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Jun 26

Why Acupuncture Doesn’t Hurt

One of the first questions I often get when I tell people that I do acupuncture is “doesn’t it hurt?”. My answer is “no” and you can find out why below.

First of all, the size of the needles are much thinner than what we are used to going to a clinic to have our blood taken or to the doctor’s surgery for a vaccination. The acupuncture needles are six to ten times thinner than one of those needles. Smaller needles, less pain.

Secondly, the acupuncture needles used at the Health in Flow Chinese Medicine clinic are very good quality. You can see the difference in quality from a sample of the electron microscope images from a study conducted by RMIT  ( The smoothness and sharpness of the needles mean that the pain fibres of the nerves receive less stimulation, and hence, less pain.

Electron Microscope Image of Poor Quality Acupuncture Needle

Electron Microscope Image of Lower Quality Acupuncture Needle

Electron Microscope Image of High Quality Acupuncture Needle

Electron Microscope Image of Higher Quality Acupuncture Needle

Thirdly, the velocity at which a skilled acupuncturist inserts a needle is so high that it doesn’t much activate the superficial  nerve fibres for pain. Depending on the location of the point, you may feel a tiny pin prick or not much at all. After insertion, a sensation referred as “De Qi” in Chinese Medicine is often elicited. This feeling can vary and can be described as: aching; soreness; pressure; and sometimes as tingling; numbness; heaviness; warmth; and coolness. They really are sensations, rather than pain!

If you’ve been avoiding acupuncture because of a needle phobia, rest assured that what you are imagining is much worse than the reality. I’ve had many needle phobic clients who I now dub as “advanced acupuncture clients” who happily receive acupuncture needles in never before considered places such as their face, ears and scalp!

Sep 25

Pointing the Way – Stiff Neck

Recently, I woke up with a stiff neck from sleeping “funny”. It was one of those bothersome and painful stiff necks where you had to do head checks in the car with your whole body!

However, Chinese Medicine came to the rescue! There is an acupuncture point called “Luo Zhen”, which translates as “fall off pillow”, which I suppose is what may have happened.

The point is located in a small depression on the back of your hand just past the knuckles of the index and middle finger. It can be found by sliding a finger from between those two knuckles towards the wrist and your finger will drop into it.

Luo Zhen Acupuncture Point

To use this point effectively:

  • Locate the point on the opposite side of the pain. For example, if the right side of your neck hurts, press the Luo Zhen point on the left hand.
  • Press firmly with the tip of a finger into the depression of the point so that you feel a tender sensation. I find I get the best pressure by using the tip of my thumb.
  • Maintain the pressure whilst rubbing in small circles on the point.
  • Whilst pressing the point, turn your head from side to side and you will notice that with time, the amount you can turn increases and the amount of pain decreases.

For me, it took a couple of minutes and I could really notice the difference. I have heard that it may take longer for other people so keep persisting!


Sep 13

Spring into Action and Get on Top of Hayfever

Spring is so lovely – with all the leaves unfurling, blossoms budding and warmth returning to the world so we can step out into the sunshine and breathe it all in.

However, this time of year often has the effect of producing itchy and watery eyes, constantly running noses and sudden attacks of sneezing in people, which can all result in people feeling drained of energy. Many Melbournians understand very well the effect hayfever can have on their lives and Melbourne, even though it is the most liveable city in the world in 2016, does have a black mark against it as it is the hayfever capital of Australia! Even in inner city Melbourne or the Melbourne CBD, where there are less parks and you might think less allergens, hayfever is still rife!

Chinese Medicine treats hayfever by expelling pathogens, normalising the function of your immune system and treating any underlying energetic imbalances. We use acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine as well giving you some diet and lifestyle advice if necessary.

A trial investigating the effectiveness and safety of acupuncture in the treatment of hayfever was conducted by RMIT, and it was found that there was significant improvement in hayfever symptoms. In clinical practice, we have found that it may take only 4 weeks to get rid of your hayfever symptoms but it is best to get on top of it early in the season. This way, you can frolick happily all you like in the parks when the weather is warm!

