‘foot traffic’ for Acupuncture at the clinic. The key to treatment is between 4-8 appointments over a 2-3-week period, which may sound a little excessive however we have treatment packages to make that more affordable. Mark is our Acupuncturist, his approach is to treat the calf, the plantar fascia and distal points to target this stubborn condition, in conjunction with herbal products and exercises to use at home to further drive healing momentum between appointments. Anecdotally Mark’s clients report excellent clinical outcomes getting them back to walking and running pain free. Mark is also able to prescribe Herbal Medications which can resolve bone spurs which are often a complicating factor to the plantar fasciitis diagnosis.
By Mark Davis BHSc (Chinese Herbal Medicine, Acupuncturist.)
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition, which affects the median nerve of the upper extremity, it passes from the forearm through the wrist to the palm of your hand. The Carpal Tunnel is a narrow passageway through which the median nerve passes, and when it becomes inflamed from repetitive movement it can cause pain and swelling locally, which without treatment may become progressively worse.
People will often describe symptoms such as a localised ‘pins and needles’ type sensation, numbness and tingling in the fingers and palm of the hand in addition to pain, which may be experienced distal to the wrist or radiating back toward the elbow. Swollen wrist and fingers or a sensation that the hand feels larger than it looks, or even grip weakness, which can make everyday routine tasks more difficult.
Fluid retention during pregnancy, localised trauma, repetitive strain and being overweight are all risk factors to developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Females are statistically more susceptible to developing the syndrome than males, and often there is a familial component as a risk factor.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome treatment with Western Medicine can range from rest, ice and splints to anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroid injections. In many cases as it is a difficult condition to resolve and surgical intervention is often recommended to relieve pressure on the carpal tunnel itself by longitudinal incision of the fascia to allow more space surrounding the nerves and tendons.
Acupuncture can be a highly effective alternative treatment; at Root & Branch Oriental Therapies in Melbourne we use a combination of local points, distal needling, trigger points and oriental therapies such as cupping to target both the root cause and branch symptomology for the best clinical outcome.
Acupuncture point prescriptions often include local points of the affected limb, which are stimulated by the use of a low range electrical current, traversed along the inflamed tunnel to disperse inflammation and resolve pain. Additionally the neck and shoulders are often assessed for tightness, trigger points activation and even nerve compression, which can be the root cause of the syndrome. Many people will hold tension in their shoulder, which reduces circulation to the arms, which in conjunction with other factors may result in inflammation and pain.
From the perspective of Chinese Medicine, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is often experienced by people who are suffering from stressful situations and when that is combined with repetitive movement & poor ergonomics pain is often a result; managing stress and changing lifestyles to cope better with modern day stressors which lead to inflammation will also assist in preventing relapse.
Anecdotally relief of pain can often be felt even after the first treatment, however a full course of 4-8 consecutive treatments over a period of 2-4 weeks is recommended to ensure that the inflammation is healed. There is often a temptation for people to stop treatment after 2-3 acupuncture sessions, however if there is no modification in lifestyle the risk of the problem returning is high. Continuing treatment a few sessions past the resolution of pain is important so that the body has time to continue healing to prevent relapse.
Here a few links to other similar published articles:
Acupuncture taught at Western Universities is usually a type of Traditional Chinese Medicine style of acupuncture which can incorporate a distal point or two, but often more needles are located closer to the site of disharmony; there are however many different styles which practitioners study & practice post-graduate. In addition to the general study of TCM, Mark has trained in two popular styles of Distal Acupuncture – ‘Master Tung Style’ and ‘The Balance Method.’
Master Tung was a famous modern day acupuncturist from Mainland China who later settled in Taiwan; he was not formally trained, but honed his skills from a family lineage of acupuncturists from whom secrets were passed from father to the eldest son over many generations.
Balance Method Acupuncture is based on ancient I-Ching theory, modernized in recent times by the late revered Dr Richard Tan. Dr Tan was an engineer before immigrating to the USA and spent many decades analyzing and perfecting his own acupuncture techniques which have become famous worldwide in recent times.
