Gavin Erickson

Gavin Erickson

Q. I hav had accupunture done in January on my neck{i have cervical Spondilosis}and i'm also told ny an oestopath that I have a overstretched ligament.When the needle was put in it was really painfully I did tell the accupunturist and was told that how it will be but I feel he may have either gone into a muscal.Since then I have pain in my neck across my neck/back and in the top of my right arm although it is a little easier but still very stiff.I really want to know if this will ease in time or if having accupunture again will correct my pains.I would really appreicate your advise as to ease the pain I am rubbing in Biofreeze which eases it for about half an hour.Many Thanks



A. Although acupuncture is a very safe form of treatment, there are occasional adverse events. The vast majority are transient - someone might gets a small bruise, or feel a little lightheaded but it would be rare for these to persist for more than a day, two days at most.


In your case the fact that the symptom has persisted for over a month is a cause for some concern. In the first instance it is normally best to talk to the practitioner who gave you the treatment to seek their views, but if you feel a little reluctant to go back until you know what the cause is the next step is to see your GP and ask for his or her view. The chances are that there has been bruising fairly deep within the muscle which is taking a long time to heal but in the meantime is putting pressure on a nerve. However, given that you have spondylosis your GP may arrange further tests for you to rule out other possibilities.


The BAcC is very keen to gather information on adverse events arising from acupuncture. The last formal surveys, both published in the BMJ a decade ago, were very positive about the safety of treatment, but to remain up to date the BAcC has just launched a pilot scheme based on the GPs' Yellow Card Scheme to collect information on any adverse event brought on by treatment, including ones which are associated with improvement.


In the unlikely event that there has been a more substantial injury it is worth reminding everyone that BAcC members are covered by a 'gold standard' professional insurance from Royal Sun Alliance as a part of their membership package, and that the general public can be reassured that their interests are fully protected.

Q. I have a gential rash, apparantly an immune reaction to a cycle racing crash. I also have low abdominal pain and pain through my urethra, although passing urine is surpisingly OK. Minor injuries are not healing as well as normal. I am 53 and extremely fit.

I believe that my immune system is seriously disrupted due to the crash.

Can acupunture restore the immune system balance, ie not just relieve the symptoms?



A. There is no doubt that the aim of traditional acupuncture is to restore balance to the whole system, not simply to remove symptoms. The practitioner will aim not only to get someone better but to keep them better. This is one of the many reasons why the BAcC is so adamant in arguing that extremely short courses in acupuncture are not fit for purpose; if someone has treatment aimed only at removing a symptom, the chances are the symptom will return and they will conclude that acupucture didn't work, when all they have established is that symptomatic acupuncture didn't work.


In your case, there are features of your symptoms as a group which may make sense from a Chinese medicine perspective. There is every likelihood that the physical shock of an accident could cause a lowering of the body's immune system as a whole, but there may well be more specific injuries which may fall within the scope of practice of Chinese medicine. One of its great strengths, aside from treating the person as opposed to the disease, is that it has an entirely different take on the pathology and physiology of the body, and can sometimes make sense of a seemingly unconnected symptoms within one recognised diagnostic pattern. It may well be that a local blockage or disruption caused by the accident is impacting on the overall balance, rather than the accident itself affecting the immune system.


It would be best to seek advice from a BAcC member local to you, and to ask if they feel that they can do something for your specific symptoms. Most practitioners are willing to give up a little time without charge to assess whether acupuncture is appropriate for potential patients before committing them to treatment.

Q. I have had a sports related injury since September 2011. During a football match I felt a tear in my upper leg / groin area.

I haven't noticed any information on your website regarding this area - so is it possible to treat using accupuncture?

I look forward to your response...


A. There is no doubt that acupuncture is used quite frequently by traditional acupuncturists, doctors and physiotherapists in direct treatment of muscle tears. The points which they use, where needles are inserted, are often the same, even though the theories on which the selection is based are often very different.


Heretical as this may sound to some of our members, where sports injuries are concerned it is often essential to be treated by someone who specialises in working with athletes or sportsmen because there are often additional exercises and manipulations which will aid recovery and advice about what to do and not do which will speed up healing. Many BAcC members do actually have some background in sports medicine, but there are also a significant number of physios who use acupuncture alongside conventional sports medicine to great effect.


Your best course of action is to start by finding out who local to you offers sports medicine, and then to ask who within that network uses acupuncture alongside conventional skills. We have no doubt that traditional acupuncture alone would be able to resolve the problem, but there will be a large component of recovery management in getting you back to full fitness, and this is an acquired skill.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012 17:33

What about Parkinson,s disease ?

