Friday, 27 March 2015

Psoriatic Arthritis: Second Time Acupuncture, Cupping & Moxibustion

Good Day Everyone,

Last Friday I went for my second session with my Japanese therapist for some more complementary medicine/therapies. I could not believe the difference the first session had made to my left shoulder. A week later and that shoulder was still feeling great. There was barely any tension or tightness. I've also found that I sleep really well on a Friday night after my sessions.

In last week's session the therapist started by asking me how I was feeling, specifically with regards to my problematic left shoulder. I informed her of the huge, positive, difference the first session had made to my left shoulder and explained that I was struggling with the pain in my right shoulder and collar bone joint. Also the arthritis in my right wrist and thumb was particularly active.
Acupuncture needle in my foot
She started this second session, very much like the first one, with me lying on the massage bed facing up and her examining my stomach and then poking it in several places with an acupuncture needle. She then examined the rest of my body in detail and focussed a lot on my spine. After this I spent the next hour or so face down as she did acupuncture on various parts of my body including my head, neck, shoulders, and ankles. She did focus more on my right shoulder given that that was my problematic area currently. I apologies in advance for the quality of the photos as they were taking using a phone rather than my camera.

Acupuncture needle in my head
Like the previous week, she used Moxa patches on my ankles.  In the photo below you can see the Moxa patch on my ankle burning away. As the stub burns further down, the metal part of the base/patch does get quite hot so if the therapist hasn't taken it off by that stage then I'll usually say 'hot' in Japanese and she'll immediately remove it. She also uses a 'cigarette' version of the Moxa patch and sort of pushes the warm ash into certain places on my back after she's pierced it with an acupuncture needle.
You can listen to my experience of my second session in the video below as well as how it left me feeling afterwards and again three days post-session. In the video I also talk about my first ever experience of the wet cupping (also known as blood letting) that the therapist did on the back of my neck.

As she wrapped up the session the therapist stuck these acupuncture plasters on various parts of my body. As you can see from the photo below, the plaster has a raised nodule in the centre and inside it is a very fine, short acupuncture needle.
Single needle acupuncture plaster
I removed these acupuncture plasters a few days later and I tried to capture a photo of the needle at the center just to show you what it looks like. You'll have to excuse all the fluff that's on the sticky part of the plaster in the photo below.
In case you are wondering, my sessions typically last around 80-90mins. The first one cost 8,950 Yen and all subsequent sessions cost 6,700 Yen, which is actually cheaper than a massage.

I'll be honest, I am struggling to fully understand how exactly these therapies are working and you may think that there is an element of the placebo effect, but I am actually feeling a reduction in not only the tightness in my muscles and joints, but also a reduction in my pain, and there's no mistaking when I'm in pain. The way I look at it is that at least there are no real side effects to these therapies unlike modern pharmaceutical drugs and even if I don't understand how they are working, I will continue to explore these therapies for as long as they are having a beneficial effect. I only wish I'd started to explore them a few years earlier, but hey, you live and learn ;o)

Have you ever tried acupuncture or any other complementary therapies? What was your experience?

Love Sheen xxx
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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

JVlog #11: Js Pancakes & Demolition

Good Day Everyone,

I am so happy to finally be over my recent arthritic flare. This weekend was the first time in a very long time where I actually woke up feeling good. I seem to sleep really well (well for me, anyway) after my session with the Japanese therapist. 
Even though the weather wasn't great hubby and I headed out to one of our favourite pancake places for breakfast. As it was the Spring equinox weekend there were long queues, as often tends to be the case for food places on the weekend. But these pancakes were so amazing that they were definitely worth the wait, and a total treat for me. I have to be so careful with my sugar intake as sugar is the number one food irritant for my arthritis and it's something I have to avoid completely when I'm having a bad flare.

The weather is definitely turning more spring like. The pink magnolia trees have blossomed and look absolutely beautiful. It's making me excited for the cherry blossom festival. After breakfast we headed of to get hubby a hair cut and came across some serious demolition that is going on near where we live. We've not seen a lot of construction since we've been in Japan, which to be honest has been a welcomed change from Singapore, where we felt we were living on a building site for three of the three and a half years that we were there.
Poor hubby struggles to get a good hair cut in Japan, as you'll see from the below video.

