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Gong Hei Fat Choy

Chinese New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world. It’s the most important holiday in China and to Chinese people all over. Here are 21 interesting facts that you probably didn’t know about Chinese New Year.

  1. 1. Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival

    In China, you’ll hear it being called chunjie (春节), or the Spring Festival. It’s still very wintry, but the holiday marks the end of the coldest days. People welcome spring and what it brings along: planting and harvests, new beginnings and fresh starts.

    Chinese New Year lanterns with the words “Spring Festival”
    Lantern decorations with the words “Spring Festival.”

    You can also call it the Lunar New Year, because countries such as North and South Korea and Vietnam celebrate it as well. And because the Spring Festival goes according to the lunar calendar. Which means . . .

  2. 2. There’s no set date for Chinese New Year

    According to the Lunar calendar, the Spring Festival is on January 1st and lasts until the 15th (the full moon). Unlike western holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, when you try to calculate it with the solar (Gregorian) calendar, the date is all over the place.

    Chinese New Year ranges from January 21 to February 20. In 2019, it occurs on February 5th. For a full list of dates and events check out our Chinese New Year calendar.

    Chinese New Year calendar
    Modern Chinese calendars use the Gregorian calendar but include lunar holidays.

    The lunar calendar is still really important in China, even though it has officially moved to the Gregorian calendar like the rest of the world. All traditional holidays and days such as the Winter Solstice are celebrated. Some people still calculate their birthdays and ages according to the lunar calendar too!

  3. 3. It is a day for praying to gods

    The Spring Festival was originally a ceremonial day to pray to gods for a good planting and harvest season. As an agrarian society, the harvest was everything. People also prayed to their ancestors, as they were treated as gods (see Mulan for reference).

    Chinese New Year food offering
    The best foods are offered to the gods.
  4. 4. and fighting off monsters

    But the myths are much more interesting. According to one legend, there was a monster named Nian (). It would come about every New Year’s Eve. Most people would hide in their homes. But one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers. The next day, people celebrated their survival by setting off even more firecrackers. And that practice became a crucial part of the Spring Festival.

  5. 5. The most fireworks are set off in the world that night

    As in the myth about Nian, firecrackers are supposed to scare off monsters and bad luck. So people stay up on Chinese New Year’s Eve and set off firecrackers at midnight. In the morning, firecrackers are used again to welcome the new year and good luck.

    Chinese New Year firecrackers and fireworks
    Both firecrackers and fireworks sound throughout the night.

    That same night, families also burn fake paper money and printed gold bars in honor of their deceased loved ones. Similar to the Korean Chuseok holiday or the Mexican Day of the Dead traditions, they believe the offerings will bring fortune and good luck to their ancestors in the afterlife.

  6. 6. (but sometimes it’s illegal)

    Due to safety reasons and concerns for air pollution, many Chinese cities have banned fireworks. More than 500 cities have restrictions too.

    But… many people don’t care and they do it anyway. Beijing had banned fireworks for 13 years. The ban was lifted in 2006 because of the angry public.

    If you’re in China during this time, you’ll probably be able to hear and see the explosions for at least 3 nights (and it can go on for weeks).

  7. 7. It is the longest Chinese holiday

    The Spring Festival is technically 15 days. But celebrations start on New Year’s Eve (making it 16 days). You can also say that the holiday season starts in (lunar) December with the Laba Festival (腊八节 / là bā jié). That’s around 40 days of celebrations!

    Chinese New Year shopping mall
    During the holiday, Chinese people spend twice as much on shopping and eating out than Americans spend on Thanksgiving.

    Traditionally, you have to spend time with your family and can only go out after the 5th day. It’s a national holiday. The large majority of stores are closed too.

    So in the month before, people will buy nian huo (年货), or New Year’s products. The Chinese stock up on cooking supplies, snacksgifts, new clothes and more.

  8. 8. The Spring Festival causes the largest human migration in the world

    The most important part of Chinese New Year is the family reunion. Everyone should come back home for the New Year’s Eve dinner.

    But since in modern China, most elderly parents live in rural villages while their children work in the cities. The migration back home and to go on vacation is called chunyun (春运), or Spring Migration.

