Friday, 28 June 2013

Acupuncture & Sleep: Look after your Baby-Yin time (the importance of naps)

I love a good nap. Honestly, it’s the best part of my day. I feel that energy slump in the afternoon, and I know what time it is, it’s Nap Time!

In Traditional Chinese Medicine this is called ‘Baby Yin time’. After midday, as we head towards the night, the energy of the day becomes a bit slower, more relaxed, and more nourishing. This is coming into Yin time, where we do more restful activities, sleep, hang out a little more, consolidate our resources and spend our time wisely.
The energy of the morning is Yang; it is vibrant, bright, full of energy, we should be well rested from a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast, we do our most active work here.

So after your active, productive morning, it’s time for a good lunch at 1pm, something cooked and wholesome. Then it’s Baby Yin time baby. And you know what time that is, it’s sleep time. While lunch is digesting, this is when it’s important to ‘rest and digest’ let your digestive system work on those nutrients you have just taken in, ready to support you through the rest of the day.

Why is a nap important? an Acupuncture perspective

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is important to not ‘power through’ the afternoon. This wastes our Yin energies. These are our reserves and can be burnt up quickly if we do not value rest as much as productivity and action. Yin-Deficiency can present itself with symptoms such as general dryness (skin, excessive thirst), insomnia, tiredness/exhaustion, dizziness, and later hot flashes. Yin is further wasted by excessive consumption of Yang substances such as coffee and alcohol. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine helps to bring Yin and Yang back into balance.

Cultivating the perfect nap

Ideally your afternoon nap would be max 15mins long. Any longer than that and you enter REM sleep and wake with what is called ‘sleep inertia’, meaning you will be groggy, cranky and seriously in need of a kick-starter like coffee, as well as interfering with your night-time sleep. I find 10-15 minutes perfect. It lets my mind relax for just long enough that I feel rested and ready for the afternoon. It's also a good habit to sleep at the same time everyday, for the same length.

Science says

Research supports the idea that a little nappy nap is good for you:

-a 2002 Harvard study suggests that a daily nap reduces the risk of dying of heart disease by up to 30%!

-much research is available on power naps and productivity. A 10 minute sleep in the afternoon has been proven to increase alertness, attention to detail, and productivity back to the levels of the morning.

-a nap is better than coffee in terms of alertness. Caffeine makes you feel more wired, but more likely to make mistakes and produce faults of memory. A short sleep just keeps you fresh.

My last thought of the day…wouldn’t the world be a better place if every afternoon, as a planet, we all took our blankies, lay down on a nice soft bed, and took care of our Baby Yin :)

Helena Nyssen
Ba. Applied Science (TCM)
Dip. Remedial Massage

Helena is a registered Chinese Medicine Practitioner, and Remedial Massage Therapist at Journey Healthcare at Norwest, Castle Hill.
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Monday, 29 April 2013

Dry-Needling; I can’t believe it’s not Acupuncture

Dry-Needling; I can’t believe it’s not Acupuncture

Acupuncture and Dry-Needling are 2 vastly different practices, but to the everyday patient, they seem kind of the same, both involving the insertion of small needles into the skin to relieve an ailment. So what is the difference?


ACUPUNCTURE; The practice of inserting fine needles into the skin and muscles of the body to benefit health and relieve a variety of ailments.
            Acupuncture works within the framework of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM); a whole health system. Acupuncture has been practiced for over 2000 years and has a long history of efficacy. As acupuncture works on a holistic and broad model, it is used to treat a wide variety of illnesses, ranging from pain, to disorders of the digestive, reproductive, psycho-emotional, respiratory system, and more.
            In Australia, Acupuncturists are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency as Chinese Medicine Practitioners. They are required to have a minimum Bachelor degree, usually taking about 4 years and requiring over 400 hours of clinical practice, or a 3 years graduate-entry Masters qualification (or equivalent).

DRY-NEEDLING (aka myofascial dry-needling, intra-muscular stimulation); involves the insertion of fine needles (acupuncture needles are used) into the skin and muscles to relieve pain.
            Depending on the technique, these needles may be inserted deeply into the muscles, or superficially into the skin above a trigger point (trigger points are those knots your massage therapist tries to beat out of you). The technique began in the 70’s when it was observed that inserting a solid needle into the skin above a trigger point was just as effective at relieving pain as injecting an analgesic into the point, hence ‘dry-needling’ rather than ‘wet-needling’.
            Most often practiced by Physical Therapists such as Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, and Remedial Massage Therapists, the minimum amount of study to become a qualified dry-needler is         2 days, with a pre-requisite physical therapy or medical degree.

Physical Therapists who practice dry-needling (DN) maintain that they aren’t doing acupuncture because DN utilizes the theory of biomedicine (circulation, prostaglandins, inflammation, fascial release, etc) and not of TCM. However the actual mechanism of action of DN, biomedically speaking, is still unclear, and based more on clinical observation than anything else. In fact, most of the research behind DN is actually acupuncture research.