After a mooch around the shops we came home as the weather was turning and although we had planned to go for dinner, I completely crashed and burned after five hours of being outside. Unfortunately, my arthritic body is only able to cope with just a few hours of activity each day before the exhaustion becomes too much for me. Nonetheless, it was wonderful just to be out and about again, and not be in as much pain as I have been recently.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend too.
Love Sheen xxx

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Friday, 20 March 2015

Psoriatic Arthritis: First Time Acupuncture, Cupping & Moxibustion

Good Day Everyone,

If you've read my previous post then you'll know that I've had a very tough and painful few weeks with my recent arthritic flare. I cannot put into words the fatigue and exhaustion I have felt lately, not to mention the excruciating pain, sleep deprivation and breathing difficulties. Arthritis is sooo much more than a few aches and pains!

In my desperation to manage this flare I dramatically upped my pain did nothing! I went for three massages in one week in the hope that they would alleviate my spinal and shoulder pain but again this was unsuccessful.
Acupuncture needles in my hands
So I finally bit the bullet and decided that nothing could be worse than the pain Arthur (aka arthritis) has been causing me, not even the pain (or fear rather) of needles and started to explore complementary medicine, namely acupuncture and cupping.

In this video, I talk about my first ever experience of not only acupuncture and cupping but also something call moxibustion. In a bid to save my arthritic fingers from unnecessary typing I wont repeat what I discuss in the video but I'll leave a few links down below to where you can find more information about these three therapies, in case you're interested in them.

Oh and by the way, in case you were wondering... I cannot believe HOW MUCH BETTER I feel after just one session and I'm now KICKING myself for letting my phobia of needles and pain get in the way of trying these therapies sooner! But at least I seem to be turning a corner and finally feeling human again :o).

Love Sheen xxx

More about acupuncture here
More about cupping here
More about moxibustion here
Watch moxibustion in action here

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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

This Too Shall Pass

Good Day Everyone,

For the last few weeks I have been struggling more than usual with Arthur (aka arthritis). I don't know what's made him so angry that he's flared up this badly, but I do know that he's not happy and he's not shy in letting me know. One of the hardest things about living with this autoimmune disease is not knowing what my trigger is. If I knew what was causing my body to react in this manner then I could work to reduce, ideally eliminate it. As with most autoimmune diseases, the trigger could be anything from a chemical that I am exposed to which could be in my makeup, toiletries, food or environment to a genetic component or even stress... there is simply no knowing. And that is one of the most frustrating things.

The pain in my neck/spine, shoulders, collar bones and hip joints is driving me crazy. It leads to many sleepless nights and living with chronic pain is sooo much more difficult when you're constantly sleep deprived. Seriously, when I've had a decent night's sleep I'm like Mary Poppins on Pro Plus, the high is so great that I feel like I could conquer the world (even if in reality I'm still in bed by 8pm ;o)). The difference in my mood and personality is profound...just ask my hubby.
Its no wonder that people living with chronic pain and disease are more likely to suffer from depression. I know from experience how easy it is to fall into a downward spiral of depression, negative thoughts and self sabotage. The battle is not only physical but mental too. There's this little voice inside my head that questions the value of every good, yet difficult, thing that I do when doing it hasn't stopped this disease from progressing! It hurts to exercise but I need to exercise daily to maintain my mobility and flexibility because if I don't, my joints start to seize up and my movement becomes restricted even further. It takes an awful lot of mental strength and will power not to give into that voice and just spend my days lounging on the sofa in my pjs. It also takes a lot of (mental & physical) energy to be positive and happy when I'm in such severe pain.

Chronic ill health is like a full time job and more. I have to work at it constantly, every single day of the week. So even though I'm in pain and particularly fed up at the moment, I still work hard to eat as cleanly as possible, I still try to exercise daily, and I still try to actively manage my mental health. A positive mindset has a huge effect on one's physical health, and vice versa. I don't do all of this to make Arthur better, (although I live in hope), rather I do it to not make myself worse, to avoid that downward spiral that I feel is always calling my name.