From the perspective of research studies alone it would be difficult to give any firm recommendations for acupuncture as a treatment of Parkinson's Disease. There are a number of studies, some undertaken in the US but the vast majority in China, which show some positive signs, but not of sufficient change in a significant number of patients under study to draw any firm conclusions. You can see some of the studies if you google 'ncbi acupuncture parkinson's disease' - the National Centre for Biotechnical Information in the States is a convenient way to find many of the the more significant papers. There is also a Cochrane Review of a protocol for assessing the value of acupuncture, but as far as we are aware this has not been put into action yet.



With all chronic degenerative conditions the extent to which acupuncture can help has to be carefully explained. It is often, as one rather ironic patient said, a case of 'getting worse slower', and this is extremely difficult to quantify in a condition like Parkinson's where the disease progression is neither smooth nor predictable. Anecdotally there are many accounts of patients finding that treatment helps with some of the manifestations of the disease, such as the periods of rigidity and freezing, and a general sense of well-being, but these are not documented sufficiently well to be able to claim any undisputed levels of efficacy.


The best course of action is to see whether a BAcC member local to you will give you an honest assessment from an eastern perspective of what they might be able to achieve for your own unique patterns. There may be elements of how the condition manifests which they may feel that they can help.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012 17:16

i have had a slight (chronic) discomefort

Q. i have had a slight (chronic) discomefort in my bum whilstdriving for the past 3-4 years.started playing squash again after a couple of years off, first 5-6 games fine, last one agonising. pain in the bone i sit on. internet says ISCHIAL TUBEROSITY which is 99% correct.would accupuncture be any good?



A. The first thing a medical practitioner of any persuasion would have to do would be to establish exactly what was causing the pain you are experiencing. The fact that it has come on after a renewed burst of heavy exercise would normally point in the direction of some kind of muscular strain or tear, or inflammation of a tendon or ligament. Spending a long time sitting in a fixed position with the pressure of the ischial tuberosity on an inflamed area would certainly be capable of generating some fairly intense pain. However, pain can be referred in all sorts of ways, and the sciatic nerve might have been affected higher up in the lower back with the pain manifesting in the buttock.


A BAcC member will generally spend a good deal of time trying to elicit what type of pain it is, where it is felt, what makes it feel better or worse, and so on, both to get a sense of the western pathology which this most likely represents and to inform the treatment strategy which they will adopt from a Chinese medicine perspective. BAcC members are required to work closely with orthodox healthcare professionals and with other complementary therapists, and if in the practitioner's point of view there is something which needs to be investigated further by X-ray or something which manipulation may help to correct quickly, you may be referred to a doctor or osteopath. If not, the practitioner will give you an honest assessment of whether he or she thinks they can help you.


There is a growing body of evidence for the use of acupuncture for pain, for sciatic pain in particular and for musculo-skeletal conditions, although most of this research originates in China and is regarded as methodologically unsound at the moment. Our factsheets on the BAcC homepage under 'research' and 'factsheets' will give you a detailed breakdown of the current evidence and its index of reliability. In this particular case, if you decide to go ahead with treatment, it is probable that you may be asked to stop playing squash for a while to give the problem a chance to recover

Q. Hi,I have nerve damage to my Greater Auricular Nerve and Cranial nerve 5, after surgery to remove a whartins tumour on my right Parotid gland, I cannot take any appropriate medication due to bad side affects, can Acupuncture help me to relieve the pain.



A. Generally speaking, where pain arises from nerves damaged by surgery there are no straight answers about how successful acupuncture may be. In the treatment of phantom limb pain, for example, there are a number of studies such as


which seem to indicate that needling the opposite limb can make a great difference to the pain experienced. You describe damage rather than complete cutting, and that may be far less amenable to treatment.


From a Chinese medicine perspective the areas which are painful are understood within a framework of flows and patterns of energy across the body, and there is some possibility that a practitioner might be able to make sense of what you are feeling, and where, within this context. If so, there may be some possibility of reducing the amount of pain that you experience.


The best course of action, since each case is unique and different, is to visit a BAcC member local to you for an informal asessment of whether in your particular case there is a something which they feel they might be able to help. It might also be worth discussing with them what side effects you suffer when taking medications. Occasionally people use acupuncture for the nausea which some drugs induce, and the evidence for this us is now widely accepted in the west.