Now to the real point…

  • An Australian study found that the risk of pneumothorax (piercing the lung) when acupuncture was administered by medical practitioners was twice that of when performed by traditionally trained acupuncturists (Bensoussan, 2000).
  • Between 2000-2011 there have been 86 fatalities worldwide related to acupuncture/dry-needling (none in Australia, incidentally). All articles conclude that these deaths could have been avoided with adequate training (Janz, 2011).
  • The World Health Organization Guidelines on Acupuncture recommend doing acupressure instead of acupuncture if the practitioner is not prepared to complete a full 2500 hr programme of study because of the high risk associated with a brief training time (WHO GBT 1999). Most DN training courses in Australia fall between 16-36 hours, with little of this being practical. Thus placing them firmly in the ‘high risk’ category.

Since 2012 in Australia, the title ‘Acupuncturist’ is reserved for those who hold the relevant qualifications. However, there are no regulations on those who practice ‘dry-needling’.

Incidentally, the practice of needling trigger points to relieve local pain is well known in TCM. They are called Ah Shi points and have long been used in Acupuncture as part of wider treatment of meridian points and organ pathology.

When asked if they have had acupuncture before, many of my new patients will respond with, “oh yeah my physio does a little bit of acupuncture”. While it’s possible that your physio is also a qualified Chinese Medicine Practitioner, it’s more likely that they actually do ‘a little bit of dry-needling’, and as we can see, the difference in training and risk is vast, while the actual clinical technique is very similar.

As one of my patients so eloquently put it, “Isn’t saying ‘I do a little bit of acupuncture’ like saying ‘I do a little bit of surgery’? You’re either a surgeon or you’re not a surgeon, right?”

….Well yes, quite.

And you’re either an acupuncturist or your not an acupuncturist as far as I and the research is concerned.

It’s important to be educated. Next time you are offered any form of invasive therapy such as needling, enquire as to the practitioner’s qualifications and experience before consenting to the procedure.

Helena Nyssen
Ba. Applied Science (TCM)
Dip. Remedial Massage

Helena is a registered Chinese Medicine Practitioner, and Remedial Massage Therapist at Journey Healthcare in Leichhardt NSW. You can visit Journey Healthcare at or call on 0404 0505 13. We look forward to hearing from you!


Janz, S., Adams, J. (2011). Acupuncture by another name. Australian Journal of Chinese Medicine, 6(2), 3-11.

World Health Organization. Guidelines on Basic Training and Safety in Acupuncture. 1999 [cited April 9 2011]. Available from: <>.

Bensoussan A, Myers SP, Carlton A-L. Risks Associated with the practice of traditional Chinese medicine: An Australian study. Archives of Family Medicine 2000;9(

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Introduction to Gua Sha

Gua Sha (aka as ‘spooning’ or ‘scraping’) is another effective method that we use in TCM to treat a variety of disorders. A form of massage, Gua Sha is used at Journey Healthcare Acupuncture and Massage in Leichhardt to treat pain, tension, muscle stiffness, as well as colds and flus, fever, chills, headache, asthma, bronchitis, among many others.

Chinese Medicine theory states that Qi and Blood should flow smoothly in the channels and muscles for proper functioning of the body. When there is stagnation, deficiency, or blockage, there will be pain and dysfunction.

To help understand the concept of Meridians (channels) and the idea of Qi (energy), imagine a river. When there is a good amount of water, the river flows smoothly and easily. Everything thrives. When there is a heavy rain, the river flows too quickly and too rough, causing damage to the river banks. When there is a large amount of debris in the water, the river’s path will be interrupted, causing flooding. If there is not enough water, the life along the river will not be nourished sufficiently.

Your channels are the river’s path, your Qi and Blood the water. Gua Sha and Acupuncture ensures the flow is kept smooth and even. A popular saying in TCM states, “Big Blockage equals Big Pain, Small Blockage equals small pain, no blockage equals no pain”.

Gua Sha is an appropriate form of treatment when you start feeling that neck pain right before you get a cold, or the knows in your shoulders and back start bothering you. Also for chronic chesty coughs, or bronchitis, fevers and sore throats. During treatment the ‘sha’ will appear as a distinctive reddish bruise, lasting 2-3 days. This is the Heat and Stagnation being released from the muscles and channels.

“if there is an illness, Gua Sha treats it, if there is no illness, Gua Sha strengthens the body”

Helena Nyssen is a registered Chinese Medicine practitioner and Remedial Massage Therapist with Journey Healthcare. We specialise in Acupuncture, Remedial Massage, and Pain Management in Leichhardt NSW. Call 0404 0505 13 to make an appointment.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Traditional Chinese Medicine FAQs

            As a growing industry, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Acupuncture in Australia attract a lot of interest. As a TCM practitioner at Journey Healthcare in Leichhardt, here are some of the questions that I am asked most frequently.

What is it and how does it work?

            Acupuncture is the technique of inserting fine needles into specific points on the body. Acupuncture fits into the wider system of TCM (much like surgery is one technique in the wider understanding of Anatomy and Western Medicine). Herbal therapy, Massage, and Moxibustion (heat therapy) are other aspects of TCM that may be employed to achieve results for the patient.