    Chinese New Year subway station
    Even on normal days, subways to work are jammed pack with people just barely squishing past the door. You can imagine the intensity of the chunyun.

    Plus, the earliest you can buy train tickets is 60 days before. It leads to a mad rush of literally fighting for tickets. In 2015, statistics showed that around 1,000 tickets were sold each second.

  9. 9. Singles hire fake boy/girlfriends to take home

    You know those nosy relatives during Thanksgiving? It’s even worse in China. Especially since having children and passing down the family name is one of the most important parts in Chinese culture.

    Some desperate singles resort to hire a fake boyfriend or girlfriend to take home. Those who can’t (or don’t want to) go home can rent themselves out. For some of the other questions though, such as your salary, career or when you want to have kids, can’t be helped.

  10. 10. No showering, sweeping or throwing out garbage allowed!

    Showering isn’t allowed New Year’s Day. Sweeping and throwing out garbage isn’t allowed before the 5th. This is to make sure you don’t wash away the good luck!

    On the other hand, there’s a day before the Spring Festival dedicated to cleaning. This day is to sweep the bad luck away and make room for the good.

    Chinese New Year closed salon
    Most hair salons are closed during the entirety of Chinese New Year because hair cutting is taboo.

    What else is taboo during Chinese New Year?

    • Hair cutting (before February 2)
    • Using scissors, knives and other sharp things
    • Arguing, swearing
    • Saying unlucky words (such as “death” and “sickness”)
    • Breaking things

    Check out our full list of taboos to learn more.

  11. 11. Children receive lucky money in red envelopes

    In other cultures, children receive gifts for holidays. Gifts are also exchanged during the Spring Festival. But Chinese children receive something else too—red envelopes.

    Chinese New Year red pockets with lucky money
    Depending on the family, the children can get up 1000 CNY (around $150) per envelope.

    Also called red packets or pockets, they include money. This money is supposed to help transfer fortune from the elders to the kids. They can also be given between bosses and employees, co-workers, and friends.

    With the development of technology, digital red pockets are the trend now. People like to send one into group chats and watch the others fight for the money. This is called qiang hongbao (抢红包), or literally “snatching red pockets.”

  12. 12. You eat dumplings for every meal, every day

    Well, technically you’re supposed to. But not many people do that anymore because you can have too much of even the most delicious foods. So most people will eat dumplings during the New Year’s Eve dinner. Others will eat them for the first breakfast.

    Chinese New Year dumplings
    Dumplings with Chinese New Year decorations.

    Contrary to popular belief though, dumplings aren’t popular everywhere in China. It’s more of a northern thing. In the South, people would rather eat spring rolls (egg rolls) and balls of glutinous rice in soup called tangyuan (汤圆).

  13. 13. Chinese New Year desserts have special meanings

    A lot cultures have symbolic foods, such as the Yule Log cake. But so many Chinese New Year desserts have special meanings behind them. And it’s mostly puns in the name.

    Chinese New Year desserts
    Make sure you get your fill of meaningful desserts!

    Take the tangyuan for example. It literally means “soup balls.” But it sounds like tuanyuan (团圆), which means reunion. So it’s no surprise it’s a popular dessert during Chinese New Year.

    Nian gao (年糕) is a type of rice cake. It symbolizes success each and every year.

    Fa gao (发糕) is a the hybrid of sponge cakes and muffins. People dye it festive colors. The fa is the same as in fa cai (发财), which means “to get rich.” And everyone wants that!

    Isn’t it nice to have a better reason to get seconds?

  14. 14. There’s wine specifically for the Spring Festival

    Chinese people love drinking. There’s a saying that there’s no manners and/or etiquette without wine. This means that you need to have wine for every ceremony, festival or important dinner.

    There’s wine for engagement dinners, weddings, birthdays… and of course, the Spring Festival. With such a rich wine culture, it’s no surprise that there is a bunch of drinking games you play. However, it’s not all fun and games.