From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, people who label themselves as 'sufferers from depression' do not form a homogenous group. When a patient describes what depression means to each of them as individuals a much clearer picture emerges, one which the diagnostic processes of Chinese medicine can sometimes make sense of within its own paradigm. The word 'appropriate' finds its way into a great many Chinese texts, the sense of being neither one extreme or the other, and many depression sufferers describe feelings which are constant and extreme. Just as, within its own paradigm, Chinese medicine aims to balance physical energies, so it also addresses mental and emotional energies, and has diagnostic language which both recognises and suggests treatment for 'stuck' patterns which affect the quality of someone's life.


This may all sound rather vague, but since each case of depression will manifest differently, the only clear guidance we can give is to suggest that you contact a BAcC member local to you for an assessment of whether they believe they could help your individual case.


Just as a small rider, the BAcC is not a service provider itself - it is a member organisation whose members work independently, mainly in a self-employed capacity.


There is evidence, accepted by NICE, that acupuncture can be used for the treatment of low back pain. Our BAcC factsheet details the studies which have supported this conclusion for non-specific pain.


However, in your case there is a very clear cause, and no accepted evidence of which we are aware of that prolapsed discs can be treated with acupuncture as an alternative to surgery. There are dozens of anecdotal accounts from BAcC practitioners of using acupuncture to encourage the reduction of inflammation and to keep it at bay while the protruding section of disc is dealt with by the body, but this is not sufficient basis for us to make an unqualified recommendation.


A great deal depends on the advice of your neurosurgeon. If the bulge is bad enough to require surgery then it would be unwise to ignore this advice. If, however, he or she believes that there is a possibility that with rest and careful exercise the problem can be managed without surgery, then acupuncture along with some form of gentle manipulation like odteopathy may well be able to accelerate the recovery process. We would also recommend that you discuss alternative options with the neurosurgeon; many are very supportive of complementary therapies which encourage restoration of normal function.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012 16:51

Post operation nerve damage healing

Q.  Hi. I have never had acupuncture before. I have a very rare bone conditon. I had surgery in April last year which involved breaking my tibia in two places and my fibula once, stretching my leg and puting a nail down the shaft of my tibia.

My foot and toes are still a bit swollen and sensitive but also numb.I can't stretch my little toes apart. My surgeon thinks it will return to normal in time. I wondered if acupuncture would be useful in aiding the healing of the nerves? Thanks.


A. One has to be very careful in giving advice in cases like this. From a Traditional Chinese medicine perspective the body is understood in terms of the flow of energy, called 'qi', and anything which breaks the flow of qi, for whatever reason, will be viewed as a potential cause of a weakness of energy 'downstream' from where the injury has been. It is not unusual, for example, for acupuncturists to treat scar tissue in this way, as a material blockage through which a good flow of qi must be restored.


From within the paradign of Chinese medicine the problems which you experience would make sense, and treatment would probably address both the over-arching constitutional balance as well as addressing the local issues where the problem lies. However, from a western perspective there is little or no research evidence (apart from a few studies of acupuncture on rats) that nerve healing can be increased or improved by the use of acupuncture. To put this in its proper context, though, the current gold standard of research against which acupuncture is measured is the randomised double blind control trial, and it is difficult to imagine how one could begin to design a trial which met the criteria for assessing this problem.


We would recommend, if you do decide to have acupuncture treatment, to talk to your consultant and ensure that they are happy for you to take this route. Acupuncture is a very safe therapy with very clear guidelines for safe and hygienic practice. Some western medical professionals still believe that the risks of infection are high, and the BAcC is happy to provide details for the benefit of patients to help them to convince their healthcare teams that treatment is not a risk.

Morton's neuroma is often caused by running and jogging, and treatment usually appears to be aimed at correcting the gait by the use of orthotics to relieve some of the pressures which are thought to cause the problem and then reducing the inflammation and pain by the use of medication. Although there is very little specific evidence for the use of acupuncture for this specific condition, acupuncture treatment is often used to reduce pain and inflammation in a number of conditions for which there is ample evidence, so it is within the bounds of what one might go to an acupuncturist for.



Traditional Chinese medicine has a different take on why and how such conditions are caused in the body, and a practitioner might well look at the overall balance to understand why this has arisen. In the majority of cases the cause is straightforward - over-exercise or poor alignment - and if acupuncture is successful in reducing the inflammation and pain there may well be some longer term management issues about how to balance continued running with treatment aimed at ensuring that the condition is kept under control. It may bne useful to involve a podiatrist or osteopath in the overall strategy.


If you do decide to go ahead with treatment we advise you to agree very specific outcomes with your practitioner and review progress on a regular basis. Conditions like these can be quite obstinate, and there is no point in having a long course of treatment if there is no change. For cases such as this there are surgical options which have a reasonably good success rate.