            In our Leichhardt Chinese Medicine practise, we think of TCM is a whole health system. We understand the body in terms of Qi (‘chi’), Blood, Body Fluids, Yin and Yang, the Meridian (channel) Pathways, the organs and their actions and pathologies, and exterior pathogens (to name a few of the basic theories within TCM).

How do you know where to stick the needles?

            An acupuncture needle is inserted into specific points along the meridians. Each point has certain actions and indications. These points are used to stimulate the body to heal itself.

Does it hurt?

            Acupuncture at Journey Healthcare Leichhardt is very gentle and most people experience it as pain-free and very relaxing. There may be some sensation when the needle is being stimulated, such as heaviness, dullness, a travelling sensation, or a mild tingling. This is called De-Qi and indicated that we have ‘hit the spot’.

Does it work?

            Yes! TCM, Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine have a long history, over 2000 years in fact, of being effective.
            I think of it as 2000 years worth of clinical practise; testing what works, discarding what doesn’t, evolving new techniques, folding in new knowledge. That’s a long clinical trial, and it’s still around and booming. To quote an American statistic 2.1million American adults used acupuncture as part of their health care in 2001…in 2002 that number grew to 8.2million. An impressive jump, and proof that people are voting with their feet on the issue of effectiveness.

            On a personal note, the results I have seen in my own practise in Sydney and from working with others elsewhere prove to me everyday the value of this work. Men unable to stand straight or walk due to acute lower back pain are up and pain free within 10minutes of treatment. Couples able to conceive naturally after years of struggling, children relieved of their chronic asthma…and many more wonderful examples of healing.

Is it safe?

            Yes. In the hands of a registered Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Acupuncture, Massage, Moxibustion, and Herbal Therapy are extremely safe. Your practitioner has a thorough knowledge of anatomy and physiology, as well as TCM theory and practise, making acupuncture a safe option.

            Our practitioners at Journey Healthcare Leichhardt are all fully qualified, registered, and members of the relevant professional bodies. We pride ourselves on our professionalism and dedication to the patient.

What conditions do you treat?

            TCM is very widely applicable. At Journey Healthcare, we have a focus on pain management, including lower back pain, knee pain, injury recovery, sciatica, RSI, frozen shoulder, neck pain and tension, pain due to arthritis, and much more.

            The list of conditions that TCM may help also includes asthma and respiratory issues, weight loss, fertility, menstrual conditions, pregnancy support, addiction, stress and anxiety, depression, colds and flus, paediatric health, as well as much more.

            If you are looking for caring and thorough health care, look no further than TCM at Journey Healthcare in Leichhardt. Call today to book your consultation.

            Helena is a registered Chinese Medicine Practitioner, and Remedial Massage Therapist at Journey Healthcare in Leichhardt NSW.

You can visit Journey Healthcare at
call on 0404 0505 13
feel free to email

We look forward to hearing from you!

Pain and Stagnation

Pain is a limiting factor in life. Many of us live with chronic pain, and it can interfere with our work, our relationships, and our pursuit of happiness. At Journey Healthcare, we believe everyone can be pain free.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), pain has many different causes. These causes are categorised into patterns according to TCM theory. These include Cold Attacking (contracted and stiff muscles, relieved by warmth), Deficiency Pain (chronic, aching, weakness, better for pressure), or Damp Pain (a feeling of heaviness, aching, with swelling), among others.
Your Leichhardt acupuncturist will assess your condition thoroughly to determine your particular pattern, and your treatment will be personalised around this diagnosis.

One common cause of Pain is Stagnation of Qi (Chi) and Blood. Our bodies are designed to move, flow, and change. They do not respond well to lack of movement and sluggishness. In TCM there is a saying; “Where there is free-flow, there is no pain. Where there is pain, there is no free-flow.”

When there is a lack of movement, for example a lack of exercise, or movement of Qi and Blood is impeded due to a trauma (bruising) or other factors such as the presence of a pathogen, a blockage will occur. We call this blockage Stagnation. This condition is extremely common and one we treat at Journey Healthcare in Leichhardt often and with great success.

In cases of pain caused by Qi Stagnation, the nature of the pain will be localised, have a distending quality, and feel worse for pressure. Blood Stagnation is more of a sharp pain and feels as if it is ‘boring in’. There may be bruising present and it feels worse for pressure. Often Qi Stagnation and Blood Stagnation will be combined.

To relieve pain, increase mobility, ease tension, and speed healing this stagnation needs to be moved. TCM employs different techniques, depending on your pattern differentiation. Acupuncture, guasha (scraping), cupping, moxa, and massage are all extremely helpful and effective.

If you experience pain, and the symptoms of Qi and Blood Stagnation sound familiar to you, TCM can help. Conditions that respond extremely quickly to treatment include sciatica, lower back pain, frozen shoulder, RSI, old or recent sports injuries, and many others.

We hope to see you soon, so we can help to get you pain-free and back pursuing your happiness.

Helena Nyssen
Journey Healthcare

Helena is a registered Chinese Medicine Practitioner, and Remedial Massage Therapist at Journey Healthcare in Leichhardt NSW. You can visit Journey Healthcare at
call on 0404 0505 13

We look forward to hearing from you!