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Q: Can you let me know if acupuncture is successful in healing facial branch nerve damage. I had surgery 12 ago for a fractured jaw and have been left with damage of the buccal branch. Also can you advise me how to source a therapist in the ML4 3PG area near Glasgow?
A: We think the short and most likely answer is 'no'. If there has been well-authenticated damage to a nerve then the chances of restoring its conductivity are very limoted. We wrote in answer to a similar question some time ago
if a nerve has been damaged beyond the body's ability to repair, then this severely limits what might be possible. There is a very small amount of evidence that acupuncture may be able to help nerve regeneration but this comes from the experimental end of the acupuncture world and often involves trials on animals, or 'ratpuncture' as some of our colleagues cheerfully dismiss it.
and we feel that this is probably the best that we can say.
Obviously, though, we work in a different paradigm, and there are occasions where a symptom written off by conventional medicine as permanent and untreatable responds to acupuncture treatment. As you may be aware already from our website, the theories of Chinese medicine rest on a concept of energy, called 'qi' whose flow and balance determine good function and health in the body. If the flow is disrupted, as may be the case with accident, injury and occasionally surgery, then restoring the flow can sometimes have significant effects.
The best advice that we can give is that you contact a BAcC member local to you to arrange for a brief face to face assessment. This will give them the information they need to assess whether in your specific case there are indications which point to the possible use of acupuncture.
The home page of our website http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/ has a search facility which is sensitive to postcodes and will generate a full list of all of our members working hear where you are. This is probably the best way for you to locate someone very local to you, or at least relatively easy to get to, which may not be the same thing!
A: The short, and somewhat trite, answer is that they make sure that they are properly trained to begin with. Training in the UK, at least for entry to registering bodies such as the BAcC, requires a three year degree equivalent course which ensures not only that the basic knowledge is wired in but also that the bestg possible clinical practice is inculcated in the students. Knowledge without wisdom and good practice is irrelevant, and the crucial element in training is not being able to generate lists of symptoms and syndromes but to be able to respond to the unique problems which each patient brings to the clinic. This requires a great deal of supervised practice, in our view, to give practitioners the confidence to be able to adjust and refine their work to the patient's best advantage, and also to deal with situations where things don't go as well as they hoped. Knowing what to do is important, but knowing what to do when something goes wrong is the sign of true skill and mastery.
Making sure that someone follows best practice is an individual responsibility, but regulatory bodies such as the BAcC have the responsibility for checking that practitioners registered with it maintain their skills and develop as practitioners. As well as offering our own advice and support, with a great deal of valuable material being available on our website and through our professional journals we also have a mandatory requirement for members to undertake what is called CPD, Continuing Professional Development, which is aimed at making practitioners develop their skills after they have qualifed and for as long as they practise.
That, of course, is the carrot. The stick is that we have some very well defined rules of behaviour, skill and conduct to which we expect our members to adhere, and we are always ready to take sanctions against someone who does not continue to meet or adhere to our standards. Expelling members is a rare event, but we do have occasion to ask members to up their game in terms of basics like good record keeping or respecting boundaries. The BAcC is a particularly well-behaved professional body, and disciplinary cases are rare. Above us, however, sits the Professional Standards Authority, a government agency with whom we are accredited, and its task is to ensure that professional associations such as ours continue to demonstrate that we are protecting the public by making sure our members are properly trained and accountable, and that members of the public have access to advice, support and pathways to complain if they are unhappy with any aspect of the treatment which they receive.
Q: My 23 year old daughter has always suffered with colds/bad throats throughout her childhood. Unfortunately it has carried on into adulthood and this last year she has had one after the other. Would acupuncture help her, she also has at times suffers with hair loss, leading to bald patches.
A: The evidence for the treatments of cold and flu, as you can see from our factsheet
does exist but is a little less than convincing. This does not come as a great surprise to us, though. The kinds of trials favoured in the west for proof of efficacy, the so-called randomised double blind control trial borrowed from drug testing, does not particularly suit acupuncture treatment in general, and colds and flu in particular. The aim of RCTs is to reduce the number of variables to measure a specific outcome, but from our perspective the biggest variables are patients whose unique energy balances we work with, the from any perspective deciding what counts as 'identical' in two colds to make testing possible is well nigh impossible.
