Casebook: five point practice

 2024 | Practice
Joanne McFarlane
Student Member: Northumberland
When you study acupuncture, nobody tells you how fantastic it feels to hear a patient say that they feel better. Job satisfaction doesn’t even touch the sides – you feel like you’ve won the lottery for somebody else, and they’ve donated a massive chunk of it to you.

I’ve been taught all about managing expectations and ensuring that my statements about acupuncture can be backed up by evidence – but what about trying not to fist-pump the air in front of a patient when a treatment principle works?

The set-up

While studying for my BSc degree at the Northern College of Acupuncture in York, I was allowed to do additional courses in therapeutic massage and a NADA auricular acupuncture. I decided to use these opportunities to exit corporate life and launch a holistic wellness practice. After living in Asia for 15 years, I had experienced all manner of healing treatments and I wanted to bring some of this eastern inspiration to the UK.

I launched Jo Mac Holistic in September 2023 in Morpeth, Northumberland – offering massage, cupping and auriculotherapy. Following NADA’s guidelines, I focused my offering on treating menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats, insomnia, anxiety and stress, brain fog, and general wellbeing.

In the beginning, most of my attention went on marketing rather than how I might feel about giving the treatment. That all changed when patients started entering the clinic. Theoretically, I knew that the ear is a microcosm of the body, and I was taught that the five NADA points could treat a myriad of health issues – but to experience this with a patient was something else.

The patient

Alex (not her real name), a 67-year-old woman, came into the clinic suffering from chronic day and night hot flushes. She had experienced these regularly for 16 years without alleviation. She tried HRT to no avail and stated that I was her ‘last hope’.

As we were about to begin the first treatment, Alex experienced a hot flush. With cheeks visibly reddened, she became anxious, and I observed her body contracting as if she were trying to fight the flush. I asked her to breathe deeply and on exhale imagine releasing the hot flush out. We continued with this pranayama breathing technique until the hot flush subsided.

The whole experience lasted around five minutes and was invaluable to me moving forward. I felt that I had a much clearer understanding of how this was impacting Alex’s daily life. She committed to six weekly treatments, agreeing on some progress measures to document the number of hot flushes when they occurred, their duration and intensity.

Alex returned the following week feeling much the same. Reminding myself of the adage about not expecting a six-pack after one visit to the gym, I told her that the treatment was cumulative – and that our small win that week was no hot flushes during the treatment. I decided to offer her an ear seed on shen men in both ears – to help ease anxiety and allow her to carry on some self-care at home.

Treatment two to three was an absolute game changer. Alex said her overall number of hot flushes had reduced by fifty per cent. They were far less intensive than she’d ever experienced, and she noticed that they were much less severe at night. Shopping and socialising were key triggers for Alex, and she was elated that she’d managed to get around Asda without removing her coat! This was my internal ‘jumps for joy’ moment.

It is now my mission to shout about auriculotherapy from the rooftops

Between weeks three and four, Alex had one notable day flush and a night sweat that soaked her. Interestingly, we had an unforeseen break for a fortnight due to a brief illness and when she returned for treatment five, I wondered if she might have regressed. I was pleasantly surprised to hear she’d had a few light flushes and a night sweat before treatment.

By treatment six, Alex had not experienced a day or night flush in a week. The relief she was experiencing was tangible. She requested a festive break for a month, so treatment seven took place after a longer gap than her previous visits. Alex had started to experience some warm nights again and one social soaking occasion. While I popped in the tiny needles, we agreed that twice a month may be ideal for now.

The mission

Jo McFarlane

For those who haven’t studied NADA auricular acupuncture, the five points used are called the sympathetic, shen men or ‘Spirit Gate’, kidney, liver, and lung.

The sympathetic point regulates the autonomic nervous system, helping with night sweats, anxiety and digestive complaints. Shen men calms the mind and aids insomnia. The kidney point alleviates lower back pain and helps urinary issues but also aids detoxification, hot flushes and fatigue. Promoting metabolic function, the liver soothes irritability, headaches and abdominal issues. Finally, the lung treats respiratory issues and benefits night sweats.

It is now my mission to shout about auriculotherapy from the rooftops, especially since the recent news that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have approved the drug fezolinetant – to be marketed as Veoza – for moderate to severe vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause.

Why consume a pharmaceutical when non-invasive auricular acupuncture offers these results? How revolutionary would it be if this treatment was rolled out on a global scale?

And, for those more seasoned practitioners amongst you – I’m sure that the ear might sometimes be forgotten in amongst the myriad of amazing points and styles available. Next time you have a patient with hot flushes, please remember to ask them to lend their ear!
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