Last month I met the lovely Olivia Shaw for a coffee and chat to discuss the benefits of alternative medicine and women’s health. Read the interview I did with her below:
Tell me a bit about yourself and the work you do?
I came to Chinese medicine as a second career after working as a lawyer in the City. I enjoyed it and worked with really nice people, but I had a constant feeling that I was in the wrong profession and should be following a different path. It took me some time to work out what I wanted to do, but after a lucky meeting with an acupuncturist I had a course of treatment and found myself signing up to study for a three year BSc degree in Acupuncture. I qualified in 2005 and after a year setting up and establishing my practice (at the time in North London), I returned to university the following year and completed a two year MSc in Chinese Herbal Medicine, as I felt this gave me an ideal combination of skills to treat my patients. I have been practising in Surbiton since 2012 and love working here!
What attracted you to this type of practice?
I was initially attracted to the philosophy that underlies Chinese Medicine, which views the body as a microcosm of the natural world. It was elegantly simple and made sense to me, but, like many subjects it appears simple at first and then becomes increasingly complex the more you learn and understand. Once I had experienced some treatment myself and could see the positive effects, I was curious to find out more.
For those who don’t know or are not sure, what does acupuncture involve?
In an acupuncture treatment, extremely fine, sterilised needles are inserted into specific points on the body to affect the flow of the patient’s Qi (energy). There are hundreds of acupuncture points and some of the points selected during a treatment may not be close to the part of the body where the problem is experienced. For example, although a patient may suffer from headaches, needles may be inserted in the foot or hand as the meridians that are located around the site of the headache flow from the head to other parts of the body.
What type of conditions do you treat? What area do you specialise in?
The main focus of my practice is on women’s health and infertility (male and female). Although in Chinese medicine the emphasis of treatment is always on the individual and not just their medical issue, the conditions that I most commonly treat are: irregular menstrual cycles, painful periods, polycystic ovaries syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, menopausal syndrome, couples struggling to get pregnant where their infertility is unexplained and male factor infertility e.g. low sperm count. I also support couples while they are undergoing IVF/ICSI and I treat women during and after pregnancy.
In addition to this, I also treat a range of other conditions and when people first contact me about booking an appointment I always give them an honest answer about whether I think Chinese Medicine could be of benefit and, if so, whether I am the best person for them to come and see.
For those who have never had acupuncture before, what should they expect from appointments?
The first appointment is normally a longer session and involves a full case history (approximately 45 minutes) followed by an acupuncture treatment. During the case history I ask lots of questions, some of which may not seem directly connected to the reason a patient has come to see me, but they all help me to form a diagnosis and treatment plan based on the principles of Chinese medicine. Although patients are sometimes nervous at first, they are normally very surprised to discover that acupuncture is a very relaxing treatment and they can sometimes feel a bit sleepy afterwards. Subsequent treatments last 45 minutes and we have a discussion about the patient’s progress since the last session and then the needles are normally inserted for about 30 minutes. I am quite a gentle “needler” and have recently started incorporating some Japanese acupuncture techniques into my practice which use very fine needles that you hardly feel.
Where can people find you and how can they make contact?
I practise in Surbiton at the Surbiton Natural Health Centre, which is just opposite Waitrose on Claremont Road.
I can be contacted by telephone on 07914 852435 or via the contact page on my website https://www.oliviashawacupuncture.co.uk/contact-olivia-shaw