Distal Acupuncture uses theories of embryology to explain its effect on different areas of the body through neural pathways to the brain, which have existed since the time that the body was still a foetus. We all start out the same way, as you see from the photo below – everything is connected, it is only later that the limbs separate, however the neurological connections still exist many decades later.
The photo below shows a distal acupuncture point used for fertility, as you can see the points are located nowhere near the gonads, however they are highly effective points for fertility.
(photo courtesy of ‘Art of Acupuncture’)
For physical symptoms, practitioners will often needle points of similar body landmarks on the opposite side of the body, or even opposite and distally such as needling the shoulder to resolve pain in the hip.
There is an excellent book, which details these theories called ‘The Spark in the Machine’ it was written by a Western Medicine ER Doctor known as Daniel Keown, it explains these theory in everyday language.
Although needling locally (traditional acupuncture) is beneficial for some conditions by increasing blood flow to the area, for acute conditions you could think of it like – shaking an overtired crying baby, which is only likely to seriously exacerbate the problem!! A smarter approach (similar to distal acupuncture) is to use techniques which will lull them into a sound sleep from afar, music in the background, rocking the cradle, aromatherapy etc, etc.
The benefits of a distal style include the fact that most treatments are on the arms & legs, so there is no need to disrobe; secondly it relies on the ‘Homokulus Effect’ (see the diagram below):
Because our hands and our feet are so important to our everyday function, they use a proportionally large area of our brain’s motor cortex, needling in these places has a very strong effect. For this reason distal acupuncture typically uses fewer needles with a higher rate of success.
Using specific neural pathways the intervention sends a signal to the brain via the nervous system to release natural painkillers through the circulatory system, vasodilation occurs delivering extra nutrients and oxygen to heal the affected area. Treatments are quick, effective and I have found that they have better results in the longer term.
Most people who experience a Distal Acupuncture session are usually slightly confused initially, it isn’t always obvious why a practitioner might be needling an unrelated body part, however they are often later amazed with the results experienced.
Dr Tan would often explain the distal theory by saying that the switch that ‘turns on the light’ need not be at the actual site of pain, it can be located anywhere in the room, no matter how large – so long as there is an electrical connection…
Asian countries have a rich tradition of using herbs in traditional medicine; one of the simplest things we can do for good health is using healthy teas to improve our health when used appropriately.
From Green, Pu’er, Oolong, Loquat, Dokudami, Omija to Hawthorn tea and beyond, I have long enjoyed these tasty teas on a daily basis for many years; with their vibrant colours people often exclaim ‘what are you drinking?’
I enjoy them Hot in the morning and during the cooler months and slightly chilled during summer, even kids can adapt to the taste and in Asia they are often enjoyed in place of soft drinks, calorie free!
The results can be subtle for occasional use, or marked if you make a conscious effort to follow a particular tea as a health regime.
We’ve all heard about the life prolonging benefits of green tea (especially Sencha & Matcha) the health benefits include antioxidants & disease fighting catechins and rich vitamins profile with moderate caffeine levels for a ‘pick me up’ effect.
The leaves of Camellia Sinensis and its many sub species are unprocessed and plucked from buds at the apex of the plant. It contains high levels of free radials for cellular stress, it boosts metabolism, reduces cholesterol and stimulates the brain to improve memory. It is said to have anti-cancer properties -research is continuing particularly for prostate cancer.
Matcha powder is also a great addition to homemade puddings and desserts. Overall green tea has a cold nature and whether drunk hot or cold, it may not be suitable for people who yearn for a heat pack on their belly.
People often laugh when I tell them I’m serving them ‘poo er’ tea, unfortunately it doesn’t do what it sounds like it might; however it is great to harmonise digestion.
An oxidised, aged form of fermented tea leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant are mostly produced in the Yunnan province of China. In China Pu’er tea is revered for its weight loss benefits, cholesterol reducing and cardiovascular protective benefits.
