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A: Acupuncture has traditionally been used for chronic pain, often because the first major publicity event for acupuncture in the West, Nixon's visit to China in the 1970s, saw operations carried out without anaesthetic under acupuncture, and a great deal of research was stimulated into the pain relieving and anaesthetising effect of treatment. Many pain management clinics now feature acupuncture as a part of their offer. The main question is not whether the treatment will relieve the pain as much as how much relief it will give and hows sustainable its effects are. Used in this way it can sometimes, if affordable, be enough to keep someone going.
However. from a Chinese medicine perspective pain only arises where the flow of energy, called 'qi', has been affected, either from a blockage, or from a deficiency or excess in the channels through which it is said to flow. Knowing where pain appears is less important than understanding how this sits against the backdrop of the whole system. On many occasions the pain is local and to do with specific local issues, but even here the question is how the system has lost its ability to repair. More often than not, however, the pain appears as evidence of a deeper functional disturbance, and the skill of the practitioner lies in making sense of the local manifestation of discontent in the context of someone's overall balance.
The way in which energy flows in the body, and the various functions which are grouped together under the heading of an Organ (capitalised because the meaning is far broader in Chinese medicine) often show greater connections than are apparent from a conventional medical point of view. If the symptoms, for example, tended all to lie on the same channel, and this channel happened to be associated with an Organ generating other symptoms of functional disorder, this would immediately inform the practitioner and point to various treatment possibilities.
The best advice for concerns like yours is to visit a BAcC member local to you and seek a brief face to face assessment to see what they think may be possible. We would be very surprised if they did not immediately make some connections which informed their view, and if so, we think they will probably advise you that four or five sessions may be a worthwhile investment to see how well your system reacts.
Q: What can I do to help a alleviate the pain at the needle insertion site between thumb and finger, it's normal reaction but lasts several days
A: The use of this particular acupuncture point should not leave a sensation for several days, so we would be reluctant to classify what's happening to you as 'normal'. What this suggests is that the needle is being used slightly too vigorously for your physical structure in that area and causing deep bruising which may not be apparent on the surface. We have come across cases where points like this can have an enduring energetic effect lasting two or three days, but usually only when they are first used. The body often gets used to the treatment and accommodates the effect of the needles more easily as time goes on.
If there is bruising in the deeper tissues we are aware that many of our patients use preparations like arnica cream to help, but we obviously cannot recommend something like this because it lies outside our scope of practice. If the effect is felt on one side only, then there may well be some advantage to massaging the same place on the other hand. The channels are bilateral and have a close reciprocal relationship of which we take full advantage when we needle one limb to help the other when we cannot needle the site itself (because, for example, it is bandaged or in a cast). There are also points at the other end of the body which may be massaged to good effect. In this case, it might be useful to massage a point on the opposite foot between the big toe and first toe at the tip of the 'V' which if felt as the finger is drawn up toward the ankle. This reciprocal relationship between points on the opposite limb in roughly equivalent locations is also one of the more unusual treatments visitors to China often see (such as needles in the wrist to treat a twisted ankle).
From our perspective, however, if a patient came back and told us that a point was painful for several days after a session, and that this had happened more than once, we would be inclined to needle more gently or to choose another point which had less enduring impact. If the patient said they did not mind, we might still be inclined to do something different. Pain in any form is a sign of blockage or disruption to the flow, and if this is a clear cause/effect relationship, we would be wondering why this carried on.
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