    When you’re eating with someone older than you, as is the case with New Year’s dinners, you need to follow strict toasting etiquette rules. They include the order of toasts, seating, how you hold the wine glass etc. etc. To learn more read our post on Chinese New Year’s drinks and etiquette.

  15. 15. The Chinese decorate everything red for Chinese New Year

    Every family will deck their homes in this color. Do you remember the story about Nian? Firecrackers aren’t the only thing that scared the monster away. Red is also an invaluable weapon, and used in nearly all Chinese New Year decorations.

    Chinese New Year dragon decorations
    Red is China’s favorite color and it’s pretty obvious during Chinese New Year.

    The Chinese will hang up red lanterns and strings of (real or fake) chili peppers, paste red paper onto doors and windows, and more!

    New clothes are also believed to bring good luck and start over fresh. People will add new red clothing to their Spring Festival wardrobe too.

  16. 16. Every year has a zodiac animal

    Western horoscopes include 12 zodiacs, one for each month. There are 12 Chinese zodiacs as well, but the animal is for the entire year.

    Chinese New Year zodiac animals
    They are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig

    2021 is the Year of the Ox. Some of the animals (such as Rat, Snake, Dog and Pig) aren’t normally well-liked in Chinese culture. But as a zodiac, their positive traits are bestowed on people born that year.

    They play a much bigger role than in Western cultures. Your animal can decide your career, health and relationship success. Make sure you find out what zodiac animal you are!

  17. 17. Your zodiac year is bad luck

    Your benming year (本命年 / běn mìng nián) is the year of your zodiac animal. And of the 12 year cycle, it is the unluckiest for you.

    There are multiple explanations for this. The Chinese believe that children can easily be taken by demons. And your benming year is your rebirth year.

    Chinese New Year jade necklace
    There’s also a mythological creature named Pi Xiu (貔貅) that you can wear as an accessory for good luck.

    During this year, your weapon of defense is the color red. Just as you can decorate your home in red for protection and fortune, you can also wear red clothing. Many people will wear red underwear every day of the year. Others add on red shirts, pants, jewelry, insoles and more!

  18. 18. You grow 1 year older on the Spring Festival

    In China, you have a “real” age (实岁 / shí suì) and a “fake” nominal age (虚岁 / xū suì). The real age is the one we all know about. You grow one year older on your birthday. The nominal age though, increases with the Spring Festival.

    This was the age most people went with until recent times. But it’s still common nowadays, or used interchangeably. If you’re particular about it, make sure you ask!

  19. 19. The New Year greeting in Chinese is “xin nian kuai le”

    The phrase literally means “Happy New Year.” But in Hong Kong and other Cantonese-speaking regions, it’s more common to say “gong hei fat choy.” In Mandarin Chinese, it’s “gong xi fa cai” (恭喜发财). It means “congratulations on the fortune.”

    Chinese New Year calligraphy blessings
    Calligraphy with New Year blessings.

    If you check out other greetings or blessings, you’ll see that most are about:

    • Plentiful harvests
    • Wealth and fortune
    • Health and longevity
    • Having children and large families

    Food, money and health are things that everyone wants. Passing down the family name is of utmost importance. That’s one of the reasons why China has such a large population.

  20. 20. Chinese New Year ends with the Lantern Festival

    The first full moon of the (lunar) year is the Yuanxiao Festival (元宵节 / yuán xiāo jié) or Lantern Festival (灯节 / dēng jié). Though family is still important, it’s still a night of partying and freedom.

    Chinese New Year colorful lanterns
    Lanterns come in all shapes, sizes and colors.

    In ancient times, girls weren’t allowed to venture outside by themselves. But on this night, they were able to walk around, moon-gaze and look at the beautiful lanterns. Because of this, it’s also known as Valentine’s Day in China.

  21. 21. Chinese New Year is celebrated all around the world

    One out of every 5 people in the world is Chinese. But that stat doesn’t include the millions of overseas Chinese and people of Chinese descent.

    Chinese New Year celebration in London
    Spring Festival celebrations in London, UK.

    London, England; San Francisco, USA; Sydney, Australia; all claim to have the biggest Spring Festival celebrations outside of Asia. We’re can’t say if that’s true or not. But if you have a Chinatown nearby, you can definitely get a feel of what the celebrations are like.

