Acupuncture, Tuina & Taiji in London

In this newsletter:

The five noble activities

Yangsheng means nourishing life. Chinese preventative health is about realising the full potential of breathing, resting, eating, exercise and thinking
As we move towards a ‘wellness-orientated’ approach to health we need to focus on the self-regulating nature of the body and draw a connection between our levels of Qi, and how that determines the result of everything we do in our daily lives. Balance, health and energy become the core of our happiness and success. We need to examine the activities in our daily life that produce and/or regulate Qi.

Breathing: The nutrition provided by air through breathing is considered by Daoists even more vital to health and longevity than​  that provided by food and water through digestion – we can survive for weeks without food, but only minutes without air. Breathing is considered to be the bridge between mind and body. In the Orient, breathing is regarded as a science. China has its Qigong and India has Pranayama.

Resting: Sleeping and resting (meditation) is considered the great regulator of the central nervous system. What time to rest; how to rest; what position to lie in; how long to rest for; what time to wake up all contribute to maximising the benefits of rest.

Eating: Food provides direct nutrition and energy for the body. In Asia, food is a science as well as a communal pleasure. Food is traditionally combined to maximize the digestive function and, when we have some basic knowledge of the actions of food, we can use food to regulate our imbalances.

Exercise: ‘The used door-hinge never rusts’. Likewise, regular movement and exercise is vital for your mind and body to regulate Qi. How much exercise; what type of exercise; when to exercise are all important parts of a healthy daily regime.

Thinking: We can all relate to the how emotions affect energy, and the Daoists believed that emotional and psychological factors are important causes of illness. Cultivating morality, not being greedy, minimising worry are all related to our Qi. One should aim for a peaceful state of mind that naturally comes from a balanced state.

The focus of this preventative style of thinking is to start taking more responsibility for our own health. This is about finding time-honoured, low-tech, low-cost positive interventions to higher states of health and wellness. This kind of positive lifestyle is based on routines that include: exercise, meditation, Qi-training, goal setting, healthy diet, and beneficial sexual and work/life practices. In this way the organs will have abundant Qi and function most efficiently and you will feel great physically, spiritually and emotionally. Learn to look more internally, rather than externally, for answers. Focus on what is good for you rather than avoiding what is bad for you!

Taking the pain out of tennis elbow 

Acupuncture combined with massage is effective for tennis elbow. Previous research shows that acupuncture alleviates symptoms in patients with plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee and lumbar pain

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a form of tendinitis. Symptoms are usually pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow, forearm and in the back of the hand. Repetitive motions often lead to lateral epicondylitis such as movement during tennis, weight lifting, painting, typing, knitting and woodwork. The pain typically worsens when lifting, gripping, twisting and straightening the wrist. Conventional medical approaches for treating lateral epicondylitis include physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), icing, bracing, local steroid injections and surgery. Acupuncture and TCM tuina massage have
a historical record dating back over 1000 years. This new scientific experiment using a carefully controlled investigation for examining the efficacy of these ancient modalities confirms the historical record.

The combination group received acupuncture treatment after being massaged on the same day. Each treatment modality was applied once daily for all groups. One course of either massage and/or acupuncture consisted of 10 days. There was a two-day pause following the first course. The entire treatment was 2 courses for a total of 20 treatments.  

The group that received both acupuncture and TCM massage showed the greatest clinical improvements. A total of 20 patients in the combination group were completely cured after the 20 treatments. Another 5 patients made excellent improvement and an additional 5 patients made moderate improvement. One patient in the combination group made no improvement. Occasionally, patients felt uncomfortable after the acupuncture needling for approximately one day, however, the soreness disappeared after one day’s rest. Based on the results, the researchers conclude that acupuncture and massage are effective in treating lateral epicondylitis for athletes and that combining the therapies increases positive patient outcomes.

There is also positive evidence from individual randomised controlled trials, showing that:

  • acupuncture reduced pain in patients with plantar fasciitis (Zhang 2001);
  • electroacupuncture had better therapeutic effects than medication, both in the short and long term, in patients with acute lumbar strain (Yao-chi 2007);
  • acupuncture plus warmed needle relieved the pain of chondromalacia patella (Qui 2006);
  • acupuncture reduced NSAID intake and relieved pain in patients with shin splints (Callison 2002);
  • acupuncture reduced the pain of patellofemoral pain syndromes (Jensen 1999);
  • acupuncture was effective for soft tissue disease (Yuan 1989) (2)

However, acupuncture is not a miracle cure or quick fix. All these studies were based on a course of treatments and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on best practice now recommend that GPs offer a course of 10 sessions of acupuncture as a first line treatment for persistent, non-specific low back pain.

1) Qiu, Yanchun (2014) Comparative Study on the Treatment of Acupuncture and Massage of External Humeral Epicondylitis for Athletes. Journal of Guangzhou Physical Education Institute 34.1

New research: taiji & qigong improve balance

The Chinese have understood the importance of internal exercise for thousands of years, but now these yangsheng (health preservation) movements have jumped through the hoops of western empirical research to prove their worth
More than 37 million people in the world suffer some kind of serious fall every year. Being able to balance requires a coordination of many different things. We need to be able to sense where our body is (proprioception), using vision, sensors in muscles, tendons, joints, pressure on the soles of our feet - and it all has to be coordinated by the brain via the inner ear. Risk factors include being overweight and lack exercise, prescription drugs, medical conditions (neurological and cardiac illnesses) and age.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory “Kidney jing (essence) produces marrow and "marrow is connected with the brain” and “The Kidney opens into the Ear”(1). Kidney jing declines with age, whilst qigong is considered to be the only way to replenish Kidney jing. 

Common medications including non steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain such as ibuprofen or aspirin, antihistamines for allergies and hay fever, as well as sedatives, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and medicines for high blood pressure and heart disease can disrupt our sense of balance.

A new study investigated the benefits of a Tai Chi training  in 32 MS patients who participated in 90 minutes of Tai chi, twice a week, for six months. Results showed that the Tai chi group had improvements in balance and coordination, lower levels of depression and increased life satisfaction compared to the control group that continued to receive only normal treatments.(2)

A recent meta analysis published in the PLoS One medical journal concludes that integrating traditional Chinese Medical Exercise into the treatment plan for Parkinson's disease improves motor function and balance.(3)


A study in 2015 showed that one hour sessions of Tai chi, three times a week, for sixteen weeks, improved postural control and helped prevent falls in a group of elderly people. Another study analysed 7 randomized controls, totalling 1088 patients. The patients were tested for the speed of 'get up and go', single leg stand test and the Berg balance test. The analysis concludes that taiji improved balance control ability, and flexibility in elderly adults.(4)

Finally, when compared to simple exercise programmes (Otago and Stepping On) practicing taiji has been shown to be the most cost-effective in terms of the amount of investment required against the savings in medical costs.(5) 

1) Ilza Veith (2002) The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine

Taiji Fan summer course

Summer school at Morley college sees the return of the two-week taiji fan course.
Enrol here

Acupuncture at Breathe:
20% off block bookings

Summer offer for new patients in June and July  
Book here

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