Hope is something that I will never give up. After spending a decade of my life living with the most awful scalp psoriasis, fearing I'd never know what it is like to have a normal scalp again. Feeling complete and utter despair at having to spend hours each day treating and managing this affliction, I now have a scalp that is 95% clear. It took 10 years but I finally got there and that is why I will never give up hope... some things that we want so desperately do come to us, it just takes a while!

As well as hope and prayers, I also have certain motos/mantras that I remind myself of when going through a tough time such as the title of this blog post. I know from experience that bad times will pass, I just have to be patient. Time doesn't stand still for anyone so if things are bad, never give up hope because they will change... time will bring that change. Likewise, if things are good then treasure and value them because it could all change in the blink of an eye.
So in a bid to keep my sanity through this bad patch, I've been getting up each morning and going for a walk along the seafront. This not only forms part of my daily exercise but I find being outdoors very therapeutic. Seeing the morning sun glistening on the water with the birds chirping in the background is very calming. Everyday I notice different trees budding, new flowers blooming and that gets me excited for spring, it gets me excited for the change that I know is around the corner, it gets me excited for when I will feel better :o).

Love Sheen xxx
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Friday, 13 March 2015

JVlog #10: Yokohama Dining - New Ali Baba (Turkish Food)

Good Day Everyone,

Things have been pretty quiet at our end lately due to me having a bad arthritic flare. However, hubby and I did manage to catch up with a friend of ours last month. We headed out to a lovely family run Turkish restaurant called New Ali Baba in Nihon-Odori, here in Yokohama.
It's a very small, intimate place where the owner and his family make the food fresh to order. Hubby and I have eaten at this particular restaurant several times as it's one of the very few places that serves halal meat.

I love the warm and cosy decor of colourful lanterns, Turkish tiles and cushions. Twice a week they have a Japanese belly dancer and we just happened to go on one of those nights. As you'll see in the video below, the Japanese gentlemen on the table next to us, really got into the spirit of things ;o).

Love Sheen xxx
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Friday, 6 March 2015

JVlog #9: Japanese Supermarket Shopping

Good Day Everyone,

In this week's Japan vlog I take you grocery shopping with me to our local supermarket here in Japan. Most supermarkets in Japan tend to be based in the basement section of the shopping malls, rather than stand alone stores, like we often have in England.

The supermarkets themselves are quite different to the ones back home. The ones in Japan tend to focus predominantly on the 'food' items, unlike stores in England which often sell items ranging from clothes and shoes to gardening tools and household appliances...a sort of 'everything all under one roof' kind of thing. Items such as cleaning products, detergents and toilet tissue etc whilst available in the supermarket, the space dedicated to them is very small. I don't actually recall ever seeing shampoo, conditioner and body wash etc in our local supermarket, apart from in a small travel kit available by the checkout, as most people go to the drug store for such items.

The supermarkets in Japan tend to be a lot smaller than in England. Most don't have large shopping trolleys, instead you have a little hand basket which you either carry or wheel around in a small trolley. Our local supermarket has a fishmongers in store and the fish section is in fact one of the larger sections of the supermarket, as you may expect in Japan :o).

I've yet to see an in store bakery. In fact the bakery section is one of the smallest sections of the supermarket and in our local one you can't really buy anything much more than basic white bread. It's hard to come across the range and diversity in bread that we have in England where you can buy anything from gluten free to multi-grain. Shopping malls do often have separate bakery stores in the food halls where you can buy a wide variety of bread based products such as baguettes, sweet and savoury pastries, and bread rolls. However, it's rare to find anything that's not made from the white constipation inducing stuff. Living in England and Singapore we rarely ate bread and when we did it was wholemeal multi-grain. However, as our cooking/eating options are much more restricted in Japan due to the lack of an oven/grill and halal food options, white bread has made a forced appearance back into our diet :o(.
With tax, one of these melons costs £24 / $36USD
Fruit is VERY expensive in Japan, especially melons, and some strawberries will cost you £1 per strawberry! In fact, if you watch the video below you can see the groceries I bought, all for the price of ONE melon!

As you would expect there is plenty of rice, noodles, tofu and dried fish options. In fact, where in England you often find sugary drinks and sweets at the checkout, in Japan it tends to be dried fish and nuts. 

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of our local Japanese supermarket :o)

Love Sheen xxx
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