In the meantime, check out our post on acupressure points for temporary relief of hayfever symptoms here:

Aug 27

Acupuncture Treatment for Pokemon Go

Acupuncture can help you catch more Pokemon – really. If you have been trying to “catch them all” recently,  you will have found that you are walking much more than you used to and you might be feeling sore feet and sore legs. Check out Gizmodo’s article on Tweets people have made about their ailments from playing Pokemon Go.

Sore Legs Become Pandemic As Pokemon Go Players Accidentally Get Exercise

Acupuncture can refresh those muscles for you so you can get back out there for your battles. It can also help improve your energy levels so you can hunt for longer. If you are serious about your Pokemon Go, come on down for some treatment to get you into optimum shape for hunting!

If you can’t get some acupuncture, you can do some acupressure on yourself. There is an acupuncture point, Stomach 36, Zhou San Li, which translates to “walk three-mile”. It is said that if you press this point, it will help you talk walk another three miles!


Jun 1

How to Sleep Clean with this Sleep Hygiene Guide

Who doesn’t love that feeling of waking up in the morning, body rested, mind alert and all of your being ready to launch yourself into the day ahead? I sure do love good sleep! A good sleep is something that allows your mind and body to rest and it is essential to maintaining balance in your health – mental, emotional and physical.

I do have times when I have poor sleep – I might have difficulty falling asleep or I toss and turn restlessly through the night. If this continues, I find myself more reactive and irritable, less able to think clearly or be creative, and my body just feels heavy and sluggish. In these times, my first port of call is reviewing my sleep hygiene.

Sleep hygiene are habits that you develop and maintain to help you to have a good night’s sleep. Common sleeping problems are often caused by bad habits reinforced over years or even decades.

Sleep Environment
  • Maintain a dark room. Use black out curtains or blinds and turning off any devices which emit light.
  • Have a quiet room, or if quiet is not possible, try using some ear plugs.
  • Ensure that the temperature is comfortable. Is the blanket warm enough or is it too warm? Having warm hands and feet when sleeping is important.
  • Is your mattress comfortable? Consider seeing a mattress specialist.
  • Use the bedroom only for sleeping or intimacy. Don’t use it for watching TV, surfing the internet or for talking to friends on the phone.
  • De-clutter your sleep space. A messy sleep space can translate to inner stagnation and contribute to imbalances in Chinese Medicine.

Sleep Routine
  • Sleep and wake at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps to set your body clock. Avoid trying to make up for poor sleep or lack of sleep by sleeping in, though don’t be obsessive about this – occasional staying up late or sleeping in is okay.
  • Get enough early morning sunshine. This also helps to set your body clock.
  • Be asleep by 10:30pm as 11pm – 1am is the time when the Chinese Medicine Liver organ needs to be resting, allowing the circulating Blood to return and be processed.
  • Don’t ignore tiredness. Go to bed when your body tells you to.
  • Exercise daily but no vigorous exercise close to bed time.
  • Relaxing exercise such as yoga or tai chi, or some gentle stretching, before bed can help to relax you.
  • Try not to engage in mentally overly stimulating activities close to bed time.

Sleep No-No’s
  • No screens for one hour before sleep. The blue light affects melatonin levels, which helps us to regulate our sleep cycle.
  • No caffeinated substances e.g. coffee, caffeinated tea, coke, chocolate close to bedtime
  • No sugar close to bedtime
  • Avoid drugs. Nicotine is a stimulant and a sedative, and the initial “kick” causes an increase in blood pressure, heart rate and respiration rate. Alcohol is a depressant but it affects your sleep rhythm and the quality of sleep with alcohol in your system is usually poor.
  • Avoid sleeping pills. They can cause daytime sleepiness and doesn’t actually solve the sleep problem. They can also cause a “rebound” effect where your sleep quality is worse when you stop taking them.
  • Avoid napping during the day. This can affect your sleep rhythm.
  • Stay away from large meals close to bed time.
  • Minimise fluid intake close to bedtime if you have a tendency towards night-time urination.

If you can’t fall asleep
  • try a mindfulness app such as Headspace or Smiling Mind.
  • don’t worry about not falling asleep.
  • don’t look at the clock as it increases worry, creating tension.
  • write down any worries that you have or things that you have to do if your mind won’t stop thinking.
  • get up and do something else in another room (with dim lighting) such as reading a book.