    Make sure you go check out the parades, lion dances, lantern statues, fireworks and amazing food!

How Meridian Acupuncture’s treatments are evolving !

Now open for Urgent Care

Following guidance from my governing body the British Acupuncture Council, Professional institutions and Public Health England I am now able to open up to face to face appointments, with certain conditions in place. Please bear in mind that the following is an “evolving guide” outlining who I am able to see, and how I am working hard to keep us safe. I do think there is a serious risk of COVID-19 re-appearing, and hopefully you will be reassured by the steps I am taking, so that the benefits of continuing to have treatments far outweigh the risks.

My full risk assessment and procedures have been based on the British Acupuncture Council’s Guidance for Returning to Work.

Novel_Coronavirus_COVID_guideline

How do I know if I qualify as an Urgent Care patient ? well consider if you:

  • Are in Clinical need  – in pain, have worsening symptoms, is there disruption in your daily life – work, sleep etc.  Maintenance patients will still benefit from coming regularly to prevent acute flare ups, leading to multiple visits
  •  Require urgent help  – a condition that is worsening, concerns over sinister / serious underlying causes
  • without my help may need to access NHS services – by seeing me this would potentially reduce the strain on the NHS

I am now offering video consultations so that I can teach you Acupressure points on your own body, or we can just talk about things that are happening and I can lead you through a guided meditation, whilst simultaneously offering distance healing. Just call me on 0798 398 2232 or alternatively email me at info@meridian-acupuncture.co.uk

Who am I not able to treat face-to-face?

I am not seeing anyone who is shielded / extremely clinically vulnerable or is self-isolating/presenting with symptoms consistent of COVID-19.  If you have co existing health problems, or are in a household with someone who is shielded, or in an extreme risk group please discuss this with us prior to booking.

See NHS sources for further guidance if you are unsure. 

How Meridian Acupuncture’s Treatment Protocols are evolving  during COVID-19

You will recognise that some of the Infection Control procedures below I have followed for years, and some are new.

Initially I’ll ask you to fill in a Pre-Treatment Form. The day before your appointment you will be asked to complete a screening questionnaire, which ensures it is safe for you to attend the clinic.  Unfortunately you will be not allowed entry to the clinic if this is not completed.  Temperature checks may be taken and recorded, though it is acknowledge some people are asymptomatic (so not the best measure).

Please wait in your car or at a safe social distance from other people. This is so that there is only one patient being seen at a time, enabling me to do a full 15minute wipedown of all surfaces. You are invited to wash your hands and/or use the alcohol hand gel provided.

I invite you to bring your own mask and I will be wearing a mask, wipedownable apron, face shield and gloves. If possible, please avoid bringing personal belongings such as handbags, into the clinic.  The only exceptions will be a few toys /iPad needed for children’s appointments. Where this is not possible I will provide a small box with removable plastic bag, so that you can place phones, keys, purses and then take the bag away with you at the end of your session. Please ensure any items brought into the Clinic have been cleaned appropriately before bringing them in.

Track and trace: If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 within three days of having treatment please contact me immediately, so that I can advise the Local Authority and all other patients that I have come into contact with following your visit.

High standards of cleanliness will be maintained

  • Treatment rooms disinfected and aerated between every patient.  Commonly touched areas will be disinfected multiple times a day.      
  • No couch covers or pillowcase covers: This is so that the couch and pillow cases can be wiped down between patients
  • Staggered appointment times: We will be staggering appointment times so patients don’t cross over in the clinic, and a full 15 minute wipedown can be carried out
  • No fleecy blankets will be provided: so if required please bring a clean covering of your own
  • Handwashing: as you know I always wash my hands several times during a treatment
  • My own health: I will be monitoring my health daily, and my temperature will be taken and recorded prior to the working day. I track and trace procedures in place should I become unwell.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact me and we will be happy to discuss it with you.  If you feel there is anything else I could be doing to help you feel more comfortable about treatment at this time, please feel free to let me know.

Thank you for your patience and understanding in these uncertain times.