The microorganisms that ferment the tea have been shown to compliment a healthy gut flora with aids digestion for heavy meals and this is the tea you will often find served at Chinese restaurants in conjunction with Yum Cha.
It varies hugely in price, its not necessary to buy the crazy expensive ones, however the cheapest are likely to be a waste of money.
Partially oxidised leaves of the Camellia Senensis plant are popular in Japan as both a hot and cold beverage often enjoyed after meals, favoured for its effect of being able to metabolise fatty foods.
Additionally regular consumption of Oolong tea is said to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower the risk of cancer through its high antioxidant content, promote healthy blood sugar levels and decrease inflammation.
Oolong is great to be enjoyed all day long, take it in your drink bottle as a water replacement.
Loquat Leaf Tea:
Loquat trees are native to the southern parts of China, Korea and Japan, the leaves form the basis of a famous Chinese Medicine Cough formula called ‘Pei Pa Koa,’ it is a traditional cure for itchy skin, dermatitis and as a treatment for coughs and bronchitis
Loquat leaf tea, or ‘biwacha’ is also high in antioxidants so helpful to support immunity, while also being highly beneficial in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and even said to be beneficial to pancreatic cells.
It is also highly favoured for its ability to aid in removing toxin accumulation in the body to aid the skin and liver health, it contains a substance called Amygdalin (B-17)(also found in peach kernels) B17 is a currently experiencing a research spike in western laboratories for cancer trials.
Houttuynia Cordata is a flowering invasive ground cover native to Asia. It grows in dark moist areas, sometimes called “fish-smell herb” and its common name ‘Dokudami’ means “poison-blocker” in Japanese.
Dokudami has natural anti-histamine effects, which may be beneficial for allergies and for asthma. It is again a good source of antioxidants, and has he ability to neutralise free radicals while also supporting the lymphatic system to maintain the body’s natural health defences.
Dokudami is a popular home remedy in Japan for allergies, detoxifying and even for skin rashes; its purported benefits include an anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal function while also having a mild laxative and diuretic effect.
Dokudami is one of the main constituents often found in detox foot patches.
Is a popular iced summer tea from Korea. Omija is also known as Schizandra or ‘five flavour berry,’ and it is often used in Chinese Medicine herbal prescriptions. Used as an infusion is has some benefits such as improving liver and kidney function, boosting circulation, good for the skin and makes us resilient to stress. Some herbal traditions ay that this wonderful berry has anti-ageing benefits!
This tea may not be suitable to everyone it should be used with care for people who suffer from heartburn or those who suffer from phlegm on the chest, or sinus infections.
Hawthorn Berry is often called ‘the heart herb’ for good reason, even when you look at a Chinese Hawthorn Berry slice it resembles the side profile of an artery itself (there is a lot of symbolism in Chinese Medicine). It is said that the cardio protective effects include angina, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and even irregular heart beat. Even the Native Americans used hawthorn for heart and gastrointestinal complaints.
Similarly in Chinese Medicine the hawthorn fruit called ‘shan zha’ is used for an overloaded digestive system after overindulgence of meat products in particular (in addition to the heart and blood moving benefits).
Sciatic pain (sciatica) typically affects the body unilaterally, with pain extending from the hip / lower back down one leg. People often describe the uncomfortable sensation as a ‘pain in the butt cheek’, often worse when sitting, as numbness, burning or tingling which runs down the leg or even as sharp and shooting sensations from the hip the calf.
Sciatica is a symptom of an underlying lower back condition such as a structural impingement or compression of the sciatic nerve, which exits the spinal column around the upper sacrum. Trauma, chronic disk degeneration or even pregnancy can be the cause of the condition. Sciatica and Piriformis syndrome are two conditions which are often confused, they are quite different structurally however the pain and symptoms are very similar, pain management of both conditions resolves over time, and the symptoms of sciatica can be expected to improve in the absence of significant structural damage.
Sciatica is a condition, which can come and go over time; western medicine typically treats it with surgery, painkillers, anti-inflammatory medicine and even cortisone injections.