Chinese medicine has a very rich understanding of the conditions which from its perspective create the symptoms which we describe as colds, and most are related to the climate and changes within it. The Chinese were essentially an agrarian race, and factors such as exposure to wind and cold, or damp and heat, were seen as inherently threatening to a system unprepared for them. The fact that we are not exposed to similar conditions does not change the fact that the symptoms as they appear in modern times are amenable to the same treatments.
However, while there are agreed protocols for treating what we call colds, the situation with a cold which continues without really clearing, or which renders the person susceptible to cold after cold is slightly different, being seen by the Chinese as a weakness in the immune system, although this was not a word they used; in Chinese medicine the defensive energy of the body would be said to be weakened to the point where it cannot throw off the 'invasion' of the factor which generates symptoms. While the treatment of a relatively fresh cold is often aimed at clearing a pathogen, the treatment of a long-term weakness often involves building the whole system up. In modern times the advent of conditions grouped under names such as ME, or Post-Viral syndrome or Chronic Fatigue syndrome often display clinical features which are similar to defensive energy weakness.
This does not mean that they are automatically treatable. As you know, many people are crippled with ME and it can take years for someone to recover, so we would not even begin to estimate whether your daughter can be helped by acupuncture treatment. Our best advice is for her to visit a local BAcC member and to ask in person what, based on her signs and symptoms he or she may be able to achieve. This is likely to be far more helpful than bland positivity from us.
As far as hair loss is concerned, we have been asked questions about this before and we repeat our most recent advice below. There is a cautionary overtone to our response as you can see, because we have found that the fact that sufferers are highly self-conscious about their appearance can, if you are not careful, be mis-used in running up a large treatment bill. We are not suggesting that this is what the practitioner here is/was doing, but it is something which has to be borne in mind.
It may well be, though, that the weakness in the immune system is a contributory factor, so it may be worth seeing, if you decide to pursue acupuncture treatment, whether straightforward constitutional treatment helps to reduce the problem.
Q: Are there any acupuncturists specifically trained in non-surgical "face-lifts" who are members of BAcC and if so, are there any in Oxfordshire?
A: We find ourselves a little bit conflicted when we receive questions like this. There are a number of areas where are developing standards of expert practice. This in turn might lead to qualifications which would enable us to recommend specific groups of practitioners. However, at the moment the focus is on paediatrics and obstetrics, so although we are aware of a number of courses which offer postgraduate training in facial or cosmetic acupuncture, we have not yet agreed the standards against which they should be measured.
However, it is widely recognised by many of the trainers in this area that using facial acupuncture techniques without also attending to the underlying patterns of energy is not as effective. We always recommend, therefore, that if someone is conducting their own search for a practitioner they should ensure that the person is a fully trained professional acupuncturist, not someone who has learned a few specific techniques as an adjunct to beauty therapy. There are also some safety concerns about being treated by someone who is not a professional acupuncturist. There is no difference in health and safety terms between someone who uses ten needles a year and someone who uses ten thousand. The same scrupulous attention to hygienic practice is essential. We have some reservations about very short coirses which offer the technique and all of the safe practice essentials in a very time.
If you undertake a google search under 'facial acupuncture oxford' you will find a number of BAcC members whose standards you can trust and who have undertaken additional training in this area of work
Acupuncture may provide relief for dental patients who reflexively gag during dental procedures.
Gary Barlow admists having to make 'big changes' in order to lose weight
acupuncture and carpal tunnel syndrome
About carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome comprises potentially disabling sensory and/or motor symptoms in the hand. Around 1 in 10 people develop carpal tunnel syndrome at some point, and it is particularly common in women (Hughes 2007), with one study in the UK indicating an incidence of 139.4 cases per 100,000 women per year and 67.2 cases per 100,000 men (Bland 2003). The condition carries considerable implications for employment and healthcare costs (Bland 2007).
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are caused by compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel at the wrist and include numbness, tingling, and burning sensations, and a dull ache in the hand and fingers (Hughes 2009). These symptoms are usually restricted to the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers, but may affect the little finger and/or the palm as well (Stevens 2005). They usually occur at night, often waking the patient from sleep, but can be relieved within a few minutes by shaking the hand (Stevens 2005). Pain sometimes radiates up the forearm as far as the elbow, and even as high as the shoulder or root of the neck (Stevens 2005). Other, less common, symptoms include weakness or clumsiness of the hand, and dry skin, swelling or colour changes in the hand (Bland 2007). Symptoms may recur during the day when the hands are used for carrying things, and for activities that involve holding them up, such as driving or using a keyboard (Stevens 2005).