Master Mantak Chia: How to Protect yourself from Coronavirus – video (14 mins)

#Coronavirus #CoronavirusOutbreak #COVID19 Master Mantak Chia about Protect yourself from Coronavirus “Good hygiene and practise social distancing at home” ⚛️ For ourself, keep our organs and heart is full of joy, our immune system becomes extremely powerful by use inner smile to reduce the confusion, fear and worry greatly reduced. ☯️ #stayingpositive ☯️ Creating a daily health routine to managing your stress.

Boost Your Immunity With This 2-Minute Acupressure Routine

“Acupuncture strengthens natural resistance to disease.”

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/acupressure

I recently came across that sentence when I was leafing through some old notes from acupuncture school. It was underlined twice and highlighted. Although I don’t remember writing it or which of my teachers said it, the words clearly resonated with me at the time. Rereading them now, especially during peak flu season, they still do.

It’s a simple idea and yet profound. Forget endorphins. Forget improved blood circulation. Forget placebo. This is how acupuncture works — by strengthening our natural resistance to disease.

Whether we’re talking about the flu, and hence its immunity-boosting ability, or back pain, acupuncture makes us stronger so that we can naturally resist illness and pain. This is true whether it’s happening due to fired up neurotransmitters or a practitioner with exceptional bedside manner.

In the end, acupuncture works by making us better equipped to cope physically and emotionally.

The Acupuncture Flu Shot

For the above-stated reasons, acupuncture is primarily a preventive form of medicine — it makes us stronger so that we can avoid disease rather than dealing with it after it happens. The following four acupuncture points help strengthen immunity and will improve your chances of avoiding the flu this year. If you’ve already suffered through the flu, these four points will help prevent a recurrence.

In between regular acupuncture treatments — the best way to stay healthy throughout flu season — you can press these points yourself. You also can perform the routine on children or other loved ones who are in extra need of an immunity boost.

Kidney 27

Kidney 27 is an immune-boosting superstar and especially helpful for people who are prone to upper respiratory flu symptoms. In acupuncture, the Kidney system is said to grasp Lung Qi, meaning it helps distribute the air that enters the lungs throughout the rest of the body. When this interplay doesn’t happen correctly, shortness of breath and cough can occur as well as fatigue because your body is not being properly oxygenated. Kidney 27 is easily accessible, located about one inch from the midline on the lower border of the collar bone. Click here to see the exact location.

Large Intestine 11

Although better known as a fever-reducing point, Large Intestine 11 also is used preventively for colds, flus and other immune-compromising conditions. In fact, one well-known style of Japanese acupuncture (Kiiko Matsumoto’s) considers Large Intestine 11 to be the master immune point in the body. It’s actually a point that falls just slightly below and outside Large Intestine 11. The exact location is determined according to sensitivity in that area. The most sensitive spot is usually the most effective when pressed or needled. Find Large Intestine 11 at the lateral (thumb side) edge of the elbow crease. Click here to learn more about Large Intestine 11′s uses and location here.

Lung 7

Make a thumbs-up sign. When you do that, you’ll see a depression at the base of your thumb (referred to as the anatomical snuffbox). From that depression, Lung 7 is located approximately two finger widths up your arm. Click here to see the exact location. This acupuncture point is good for bolstering your body’s defensive energy, helping to keep your immune system strong. Symptomatically, Lung 7 is a frequently used point for cough, headache and stiff neck.

Stomach 36

Stomach 36 is one of the most effective acupuncture points for strengthening the immune system and recovering from fatigue. Acupuncturists often incorporate this point into treatments because it is such an energizing point. Stomach 36 is found about a hand length below the patella of the knee, just outside the prominent tibia bone. Sometimes pressing this point, if it’s done firmly enough, will produce a strong sensation that travels down the leg. Click here to learn more about Stomach 36′s uses and location here.

How to Do the Routine

Here are a few quick tips on performing acupressure on these points:

– Before performing acupressure on any of these points, get into a comfortable position from which you can easily access all four points (don’t worry — not at the same time!).

