I love this photo. It’s very cheeky. It makes me think of the sort of thing that could happen when you get a group of Chinese medicine practitioners together at a dinner party, perhaps during the washing up.
So what is cupping and when do we use it?
I’d like to say at this point, I do use a professional cupping set! The cups themselves are either glass, plastic or bamboo. Traditionally, practitioners used a flame to create a vacuum effect which ‘sucks up’ the tissues which is known as fire cupping. Although I was taught this method, I prefer the ‘health & safety’ version of a plunger that attaches to a valve on the cup. I personally feel it gives me more control of the amount of suction I use.
Applying the cups ‘sucks up the tissues’ separating the muscle fascia and allowing the blood and fluids to move more freely in the tissues and muscles. In the old Chinese medicine texts, they talk about ‘drawing out the pathogenic evils’ a term I like actually. However, ‘mobilising the blood flow’ is probably a term we can better understand.
I use cupping a lot in my practice. Most commonly, for tension in the upper back and shoulder area. What I find is that cupping releases the muscle tension quickly, more so than deep tissue massage (which is great, don’t get me wrong). Cupping is also very helpful when patients have a chest infection, bad cough etc.
What happens at a treatment then? Is it uncomfortable? What about those marks?
A common presentation is where the upper back is tight and painful, probably with restricted movement in the shoulders and neck. I will usually apply some massage oil which allows me to slide the cups covering a large area. Most patients find their mobility improves straight away and continues to improve further over the next few days or so. In cases where patients have been unwell with a lung/chest related problems, the treatment will be more conservative. I would probably just leave the cups in situ for a short time.
A good practitioner will always be checking in with their patient to ensure they are comfortable. I find that patients are happy with an acceptable level of discomfort. The best example being when you have muscle tension and someone gives you a bit of a massage. It’s kind of a bit uncomfortable but feels good. I consider that ‘therapeutic discomfort’. Similarly, the next day muscles feel a bit sore but movement is better, same as after an exercise work out.
The marks produced can look a bit dramtic and for those unfamiliar with Chinese medicine, they can look a bit scary. As a rule, the darker the cupping mark, the more stagnation is present. What we see over the course of a few sessions is that the resulting marks become much less, to the point where no marks appear indicating the tissues are healthly.
Cupping is generally very safe however I would urge patients to check their practitioner has the appropriate training. There is an art to effective cupping and an appropriateness to it’s application. When and where and how much to use it comes from good training and experience.
If like me you’ve not got the time to make the full blown Christmas cake or perhaps more importantly you really don’t need the extra calories the Christmas season brings, these are an easily digestible, gluten free, fat free, low sugar… yumscious alternative.
Here’s my recipe!
100g sugar (any kind, & you can get away with a bit less in my opinion)
160g Rice flour
140g ground almonds
140g grated carrot (or whizz in food processor if feeling lazy)
140g Sultanas (feel free to add additional fruit)
Zest & juice of 2 oranges
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
The first step is to whisk together the eggs & sugar at high speed for a good few minutes until it’s a thick foamy consistency. Once that’s done, the rest of the ingredients need to be folded in with as little faffing as possible so it’s a good idea to weigh out the ingredients beforehand, grate the carrot, zest the oranges etc
The sultanas could be soaked with the orange juice, zest, spice & perhaps a glug of brandy if you wish.
Once all the ingredients are combined, spoon into cake/muffin cases & bake for approx 25mins at 180º. This recipe is enough for 12 medium-sized muffins or 10 heftier ones. Leave to cool then drizzle some simple icing over the top (2 tbsp water with as much icing sugar as it will take was enough to do 12 muffins). Finish with a bit of edible glitter perhaps?
It’s Sunday afternoon in the middle of February. It’s raining. You’re lying on your sofa in front of the fire eating a bag of crisps. You come across “the ultra-challenge for charity” and it seems like a great idea. You’ve still got a bit of ‘xmas belly’ so it will be good to get fit. Talking to other participants along the way that’s how many of them ended up signing up to the challenge.
In the beginning, I’d planned to raise money for a small local charity who were keen at first. I paid my registration fee and started thinking of strategies to raise the money. However, the local charity, realising this was “a corporate style” charity event pulled out and I felt completely dejected. When I gave it more thought, I wondered if actually it was for the best. 100k is a long way!