Research into acupuncture treatments has shown effective pain relief and the resolution of symptoms are manageable naturally with acupuncture. Fine needles are inserted into specific sites, which trigger a nerve system response including a cascade of natural endorphins and enkephalins for pain relief. Blood circulation to the area is increased which nourishes the surrounding tissue and over the course of several treatments it is likely to resolve the symptoms and prevent further deterioration of the condition (McDonald & Janz 2017.)
At Root & Branch Oriental therapies, Mark Davis [Dr of Chinese Medicine] treats sciatic pain using a combination of trigger points, electric stimulation, cupping and distal acupuncture using the ankles and wrists. Increasing blood flow and relaxing the muscles around the lumbar vertebrae is the first step followed by targeting the nerve itself to increase circulation and muscle relaxation along its pathway down the back of the leg.
Manual therapies such as Shiatsu can also contribute significantly to rehabilitation through stretching and by working on the tight muscle tissues of the Glutes, piriformis and hamstrings.
Table 1 & 2 of the Acupuncture Evidence Project (McDonald J, and Janz S, 2017) retrieved from: www.acupuncture.org.au
Acupuncture for Plantar Fasciitis, by Mark Davis, BHSc (TCM).
Plantar fasciitis is sometimes referred to as “Runners Heel,” it is an inflammation of the muscles on the underlying surface of the foot – the long, flat ligament that runs along the sole of the toes. It is one of the most common & painful foot problems which some people typically experience when getting out of bed in the mornings, or after being seated for prolonged periods.
Plantar fasciitis is usually caused from repetitive strain to the heel area, it is a common, and very persistent injury afflicting runners, walkers and hikers, and people who stand on hard surfaces like concrete & tiled surfaces for extended periods.
Although pain is typically felt between the arch and heel of the foot, plantar fasciitis pain often originates in the muscles of the lower legs and calf. When these muscles are tight and overstretched, it puts strain on the plantar fascia on the bottom of the foot. Being quite a stubborn condition, people can often see many health practitioners and typically invest quite large amounts of money in ongoing treatment for cortisone injections and orthotics.
At Root & Branch Oriental therapies, we have found quite a good success rate using manipulation of the calf muscle with heat therapy, combined with distal acupuncture which avoids upsetting the already inflamed facia of the plantar surface; typically most cases resolve within 3-4 consultations. Several products such as liniment patches and foot soaks are available to compliment the physical intervention between treatment.
Medical Science shows similar results; Xu Xuemeng et al., Guangzhou Dongcheng Hospital randomly divided 66 plantar fasciitis patients into an acupuncture group and a conventional therapy control group. The acupuncture group received standard acupuncture and the control group received triamcinolone acetonide acetate injections and local blocking therapy. The results were assessed 6 months after the completion of all treatments. The acupuncture group achieved a total effective rate of 97% and the drug therapy group had a 76% effective rate.
The aforementioned research is not an isolated finding; Guangzhou Social Welfare House researchers (Tang et al.) performed a meta-analysis of 19 independent plantar fasciitis clinical trials. A total of 16 of the 19 studies made extensive use of Ahshi acupuncture points. Based on the data, the researchers determined that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of plantar fasciitis. The following are some of the studies included in the meta-analysis.
Acupuncture has a proven and lengthy track record for producing significant positive outcomes rates for patients with plantar fasciitis. The data indicates that access to acupuncture, moxibustion, and TCM herbal foot baths is an adequate solution for the vast majority of patients.
Additionally it is worth considering that adverse reactions to acupuncture and trigger point therapy under controlled conditions by a properly accredited practitioner are rare.
Tang, Cuanqi, et al. “Progress of Clinical Research on Acupuncture and Moxibustion for Heel Pain.” World Chinese Medicine 9.1 (2014): 120-123.
Gao F, Zhao B, Fan XH. Thrust acupuncture and injection therapy in treating plantar fasciitis 150 cases [J]. Yunnan TCM Herbs Journal, 2015, 36(6): 80-81.