Predisposing factors include genetic predisposition (Hakim 2002), diabetes mellitus, pregnancy, obesity, myxoedema, acromegaly, and infiltration of the flexor retinaculum in primary and hereditary amyloidosis (Stevens 2005). Carpal tunnel syndrome may also develop as a consequence of wrist joint involvement in rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, or deformity related to an old fracture (Stevens 2005). Whether overuse of the hands is a cause of the syndrome is not clear, although most patients report that symptoms are aggravated by heavy use of the hands (Bland 2007). Current standard treatment options are splinting, local corticosteroid injections and surgery.
Bland JDP, Rudolfer SM. Clinical surveillance of carpal tunnel syndrome in two areas of the United Kingdom, 1991–2001. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2003; 74: 1674–9.
Bland JDP. Carpal tunnel syndrome. BMJ 2007; 335: 343–6.
Hakim AJ et al. The genetic contribution to carpal tunnel syndrome in women: a twin study. Arthritis Rheum 2002; 47: 275–9.
Hughes RAC et al. Peripheral nerve disorders. In: Candelise L et al (Eds). Evidence-based neurology. Management of neurological disorders. London; BMJ Books, 2007.
Hughes RAC, Thomas PK. Diseases of the peripheral nerves. In: Warrell DA et al (Eds). Oxford textbook of medicine. London: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Stevens JC. Median neuropathy. In: Dyck PJ, Thomas PK (Eds). Peripheral neuropathy. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2005.
How acupuncture can help
This Factsheet focuses on the evidence for acupuncture in the management of carpal tunnel syndrome. There are also factsheets on neuropathic pain, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
There has been one systematic review, which demonstrated that the evidence for acupuncture as a symptomatic therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome is encouraging but not convincing (Sim 2011).
In addition there are a few randomised controlled trials (RCTs) published since this systematic review. All were for mild-to-moderate carpal tunnel syndrome. Two compared acupuncture with sham acupuncture. In both cases acupuncture produced improvement over baseline levels but in one the real version was superior to the sham (Saeidi 2012) and in the other it was not (Yao 2012). Such contradictory results are common in sham acupuncture trials, for ‘sham’ interventions are not inert placebos, hence potentially underestimating the effect of ‘real’ acupuncture and making interpretation of the results difficult (Lundeberg 2011). In another two RCTs acupuncture was compared with orthodox treatments, either steroids (Yang 2009 and 2011) or splinting (Kumnerddee 2010). It was found to be at least as effective as these, and in some circumstances superior.
In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body's homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.
Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically help in the management of carpal tunnel syndrome by:
- acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry (Hui 2010; Hui 2009);
- increasing the release of adenosine, which has antinociceptive properties (Goldman 2010);
- regulating the limbic network of the brain, including the hypothalamus and amygdala (Napadow 2007a);
- inducing beneficial cortical plasticity (i.e. conditioning the brain to stop processing sensory nerve input from the affected fingers maladaptively, which leads to improved symptoms) (Napadow 2007b). Lundeberg T et al. Is Placebo Acupuncture What It is Intended to Be? Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011: 932407
- About traditional acupuncture
Acupuncture is a tried and tested system of traditional medicine, which has been used in China and other eastern cultures for thousands of years to restore, promote and maintain good health. Its benefits are now widely acknowledged all over the world, and in the past decade traditional acupuncture has begun to feature more prominently in mainstream healthcare in the UK. In conjunction with needling, the practitioner may use techniques such as moxibustion, cupping, massage or electro-acupuncture. They may also suggest dietary or lifestyle changes.
Traditional acupuncture takes a holistic approach to health and regards illness as a sign that the body is out of balance. The exact pattern and degree of imbalance is unique to each individual. The traditional acupuncturist’s skill lies in identifying the precise nature of the underlying disharmony and selecting the most effective treatment.
The choice of acupuncture points will be specific to each patient’s needs. Traditional acupuncture can also be used as a preventive measure to strengthen the constitution and promote general wellbeing.