When the earthquakes struck in Nepal, I took a different view. It was heartwrenching to imagine the devastation. So, decision made. I’d do the walk for Nepal. I figured if I couldn’t raise the money (you have to promise to raise a minimum amount) then I’d just bloody donate it from the business…tax deductable right? (actually I have no idea).
My first training walk was a ‘quick 10 miler’. Wivenhoe and back. I didn’t eat breakfast and I wore my trainers without socks…er yeah? I started using the Ordanance survey map subscription thingy to plot some routes. Off I trotted to North station to get the 7.30am train to Manningtree. I felt like a right numpty dressed up in my walking boots and rucksack. Most of the people on the station were coming home from a night out. I remember my first ‘big walk’ along the Stour valley. It was boiling hot, I ran out of water, got lost, got sunburnt. Totally hacked off!
So I did it again the following week. My navigation skills were a bit better this time and as the weeks went on I got into a good routine of getting up, making sandwiches and assorted snacks and getting the miles in. There were often moments of doubt. It can be difficult to keep your motivation going, especially when doing it alone. My lowest point was squatting in a hedge for an ’emergency poo’. Dicky tummy. In the rain. Grown Women.
I was so nervous in the couple of weeks running up to the event. My final training walk, 30 miles through Rendlesham forest and a bit along the Suffolk coastal path went well and I felt good. My fear was making a plonker of myself on the day. I’m a plump, perimenopausal Woman, not really your ‘Ultra-challenge’ kinda type.
I went to London the day before the event to register early and stayed at a right dodgy hotel in Hackney. I ate a can of cold beans & a banana for breakfast. People kept telling me “eat protein”. They gather you up before the start and we had to do a bit of a zumba warm up… all a bit surreal to be honest.
The first 25k was along the Lea valley canal. Beautiful. A lot hotter than any of us expected. I enjoyed my time talking to a lovely guy who was no stranger to extreme events. He was doing it with his son who had to be at a wedding the next day. (not his own I might add). Later as the stream of people started to thin out, I suddenly felt quite alone as I realised most people were walking in small teams. I felt a bit emotional. What really got me though was when a young guy with real purpose walked past me. On the back of his rucksack he had a picture of his Dad. I don’t remember the charity, but it got me.
I’ve never sufferred with injuries before. The last training walk I’d done however, I’d had a bit of a twinge in my knee just in the last few miles as I power walked back to the car because the sun was setting. At about 20k, I really started to feel the same sensation on the outside of my knee. It worried me a bit, so at the 25k rest stop, I applied a Zhui Feng Gao herbal plaster and took 200mg of ibuprofen. I can’t remember the last time I took painkillers and I couldn’t think how much you’re supposed to take. It may have been placebo or simply having a bit of a sit down at the rest stop but I felt better.
Over the next 25k however, my knee was getting worse. I texted my partner to ask him if he’d drop off some walking poles at the 50k rest stop. I knew it was about an hours drive away from our house. My knight in shining armour did exactly that, even stopping at Go Outdoors to buy a couple of poles for me. It was good to see him. I troughed down some minging pasta stuff and potatoes, chucked an apple and a flapjack in my rucksack, popped another few ibruprofen, assured by my partner I could safely take 6 in 24hrs!
It was starting to rain now and getting dark. We were given glosticks to attach to our rucksacks and instructed to put on our headtorches and departed in groups across the fields. The route was a lot more remote now. The next rest stop was only 6k away in a local primary school. Quick cuppa and more flapjack and fruit. I was noticing now that many were beginning to struggle. There were some nasty looking feet being strapped up with compeed and bandages. Many had pained expressions. Knees, hips, feet…ouch.
The next section of the walk was pretty bad. It was raining yet really humid. We walked across muddy fields, glosticks marking our way. Despite it being a full moon, the cloud was heavy so it was dark. The line of walkers was thinning out now and there were times when I was completely alone. 15k seemed to take forever. It was now around 2-3am. I was practically halucinating. Everyone was struggling. At one point there was a group of us just sat in the middle of a field complaining about how shit we felt. I was in agony now by this point. More bloody flapjack.