– Begin with Kidney 27 and work your way down the body. So, the order should be Kidney 27, Large Intestine 11, Lung 7, Stomach 36.

– For Kidney 27 and Stomach 36, since you have both hands free, press the point on both sides of the body at the same time.

– For Lung 7 and Large Intestine 11, try pressing the point on each side of the body to determine whether one side is more tender than the other. If so, focus your acupressure sessions on the tender side. If both are equally tender (or not at all), you can pick either, or take turns pressing the points on both sides.

– Spend 30 seconds on each point. Apply firm pressure while breathing steadily into your abdomen. You’ll probably find this routine very relaxing, so feel free to repeat it. Especially this time of year, you can’t overdo it.

– As a maintenance routine, shoot for doing the two-minute routine once in the morning and once before bed. If you start feeling fatigued, weak or like you might be coming down with something, up it to three times a day.

Coronavirus: Millions of Britons will need to contract COVID-19 for ‘herd immunity’

Sir Patrick Vallance tells Sky News about 60% of people will need to become infected in order for the UK to enjoy “herd immunity”

https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-millions-of-britons-will-need-to-contract-covid-19-for-herd-immunity-11956793

Millions of Britons will need to contract coronavirus in order to control the impact of the disease which is likely to return “year on year”, the government’s chief scientific adviser has told Sky News.

Around 60% of the UK population will need to become infected with coronavirus in order for society to have “herd immunity” from future outbreaks, Sir Patrick Vallance said.

Herd immunity is the resistance to a contagious disease within a population because enough people have become immune, and so it is harder for it to spread.

There is currently no vaccine available for coronavirus.

What is herd immunity? And how will it help prevent spread of COVID-19?

What is herd immunity? And how will it help prevent spread of COVID-19?

Key Points

Mass gatherings in the UK will be banned from next week under plans being drawn up by ministers

  • The London Marathon is among a number of sporting events cancelled
  • Anyone entering New Zealand will have to self-isolate for 14 days
  • US President Donald Trump has declared the outbreak a national emergency
  • More than 145,000 cases and almost 5,500 deaths have been declared worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University
  • Italy recorded 250 cases in a day, bringing its total to almost 18,000

So far, 11 people in the UK who have had COVID-19 – the disease which develops from coronavirus – have died.

The number of confirmed cases in the UK reached 590 on Thursday – up by 134 in 24 hours, although Sir Patrick believes the actual number of people infected in the UK at the moment could be between 5,000 and 10,000.

More from Covid-19

  • Coronavirus: New Zealand brings in ‘world’s toughest border restrictions’ to fight outbreak

  • Coronavirus: Sport, entertainment and political events cancelled or postponed

  • Coronavirus: Newborn believed to be youngest COVID-19 patient in the UK

  • Coronavirus: Mass gatherings to be banned under government plans to combat COVID-19 spread

  • Coronavirus: With the sporting world in turmoil, Klopp delivers a dose of perspective

  • Coronavirus: Trump says US may have to include UK in European travel ban

Sir Patrick described COVID-19 as a “nasty disease” but stressed most people would only experience a “mild” illness.

Patrick Vallance still
Image:Sir Patrick says most of population need to get coronavirus to achieve herd immunity

He described how a majority of the UK’s population of more than 65 million would need to be infected with coronavirus for the risk of widespread future outbreaks to recede.

“We think this virus is likely to be one that comes year on year, becomes like a seasonal virus,” he told Sky News.

“Communities will become immune to it and that’s going to be an important part of controlling this longer term.

“About 60% is the sort of figure you need to get herd immunity.”

What are the four stages of government's plan?

What are the four stages of government’s plan?

Despite suggestions the death rate from coronavirus could be around 1% of those infected, Sir Patrick said estimating how many might die was “difficult” because there may be many more people that haven’t been detected yet.

“That’s why some of the new tests that are being developed now are going to be so important, so we can really understand how this disease is spreading and we don’t have a handle on that yet,” he added.

Sky’s Thomas Moore explains how countries around the world are preparing to contain COVID-19

How to contain a global pandemic

The World Health Organisation has declared a global pandemic following the spread of coronavirus across many countries.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday confirmed the government is entering the second phase of its response to COVID-19 – moving from trying to contain the virus to delaying its spread.