An increasing weight of evidence from Western scientific research (see overleaf) is demonstrating the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating a wide variety of conditions. From a biomedical viewpoint, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system, influencing the production of the body’s communication substances – hormones and neurotransmitters. The resulting biochemical changes activate the body's self- regulating homeostatic systems, stimulating its natural healing abilities and promoting physical and emotional wellbeing.
About the British Acupuncture Council
With over 3000 members, the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) is the UK’s largest professional body for traditional acupuncturists. Membership of the BAcC guarantees excellence in training, safe practice and professional conduct. To find a qualified traditional acupuncturist, contact the BAcC on 020 8735 0400 or visit www.acupuncture.org.uk
- The evidence
acupuncture and carpal tunnel syndrome
Sim H et al. Acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J Pain. 2011;12(3):307-14.
A systematic review that evaluated the evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture and acupuncture-like treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome. Six trials were included, 2 of which compared the effectiveness of acupuncture with a sham control and 4 of which compared it with active controls. A meta-analysis of acupuncture versus corticosteroid block therapy favoured acupuncture (2 studies, n = 144; risk ratio, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.08 to 1.52) in terms of responder rate. The reviewers concluded that their review and meta-analysis demonstrated that the evidence for acupuncture as a symptomatic therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome is encouraging but not convincing.
Randomised controlled trials
Yao E et al. Randomized controlled trial comparing acupuncture with placebo acupuncture for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. PM & R: Journal of Injury, Function & Rehabilitation (PM R), 2012;4(5):367-73.
A randomised controlled trial that investigated the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome in 41 adults. Patients were assigned to acupuncture or placebo acupuncture using Streitberger placebo acupuncture needles. Wrist braces were provided to both groups to wear at night, and compliance was monitored. Compared with pre-treatment baseline values, patients in the acupuncture group had a 0.58 improvement (p=0.03) on the Carpal Tunnel Self Assessment Questionnaire (CTSAQ) Symptom scale score at 3 months after the last treatment, whereas 0.81 improvement (p=0.001) was noted in the placebo acupuncture group. No statistically significant difference was found between the 2 groups with respect to improvement in symptoms, function, tip/key pinch, or combined sensory index. The researchers concluded that both acupuncture and placebo acupuncture resulted in improvements from baseline, but that acupuncture was not shown to be superior to placebo acupuncture when used in conjunction with bracing for patients with mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome.
Saeidi K et al. Acupuncture in treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized controlled trial study. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 2012;17(1):1-7.
A randomised controlled trial that assessed the short-term effects of acupuncture in the treatment of mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome in 64 patients. Participants were assigned to either a control group that received night splinting, vitamin B1, B6 and sham acupuncture, or an intervention group that received acupuncture and night splinting. There was a statistically significant difference in global symptom score (GSS) between the two groups (p < 0.001) in favour of acupuncture. With respect to electrophysiological parameters, nerve conduction velocity (NCV) was significantly different between the two groups after 4 weeks (p = 0.02). The researchers concluded that their findings indicated that acupuncture can improve the overall subjective symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Yang CP et al. Acupuncture in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome: A randomized controlled trial. Clin J Pain. 2009;25(4):327-33.
Yang CP et al. A randomized clinical trial of acupuncture versus oral steroids for carpal tunnel syndrome: a long-term follow-up. J Pain. 2011;12(2):272-9.
A randomised controlled trial that investigated the efficacy of acupuncture compared with steroid treatment in 77 patients with mild-to-moderate carpal tunnel syndrome as measured by objective changes in nerve conduction studies (NCS) and subjective symptoms assessment. The patients were randomly assigned to either 2 weeks of prednisolone 20 mg daily followed by 2 weeks of prednisolone 10 mg daily or to acupuncture. The evaluation of global symptom score showed that there was a high percentage of improvement in both groups at weeks 2 and 4 (p<0.01), which was not significantly different between the 2 groups (p=0.15). Of the 5 main symptoms scores (pain, numbness, paresthesia, weakness/clumsiness, nocturnal awakening), only 1, nocturnal awakening, showed a significant decrease with acupuncture compared with the steroid group at week 4 (p=0.03). Patients with acupuncture treatment had a significant decrease in distal motor latency compared with the steroid group at week 4 (p=0.012). Acupuncture was well tolerated with minimal adverse effects. The researchers concluded that short-term acupuncture treatment is as effective as short-term low-dose prednisolone for mild-to-moderate carpal tunnel syndrome.