Our feet are the connection between heaven and earth. It is easy to forget just how important they are to us, in modern day life we wear shoes and forget to re-connect with the earth. Our feet bear the weight of our entire body, 700 times each for every kilometre we walk. Each foot contains more than 7000 nerve endings, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles & 26 bones (1/4 of all the bones in the body). For many people, feet are a low priority when it comes to ongoing care…. And yet, all it takes is the slightest irritation on the smallest toe to give discomfort to our whole being!
Herbal foot soaks are beneficial to most conditions related to pain and overuse of the muscles and tendons of the feet, from diabetic foot neuropathy, plantar fasciitis, heel pain, bone spurs and achilles tendonitis. Prolonged use of herbal foot baths (> 2 weeks) may also be beneficial to general wellbeing including reduced stress levels, insomnia, migraines, fatigue, IBS and hormonal imbalances.
Western science is slowly catching up to the knowledge of traditional Chinese Medicine. In a recent study done by Harvard, a simple warm bath before you go to bed at night can significantly increase your sleep. Click here to read the study.
HOW TO: Initially 3-4 tea bags should be simmered for around 10 minutes. Next the temperature needs to be equalised when the hot tea is transferred to the bucket, ensuring that the solution is below 45 DEC C to prevent scolding. Best results are expected after >40 minutes use, a kettle of hot water kept handy can ensure the water is topped up regularly to keep the solution close to the desired 40 DEC C mark.
EVEN BETTER: Take this time to relax, read a book, meditate or listen to some guided self hypnosis.
Here is a link to a breathing technique I particularly like:
Manufacturer: Guangzhou Medicines & Health Products.
701 Dieda Zhengtong Yaogao medicated plasters provide temporary pain relief from minor aches and pains of muscles and joints, simple backache, arthritis, traumatic injury, strains, bruises and sprains. Also used to temporarily ease pain from bone spurs in areas not covered by thick muscles such as heels and shoulders.
Now available in a convenient pack of 6 plaster sheets, each measuring 10 x 12cm, affordable and super effective to reinforce acupuncture or shiatsu therapy treatments between appointments.
Eupolyphaga sinensis 8.0%
Mentha haplocalyx 5.0%
Methyl Salicylate 10.0%
Phellodendron chinense 8.0%
Polygonum cuspidatum 2.0%
Rheum palmatum 8.0%
Scutellaria Baicalensis 8.0%
Zanthoxylum nitidum 8.0%
Non-medicinal ingredients include:
Paraffinum Liquidum leve
The plasters are based on a traditional Chinese Medicine herbal remedy which shows anecdotal pain relief of muscular tension by stimulating blood circulation.
How to use: peel off the plastic backing sheet and place the plaster over the sore area. A warming effect may be noticed initially, pain relieving effect will normally last for about 24 hours at which point it should be discarded. It is best to wait a few hours before applying a new patch, many people report a cooling sensation between applying plasters. When using on the torso it is often better to use bi-laterally even for one sided pain.
This product should never be applied over broken skin and use during pregnancy is contraindicated.
Eastential Chinese Medicine, David Yao Chi Guan, Four Seasons Wellness Centre, Shinma Acupuncture, Acuuncture Abbotsford Convent, Abbotsford Medical & Acupuncture Centre, Yuki Murata
There are lots of generic liniments on the market, but nothing beats the Dr’s own formula for musculoskeletal pain! The herbs which have been soaked for more than 12 months are chosen for quality & efficacy to speed up recovery, relax muscles and tendons to reduce inflammation, dispels stagnation & promotes circulation. Dit Da Jow has traditionally been used for trauma associated with martial arts, but suitable for strains, sprains, and muscular tightness and everyday aches and pains. For external use only, not suitable for open wounds.
Mark will often use the ‘Dit Da Jow’ in combination for needling of musculoskeletal conditions, sports injury and in conjunction with electronic muscle stimulation.
Eastential Chinese Medicine, David Yao Chi Guan, Four Seasons Wellness Centre, Shinma Acupuncture, Acuuncture Abbotsford Convent, Abbotsford Medical & Acupuncture Centre, Yuki Murata