A group of us got a bit of rhythm going. I was apologising to everyone for my loud satisfying farts. Bloody pasta. Apparently it was affecting us all the same.
Around 4am we got to the rest stop. The girl in front of me let out huge sobs which started a few more off. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. The scene in the tent was pure carnage. There were piles of people in survival blankets. Some just fast asleep, some shivering and wide eyed. Others just wandering about aimlessly. I knew I had to eat. We were offerred bacon or sausage rolls. I could have hurled. Despite being in quite a lot of pain I had a really good laugh here with some now familiar faces. It was a ridiculous scenario.
The next section was now on country lanes and I snuck off on my own not wanting to wait for a group. I’d been looking forward to seeing the sun come up and had intended to get a photo but honestly…I really couldn’t be arsed. You couldn’t see the sun anyway as it was still so overcast. I had to keep taking little rest stops as my knee pain was intense. A log, a bus shelter, a bench, just for a few minutes to rest my knee.
A small hill got the better of me. By this point I was struggling to put much weight on my knee. To get up the hill, I had to use both poles to support me and I put all my effort into it and promptly felt really faint. I lay on a bench by the side of the road having just passed the 80k point and having one of those cold sweats. I confess I’d taken 8 painkillers by this point which was stupid. As I lay there, mud up my trousers, I realised how awful I smelt. Sweat and possibly a bit of pee? A girl appeared and started chatting to me. Her mate was walking, duck footed wearing bright socks and flip-flops, her walking boots in her hands. “They’re too hard” she said. I think I mumbled a reply and attempted a smile. I’d text my partner to say I was quitting but he’d been instructed beforehand to talk me out of it.
That final 20k was crazy. By the end, just stepping down a curb was beyond words. There was applause and cheering as I reached the finish and I felt really emotional and welled up. Ungraciously I looked away from the crowd to prevent myself crying. I was given a t-shirt and a medal and offerred a glass of champayne which I declined. Thank god there was a lift to get you to the first floor where the physios were. I think a flight of stairs would have been the final straw.
4 days on and my knee is still painful. It’s getting better though and it’s a good experience for me as a practitioner to investigate the best treatment options. ‘Runners knee’ they call it. Bugger, I’m off on a walking holiday in 10 days time.
So was it worth it? Yes! It looks like I will have raised around £700 for the Disasters Emergency Committee and I’m so proud. I’ve been following the work that’s being done in Nepal. Sometimes it’s just simple things like setting up space for the elderly in the community to meet or childrens groups as well as medical aid, building work, helping people get information on family, the list is endless.
I can’t thank people enough for the donations. I’m aware there are many of these type of events. It’s an unfortunate circumstance that the most vulnerable, not only in our own society but worldwide are relient on the generosity and compassion of us all. Governments take note.
I was chatting to a patient this morning about yoga retreats and it led me to reflect back on the ones I’ve been on.
The first one was way back when I first started studying Chinese medicine. It was a fantastically fun bachorlorette phase of my life. I was keen to make big changes in myself and the direction of my life. I booked a yoga holiday in Thailand. I think I was hoping for an amazing life changing spiritual experience. I expected to return home in a zen state, tanned and toned, looking and feeling fabulous.
The reality was a bit different. The venue was changed at the last minute. There ended up being only 4 of us which made the group dynamics a bit odd. One of the girls had a bit of an emotional break down midway through the week and the journey home was a nightmare. I was jetlagged, covered in bites and caught a really bad cold, probably from the plane. Not quite what I planned.
The second one was local to me. I remember there being a few issues with the booking and there were some very strong characters in the group which led me to withdraw a bit as I was desperate for some quiet time. The yoga classes however were amazing. Truly. I remember driving home and realising how incredibly different I felt. I made a note to myself at the time to remember that feeling. I think that experience led me to make some subtle changes in myself and my life.
The last one I went on just before Christmas, was an amazing location. There were some odd things however and the actual yoga itself didn’t really live up to expectation. But…. I met the most amazing group of people. We’ve stayed in touch, chat regularly and have some get togethers planned.
My reflection is to not make too many judgements on these experiences based on my expectations and perhaps thats how we should treat life. I learnt a lot from these retreats. In some ways they were life changing but perhaps not in the way I’d anticipated. I’d definately do it again and recomend to anyone to try it.