Anyone with a new persistent cough or a high temperature will now have to self-isolate and stay at home for seven days, while schools have been urged to cancel planned trips abroad.

Sir Patrick is helping to oversee the government’s response to coronavirus and defended the UK’s strategy in dealing with the disease.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has called the coronavirus  pandemic 'the worst public health crisis in a generation'.

PM: Those with symptoms should isolate for seven days

Ministers are facing growing questions about why the UK isn’t acting in a similar way to other European countries, such as France and Italy, who have taken measures ranging from banning large gatherings to quarantining the entire population.

Sir Patrick said the UK is “a little bit behind” where the coronavirus outbreak is in other countries due to early action in tracing and isolating those who are infected.

“What we don’t want to do is to get into kneejerk reactions where you have to start doing measures at the wrong pace because something’s happened,” he added.

“So we’re trying to keep ahead of it, we’re trying to lay out the path so people can see what the actions are that are being advised.”

:: Listen to the Daily podcast with Dermot Murnaghan on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotifySpreaker.

Sir Patrick also described Thursday’s action taken by Mr Johnson as “a very big measure”, adding: “It’s going to have quite a big impact across a number of people, a number of households, a number of people.

“I don’t think that’s a trivial measure at all.”

Banning mass gatherings and isolating entire households are the next steps being considered by the government, Sir Patrick revealed.

But, he argued, most of the transmission of coronavirus occurs in small gatherings rather than larger gatherings.

Rewiring the brain with acupuncture by Dr Mike Cummings (BMJ)

For some time, a group on the US east coast have been quietly scanning brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and related techniques to examine the effects of acupuncture. They hit the headlines in rather a dramatic manner in 2017.[1,2]

At the beginning of the fMRI story we saw some extraordinary claims concerning point specificity in acupuncture from a famous name in the development of fMRI, but these were later retracted.[3] I was relieved to see the retraction, as the claims did not seem mechanistically credible from a neurophysiological point of view. The authors retracted their paper because the results were not in line with the body of developing evidence that acupuncture with typical deep tissue sensation (I prefer this term, but it equates to de qi) seems to cause a general deactivation of limbic structures,[4,5] rather than very specific and targeted functional activations.

So why am I a year behind the headlines? Well I was asked to discuss the research for a television programme, so I read the paper thoroughly in preparation and discovered an interesting observation that had previously escaped my notice. Then there was a mix-up with storyboards and we discussed other research instead. So I thought I had better put all those hours of preparation to good use by describing my thoughts on this rather complex area of research.

The team concerned here first came to my attention when they demonstrated a change in cortical mapping of the second and third fingers (D2/D3) in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) treated with acupuncture.[6] This was a departure from the fMRI studies prior, which had tended to simply watch what happened in the brain after acupuncture or control procedures in healthy subjects. Whilst it was an interesting finding, the study was observational rather than a strict RCT, and I felt that the change in cortical mapping was likely to be downstream of the main effects of acupuncture rather than a direct effect, ie a consequence of the acupuncture mechanism rather than part of the mechanism. This is always the problem with observational data – is the observed association causal or consequential?

The team continued to study CTS, and the research published in 2017 was a three-armed study of 80 patients with CTS [2] – a relatively large study in fMRI terms, but small and underpowered in terms of standard clinical trials of acupuncture in pain. The 3 different interventions principally involved electroacupuncture (EA): local EA (PC7–TE5), distant contralateral EA (SP6–LR4) and ipsilateral regional sham EA (non-points on the flexor aspect of the mid forearm). Manual points were included in the same regions as the EA in each group.

The symptom scores in all groups declined over the course of treatment with no significant differences, although noticeably bigger change scores in the local and sham groups, where the focus of treatment was in the correct limb. Despite this, the median nerve conduction latency improved in both EA groups and deteriorated in the sham EA group. D2/D3 cortical separation distance improved marginally more (not significant) with local EA than distant EA, and not at all in the sham.

