Helen is in her late fifties. She has always been an up beat, vibrant, motivated and independent woman. She runs her own business has brought up four children and often looks after a number of grand children, whilst also maintaining a busy restaurant. Over the past eighteen months things have changed and Helen has become depressed, anxious, tired, despondent and riddled with pain from arthritis. She attributes most of these symptoms to the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the anti depressant medication she had been taking. Helen had been on the HRT for a number of years and had decided to stop taking it six months prior to coming for acupuncture as it seemed to aggravate the minor aches, transforming them to major joint pains. She was very anxious and was not sleeping well. The high doses of anti depressants gave her high blood pressure, anxiety, constipation and pains in her chest which really concerned her.
When Helen first came to me for acupuncture she said that she was unusually anxious and suffering with hot flushes which affected her throughout the day (up to 20 - 25 times in the day) and at night she had to sleep with her arms and legs outside of the bed sheets. The hot flushes were particularly bad in hot and humid weather.
After coming off HRT and reducing the antidepressants, Helen was still in severe pain from arthritis. The main areas of pain were her hips, shoulders fingers and toes. She also had some pain in her ankles but this was not as severe as the other joints. The most debilitating pain that Helen was suffering was in her middle finger on the right. Her regular yoga practice was also suffering as a result of these problems.
She was also seeing a naturopath who was helping her to reduce the anti-depressants and improve her digestion and general health. She had reduced her Effexor daily dose by almost two thirds, but still had chest oppression and irregular heart beats.
Helen said that she needed an immune system and energy boost. She was beginning to find the physical aspect of her job more and more challenging. She normally loved her job but this was beginning to make her unhappy in her work.
Helen was also prone to constipation and had to look after her diet in order to maintain some regularity with her bowel motions. She had always had digestive issues since she was a child, these affected her sporadically throughout her adult life, with stress and the medication being big contributing factors. At the time she was feeling very stressed as a result of all the different health issues she was experiencing and was finding it difficult to contend with other daily stresses that she used to be able to manage easily. She was upset that she had aged so much in such a short period of time.
Helen was enthusiastic and eager to actively engage to change her situation. She had never had acupuncture before and had recently been told great things about it.
Although Helen always felt hot, her abdomen felt quite cold in the lower dantian. I asked Helen to focus on the areas that she had pain. On this occasion she had pain in her right shoulder right middle finger and both wrists, her hips, her lumbar area and her feet were aching. She was particularly busy at work and was finding the physical nature very tiring and wearing her down. She scored her energy level at 4 - 5 out of 10. As I explained to Helen about referencing her pain I continued to palpate in each of the areas on her abdomen that reflect the painful areas she had described. I located an obvious ahshi point in the right St 24 (Huaroumen) shoulder area. Her Ab 2 (wrist) and finger area gave slight granular adhesions which I duly memorised. Her whole abdomen felt a little tight and there was a big depression at Ren 4 (Guanyuan).
I started with the Abdominal Meridian System (AMS) opening treatment “Lotus Flower” which I left in situ for just ten minutes on account of her low energy. I decided that I would not focus on the different areas of pain, but would instead do a more general treatment. I used "Heaven & Earth" Ren 12 (Zhongwan) and Ren 4 (Guanyuan). I also used "Abdominal Four Gates" St 24 (Huaroumen) & St 26 (Wailing) and Sp 15 (Daheng), (see fig 1). I felt that this was a great start to regulate the immune, endocrine and nervous system. It would also nourish the kidneys and calm the heart to reduce the anxiety. Sp15 would help to nourish the joints and clear damp while "Abdominal Four Gates" St 24 (Huaroumen) & St 26 (Wailing) would send Zang Fu Qi throughout her body.
At the end of her treatment she was delighted and could hardly believe how relaxed she was throughout her body. Her joints felt less painful and more flexible. I advised her that she might have a big bowel motion and that if she felt tired to rest. We agreed that we would need to have 2 sessions per week and that I would focus more on the areas of pain as we proceeded.
Fig 1. Illustration of Helen's first abdominal treatment.
Helen returned three days later and when she greeted me at the door she declared that she was cold! She said she had a lot more energy and that the pain levels were reduced, by no means gone, but that the activities that she had to do frequently in the restaurant with her hands were easier to do. She told me that she had felt euphoric and energised but could not sleep the night of her treatment. She had not had any hot flushes and had to keep her feet under the duvet for the first time in a long while!
I am still treating Helen and her progress is amazing. Her pain is down by 80% overall, although the finger joints that are slightly deformed are not perfect they have much better mobility and the stiffness in the morning is reduced. The hot flushes are a thing of the past and the anxiety is minimal. She feels “more chirpy, focused and motivated” her yoga practice is easier although it can aggravate her shoulder and wrists, but that is becoming less apparent with each session. Her blood pressure is regulated with medication and the chest pains have stopped. I will do a more detailed account of this case at a later date, so stay tuned!
HRT and Joint problems www.nhs.uk
Effexor Tablets, side effects www.webmd.com