I wanted to share this fabulous walk we did over the Christmas holidays. It’s the first time I’ve been to Norfolk and this was probably the best walk I’ve done in a long time.
We parked at the pay and display car park at Sheringham railway station.
We crossed over the railway track and directly behind the toilet block/tourist info building is a bus stop where we caught the CH3 bus to Cley next the sea. Timetable for the Coasthopper bus service can be found here. (The bus only runs hourly at this time of year!)
The bus stop for the start of the walk is the first stop after you see the “Cley next the sea” sign. Across the road from the bus stop is a small road/track which heads towards the sea. About a mile down this track you come across a sign for the Norfolk coastal path pointing to your right along the shingle beach.
The landscape is beautifully stark. To our left stretched the sea and on our right were marshes and mudflats which are home to migrating birds. The first 3-4 miles are actually quite hard going across the shingle. You don’t notice it at first but we soon realised we weren’t covering the miles as quickly as we thought. (Good for toning those gluteal muscles!)
We’d both worn our heavy-duty walking boots as we weren’t sure if the route would be muddy. A few miles in, I was questioning whether I would have better off in my trainers. On balance I think I was glad of my boots as they gave some ankle stability in the shingle and there were parts of the route where we had to pick our way over the edge of the marshes. Could probably get away with trainers if you’re not too fussy about risking a wet muddy foot/feet.
Once past the marshes, to the right can be seen the Muckleburgh collection, just before you reach Weybourne. As you look to your right, artillery can be seen on the skyline (see photo below).
Once past Weybourne, the path becomes a little more undulating as you head along the grassy cliff edge. The firmer ground is very welcome. Plenty of places to sit and ponder with a sandwich and a flask of tea.
It’s worth keeping an eye out for the North Norfolk railway to your right. If you’re lucky you’ll see the steam train go by. (Choo choo). Next, you’ll see the golf course and a final relatively steep short hill will take you to the lookout station just outside of Sheringham where there are plenty of benches to sit and look back over your route.
Once at the lookout station, you need to continue for approximately 1/2 a mile along the coastline via the Esplanade in order to make your way back to the railway station. This is probably where you need a map/ google maps to find your way but there are also lots of signposts.
We did this walk 28/12/13. You can see from the photos it was a beautiful sunny day although the maximum temperature was 7° and with the wind, it was pretty chilly. We were dressed very warmly including bobble hats and gloves and were armed with turkey sandwiches and flasks of tea which were much appreciated.
The route is around 8 miles. It’s essentially an easy walk which is mainly flat and there’s no tricky navigation. Walking on the shingle slows you down a bit in the beginning. With lots of photo stops, tea stops and general messing around/admiring the views stops, it took us nearly 4 hours but could be done much quicker.
Two years ago today, my partner and I were in Paris celebrating my 40th birthday. We had a great time, jumping on and off the metro, drinking hot chocolate outside little café’s, getting lost in the Louvre….
A lot’s happened in the last two years which has brought to the realisation recently that our responsibilities towards our families, specifically our parents have changed. Now it’s time for us to look after them.
It is telling that the report comes from the energised older House of Lords, while it is the young who make policy.
One of the things I notice in my line of work, is how many older people are fobbed off by their GP’s/NHS with the line…”It’s your age….wear and tear…” Most people over 65 who have some sort of muscle/joint pain will be told it’s probably arthritis (often, in my experience without radiographic or blood testing to confirm). They’re told to take painkillers…. The sad fact is that a young fit chap who’s hurt a knee whilst snowboarding is likely to receive better care than an elderly slightly overweight woman with arthritis of the knee. Both are equally important members of society who deserve the same standard of care.
It’s just as important when we’re older to keep exercising. If there are painful joint’s, arthritis etc it is important to keep the musculature strong and supple which doesn’t happen by sitting in a chair. Older people need access to leisure facilities such as swimming, gym…hey even Zumba and should not be put off from doing so by our youth obsessed culture.
We need also to be able to talk openly about dementia and how best to cope with it!
Time to change our attitudes towards ageing. We have to be able to talk openly about the challenges of growing old, keeping ourselves healthy and maintaining dignity and independence. With that in mind, I’m going for a walk in the sunshine and stopping off for tea and cake somewhere.