So despite there being no difference between groups in terms of symptoms, there was a clear difference in objective measures of nerve function and brain function. And there is more! The degree of improvement in D2/D3 cortical separation distance immediately after the 8-week 16-session treatment course predicted (correlated with) the symptom score at 3 months follow-up. That is very interesting, and somewhat counters my assumption that the cortical remapping is downstream (ie a consequence rather than a cause) of the effect of EA.

Another interesting aspect is the rate of deterioration in symptom score of the sham group after they were unmasked, and the continued improvement of the distal group after they learned that they had a genuine treatment. This makes me ponder over the influence of other brain centres – those related to cognition analysis and expectation – and how these can add unwanted noise in group means for subjective outcomes.

And there is still more! The bit I originally missed because it was just too much effort to read and understand. The team studied the microstructure of the white matter adjacent to the relevant areas of the primary somatosensory cortex (S1). I didn’t even know this was possible, but it has been around for about 15 years. Fractional anisotropy is a measure of order in the structure of white matter based on diffusion of water. A perfect isotropic material would have an even pattern of diffusion in all directions, but uniform tracts of myelinated neurones will disturb this, and cause a degree of anisotropy. Got it? Anyway, the team discovered that the changes after real EA (local & distant) in fractional anisotropy near the S1 cortex related to the contralesional hand correlated with latency changes in the median nerve. This was not true of sham. Even more interesting is that this correlation between changes in fractional anisotropy and median nerve latency occurred in different areas of the ipsilesional SI cortex depending on whether the EA was local or distant.

This has to be considered speculative, since it was a bit of a fishing trip, but it is very exciting to speculate that in the future we may be able to develop ways of tracking the course of plastic changes in the central nervous system and design optimal treatment approaches as a result; moving us from ancient philosophy, through neuroscience from the last century (segmental neuromodulation) perhaps to real-time neural remodelling. http://blogs.bmj.com/aim/2018/01/25/rewiring/

References

  1. Ditch the paracetamol and try ACUPUNCTURE. Daily Mail Online 2017. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4274898/Ditch-paracetamol-try-ACUPUNCTURE.html (accessed 24 Jan2018).
  2. Maeda Y, Kim H, Kettner N, et al. Rewiring the primary somatosensory cortex in carpal tunnel syndrome with acupuncture. Brain 2017;140:914–27. doi:10.1093/brain/awx015
  3. Cho ZH, Chung SC, Lee HJ, et al. Retraction. New findings of the correlation between acupoints and corresponding brain cortices using functional MRI. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2006;103:10527. doi:10.1073/pnas.0602520103
  4. Wu MT, Hsieh JC, Xiong J, et al. Central nervous pathway for acupuncture stimulation: localization of processing with functional MR imaging of the brain–preliminary experience. Radiology 1999;212:133–41.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10405732 (accessed 28 Aug2011).
  5. Hui KK, Liu J, Makris N, et al. Acupuncture modulates the limbic system and subcortical gray structures of the human brain: evidence from fMRI studies in normal subjects. Hum Brain Mapp 2000;9:13–25.
  6. Napadow V, Liu J, Li M, et al. Somatosensory cortical plasticity in carpal tunnel syndrome treated by acupuncture. Hum Brain Mapp 2007;28:159–71. doi:10.1002/hbm.20261

Battlefield Acupuncture

The ancient practice of acupuncture has gained traction in recent years, taking steps toward being legitimized among medical professionals. Now, the practice is being increasingly used among the Air Force’s health providers as a way to reduce pain in troops who have been wounded in battle.
Battlefield Acupuncture – Red Orbit, 30 January 2009

Course of acupuncture may raise success of IVF treatment by 65%
Nigel Hawkes, Health Editor – The Times, February 8, 2008

Since a fall last year I’d suffered an acute lower-back pain caused by a displaced and twisted coccyx …
Anna Chesters – The Guardian, Tuesday 24 June 2008

Acupuncture is as effective as drugs at combating the side effects of treatment for breast cancer, a conference was told.
Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor, 22 Sep 2008

Acupuncture May Help Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

A pilot study shows that acupuncture may help people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine – Apr 2009