A prospective follow up of the patients after 1 year. Compared with baseline levels, the percentages of patients with treatment failure, moderate improvement, and good improvement were significantly different between the 2 groups at month 7 (10.5, 2.6, and 86.8% for the acupuncture group and 33.3, 7.7, and 59% for the steroid group, respectively; p=0.014) and month 13 (15.8, 2.6, and 81.6% versus 51.3, 0, and 48.7%, respectively; p=0.002). The acupuncture group had a significantly better improvement in GSS, distal motor latencies and distal sensory latencies when compared to the steroid group throughout the 1-year follow-up period (P < .01). Furthermore, significant correlation was observed between changes of GSS (month 13-baseline) and all parameters of the electrophysiological assessments except for compound muscle action potential amplitude. The researchers concluded that this follow-up study demonstrates that short-term acupuncture treatment may result in long-term improvement in mild-to-moderate idiopathic carpal tunnel syndrome.
Kumnerddee W, Kaewtong A. Efficacy of acupuncture versus night splinting for carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized clinical trial. J Med Assoc Thai. 2010;93(12):1463-9.
A randomised controlled trial that compared the efficacy of electroacupuncture with night splinting for carpal tunnel syndrome in 61 patients with mild-to-moderate disease. Outcomes were assessed at baseline and the end of treatment protocol by the Boston Carpal Tunnel Scale comprising a symptom severity scale (SSS) and a functional status scale (FSS). Pain was measured by a 100 mm visual analogue scale (VAS). The VAS score decreased more with acupuncture than with night splinting (p = 0.028), whereas there was no significant difference in terms of improvements in SSS and FSS between the groups. The researchers concluded that electroacupuncture was as effective as night splinting in terms of overall symptoms and function, and superior to it for pain control.
Physiology and animal studies
Studies have shown that acupuncture stimulation, when associated with sensations comprising deqi, evokes deactivation of a limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network, as well as activation of somatosensory brain regions. These networks closely match the default mode network and the anti-correlated task-positive network. The effect of acupuncture on the brain is integrated at multiple levels, down to the brainstem and cerebellum and appears to go beyond either simple placebo or somatosensory needling effects. Needling needs to be done carefully, as very strong or painful sensations can attenuate or even reverse the desired effects. Their results suggest that acupuncture mobilises the functionally anti-correlated networks of the brain to mediate its actions, and that the effect is dependent on the psychophysical response. They discuss potential clinical application to disease states including chronic pain, major depression, schizophrenia, autism, and Alzheimer's disease.
Goldman N et al. Adenosine A1 receptors mediate local anti-nociceptive effects of acupuncture. Nat Neurosci 2010; May 30.
A study showing that the neuromodulator adenosine, which has anti-nociceptive properties, was released during acupuncture in mice, and that its anti-nociceptive actions required adenosine A1 receptor expression. Direct injection of an adenosine A1 receptor agonist replicated the analgesic effect of acupuncture. Inhibition of enzymes involved in adenosine degradation potentiated the acupuncture-elicited increase in adenosine, as well as its anti-nociceptive effect. The researchers concluded that their observations indicate that adenosine mediates the effects of acupuncture and that interfering with adenosine metabolism may prolong the clinical benefit of acupuncture.
Hui K.K.-S. The salient characteristics of the central effects of acupuncture needling: limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network modulation. Human Brain Mapping 2009; 30: 1196-206.
This study assessed the results of functional MRI (fMRI) on 10 healthy adults during manual acupuncture at 3 acupuncture points and a sham point on the dorsum of the foot. Although certain differences were seen between real and sham points, the hemodynamic and psychophysical responses were generally similar for all 4 points. Acupuncture produced extensive deactivation of the limbic-paralimbic-neocortical system. Clusters of deactivated regions were seen in the medial prefrontal cortex, the temporal lobe and the posterior medial cortex. The sensorimotor cortices, thalamus and occasional paralimbic structures such as the insula and anterior middle cingulate cortex showed activation. The researchers concluded that their results provided additional evidence that acupuncture modulates the limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network. They hypothesised that acupuncture may mediate its analgesic, anti-anxiety, and other therapeutic effects via this intrinsic neural circuit that plays a central role in the affective and cognitive dimensions of pain.
Napadow V et al. Hypothalamus and amygdala response to acupuncture stimuli in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Pain. 2007a;130(3):254-66.