If by following these guidelines, you find that your sleep is still not refreshing, there could be other factors such as obstructed breathing (sleep apnoea), pain, digestive issues, stress, anxiety or depression which are contributing to your poor sleep quality. Chinese Medicine, using acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, treats all of these conditions and can bring peaceful sleep back into your life.

Jul 28

Skating on the Other Side of the Ice

When you get an injury, the first thing people reach for is ice. It constricts blood vessels to reduce swelling and inflammation and it desensitises nerve endings to reduce pain. It sounds great, doesn’t it?

Ice Pack

However, in the area of injury, you will find dead tissue as well as blood and other fluid leaked into the tissue. When you apply ice, it reduces the supply of nutrients, such as oxygen, and white blood cells which help to clean up the area, and decreases lymph drainage and removal of damaged cells. What you end up with is a stagnant pool of rubbish that is starting to congeal and harden, sticking onto your muscles, tendons and ligaments. In addition, ice causes your muscles, tendons and ligaments to contract, and post-injury, they have already contracted as a result of having been overstretched, making it more difficult for normal movement to be regained and once again, slowing the healing process.

Additionally, from a Chinese Medicine viewpoint, coldness can also penetrate our energy systems, which is why sometimes, arthritic-like pain is felt when it is cold.

So, what can be done instead?

  • Apply emergency acupoints to reduce pain and stimulate energy and circulation.
  • Cup and bleed local area to remove stagnant blood and fluid.
  • Self-massage with liniments that move the blood, reduce inflammation and reduce pain. Massage towards the heart to assist with lymphatic drainage.
  • Apply cooling herbal poultices to reduce inflammation, move the blood and nourish the muscles and tendons. There is a “herbal ice” called “San Huang San” which is the gold standard poultice for acute injuries and is best applied immediately after being injured.
  • Rest the injured area to prevent further injury.
  • Apply heat with wheat bags or have warm baths once redness and heat have dissipated.
  • Move the area gently when able in order to maintain movement and circulation.

If you don’t have anything available except ice, use it sparingly only for ten minutes every hour, and only in the first 24 hours, and see a Chinese Medicine practitioner as soon as you are able!

Sep 13

Pointing the Way: Hayfever

It is definitely lovely to be seeing growth abound in nature at the moment, but for 1 in 5 of the Australian population, this may be accompanied by a groan because it marks the start of the “hayfever season”.

Hayfever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, occurs in people who have a hypersensitive reaction to pollens. It causes symptoms including itchy and runny nose, nasal congestion, red, watery and itchy eyes, itchy throat and sneezing. It can affect concentration and productivity, as well as sleep quality, causing hayfever sufferers to get tired and run down.

In Chinese Medicine, airborne pathogens are caused by “Wind” and if our defensive energy, “Wei Qi”, which is essentially our immune system, is functioning well, we are not affected by the Wind and will not have hayfever. What Chinese Medicine can do is strengthen the Wei Qi before the hayfever season begins, reducing the severity of the symptoms and over several seasons, the symptoms can be eradicated altogether! However, having acupuncture and Chinese herbs during the season can still decrease the intensity of the symptoms.

The following are a few acupoints you can use on yourself when you’re feeling some of the woes that are hayfever! Press each point for 30 seconds, relax the face and breathe deeply. The points, when being pressed correctly, should feel a bit achey.

BL2 (Zanzhu “Gathered Bamboo”): A small bony depression at the end of your eyebrow (your “bamboo”) near the bridge of your nose.

BL2 Zanzhu
ST2 (Sibai “Four Whites”): A small bony depression below the pupil, found by placing your finger on the bottom edge of the eye socket and slipping the finger down slightly.

ST2 Sibai
LI20 (Yingxiang “Welcome Fragrance”): Slightly sidewards from your nostrils and pushing up towards the bridge of your nose (for some welcome fragrance).

LI20 Yingxiang
LI4 (Hegu “Joining Valley”): On the back of your hand between your thumb and index finger (the valley), found by bringing the thumb to the index finger and pressing towards the index finger into the high point of the muscle bulge.

LI4 Hegu
Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to press BL2, ST2 and LI20, all at the same time on both sides, whilst getting that good ache!