A study that used fMRI to evaluate ‘real’ and sham acupuncture stimulation at acupoint LI-4 in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome and healthy controls. Both the short-term brain response to acupuncture stimulation, and the influence of longer-term acupuncture therapy effects on this short-term response were investigated. The patients responded to real acupuncture with greater activation in the hypothalamus and deactivation in the amygdala compared with the healthy controls. The researchers found evidence suggesting that chronic pain patients respond to acupuncture differently than healthy controls, that is through a coordinated limbic network including the hypothalamus and amygdala.
Q: Would acupuncture help with a chronic nerve pain which I have in my shoulder which refers down to my forearm?
A: A great deal depends on whether the pain is caused by impingement of a nerve, either in the shoulder itself or higher up in the neck, which can also produce similar sensations. If there is a structural problem, then while acupuncture treatment may help to reduce any inflammation which results from the trapped nerve, the problem will recur until the structure is fixed. While acupuncture treatment aims to restore natural function, and may eventually encourage the structure to right itself, the quickest way to deal with a problem such as this may be to visit an osteopath. They will be able to tell you whether there is a problem, and perhaps re-refer you to an acupuncturist after they have corrected it. We find this kind of cross-referral often works well; once the structure is settled it is important to get the muscles and tendons to re-assume their correct positions and tension. Acupuncture treatment seems to help well with this.
However, this is to take a very Western view of what is going on, and there are many occasions when the sensation which someone describes can be explained, understood and treated in Chinese medicine by using a different way of looking at the body. From a Chinese medicine perspective, which is premised on a good flow of energy (called 'qi') in the body, pain arises from deficiencies, excesses or blockages in the flow. The exact nature of the pain will inform the practitioner about the exact nature of the blockage. It is perfectly possible that working in this way the pain can be treated.
The best advice we can give, though, is to visit a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment of whether they can help with the problem. It is very difficult to tell at one remove what the best course of action is, and a visual inspection would help to determine whether or not an onward referral to an osteopath is more appropriate.
Q: My farther has had his leg amputated 4 years ago and still has very painful phantom pains, can this be treated with acupuncture?
A: Phantom limb pain can be a very distressing phenomenon.
There have been a number of studies over the years which describe the use of acupuncture in individual cases, and if you google 'acupuncture phantom limb pain' you will find examples such as:
We are also aware of a paper published in the Journal of another acupuncture association which cites the following papers about phantom limb sensation.
Bradbrook D (2004) Acupuncture in Medicine Acupuncture Treatment Of Phantom Limb Pain And Phantom Limb Sensation in Amputees. 22; 2; 93-97
Hecker H. -U et al (2008) Color Atlas of Acupuncture 2nd Ed. Thieme, Stuttgart
Hill A (1999) Journal of Pain and Symptom Management Phantom Limb Pain: A review of the Literature on Attributes and Potential Mechanisms. 17; 2; 125-142
Johnson M.I. et al (1992) Pain Clinic Treatment of Resistant Phantom Limb Pain by Acupuncture: A Case Report. 5; 2; 105-112
Liaw M.-Y et al (1994) American Journal of Acupuncture Therapeutic Trial of Acupuncutre in Phantom Limb Pain of Amputees. 22; 3; 205-213
Monga T.N et al (1981) Archives of Physical Medicine in Rehabilitation Acupuncture in Phantom Limb Pain. 62; 5; 229-2321
The mechanism by which the treatment works is not at all clear from a Western medical point of view. From a Chinese medicine perspective it is perhaps easier to make sense of the appearance of the pain from the fact that the channels which run through the affected area spread out across the body, and even in 'conventional' Chinese medicine treatment it is not unknown to treat a problem in the lower left limb by using points in the upper right limb. The fact that the opposite limb is missing would not necessarily render the treatment useless.
The best advice we can give, especially when there is so little case evidence to point to, is to visit a BAcC member local to your father for advice on his specific circumstances. There may be a number of initial soundings which he or she could make to determine whether treatment may be of benefit.
The problem with conditions like this is that there are case studies which offer encouragement, but nobody publishes the results of case studies where things don't work, so for the small number which have been successful there may be ten times as many where treatment was tried and failed. It is best not to over-excited by the fact that some treatments work. Everything works for someone, but that doesn't mean that somehing works for everyone.