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Gavin Erickson

Gavin Erickson

 

Q. I have persistent tingling and numbness in my right hand not painfull but very irritating.. Had scans, tests to no avail would acupuncture help?

 

A. Practitioners in the BAcC often have patients come to them after all the western tests have been done and nothing has been found, because they've heard or read that the symptoms which they describe are a part of the disease patterns understood within Chinese medicine. It is certainly the case that some patterns describe numbness and tingling in the hands as a symptom, but equally true that many people experience symptoms like these where none of the usual accompanying signs occur and for which treatment would not be as straightforward or as likely to be of benefit.
 
Chinese medicine has developed over thousands of years, and offers many different ways of intervening to put someone's system back in order. Symptoms such as yours may be evidence of local disturbance which might benefit from local treatment, or they may result from major functional imbalances and require more work. The best way to establish whether acupuncture would be appropriate would be to visit a BAcC member who can offer you a better assessment based in their own observations about whether your particular case has some clearcut features which suggest that acupuncture might work well.

 

Q. Have sucessfully had acupuncture for fertility issues. Now in peri- menopause and can't get on with HRT or Prozac. Now cold turkey and hot flashes few and far between. Major issue is the mood swings - I am becoming increaslingly difficult to live with (ask my husband, kids and dog!). Can acupuncture help in this area?

 

A. There's no doubt that the research for treating menopausal symptoms is not conclusive, as our factsheet shows but with the wide variety of symptoms which women experience designing good trials is not that straightforward.
 
One of the great strengths of Chinese medicine, though, is that it can offer an understanding of groups of symptoms in a way which would make no sense in western medicine but which would be immediately clear from the Chinese understanding of functions in the body and their relative levels of balance. A skilled practitioner may be able to make sense of what you are experiencing and attempt to adjust the balance to reduce the severity of the symptoms.
 
The fact that you have had acupuncture before and that it has worked for you is very encouraging. Many people find that they are very receptive to one form of treatment over others, and this can often transfer to new symptoms which arise.

The first ever Acupuncture Awareness Week launches on Monday 27 February 2012 and will attempt to dispel the many myths still surrounding acupuncture.
 
Recent research has revealed that over 21 per cent of the British public think acupuncture needles are as large as the needles used for regular injections. Not true! But it just goes to show that in spite of Chinese medicine’s ever increasing popularity, there are still a whole host of common misconceptions surrounding this ancient form of treatment.

 

Q. My niece suffers from epilipsey and i wondering if Acupuncture might be able to help her?

 

A. The current evidence for the treatment of epilepsy with acupuncture is not that encouraging. A revised Cochrane Review
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18843676
 
of trials and studies concludes that there is not a great deal of success, and other more recent trials tend to say the same. Anecdotally there are reports of patients coming off medication with the help of their practitioners and the consent of their GPs, but epilepsy manifests in many forms and it would be impossible to offer any general advice. The best course of action would be, if your niece is on medication, to discuss with the GP whether a reduction or change in medication was possible at all, as a first step, and then discuss with a well-trained practitioner how they might support that process.
 
The treatment of any condition for which a person may be taking essential prescribed medication has to be handled with great care. The BAcC often gets questions from people who have been taking medications for many years to control their epilepsy and believe that they would probably be OK without it, based on periods where they have simply neglected to take it and not suffered any ill effects. Our advice has always been that in this particular case, it is absolutely essential that the person's GP be involved in any discussion about changes to the medication. One highly salient point is that many people only continue to hold driving licences on the basis that they are fit-free and on medication. Any reduction in medication which led to a fit and caused an accident would probably invalidate their insurance and constitute a criminal offence.
 
As far as using acupuncture as a primary treatment for epilepsy is concerned, however, we would be reluctant to endorse its use as a primary and sole therapy. However, there is no evidence to suggest that acupuncture interferes with the treatment of controlled epilepsy, whether that control is through medication, diet or lifestyle, and many people use acupuncture treatment alongside their existing routines. It might be beneficial to seek the advice of a BAcC member local to your niece to see what they might be able to offer. As you will see from the answers to many of the questions on this site, acupuncture works from an entirely different perspective from western treatment, and there may be ways in which a practitioner may feel that they can help from within that perspective. 

 

Q. Can acupuncture help if you are trying to conceive?

 

A. Just as every magazine and sunday newspaper runs regular articles on how best to prepare yourself for conception and childbirth it won't come as a surprise to know that Chinese medicine has equivalent ideas about what counts as the best possible health and what might remove some of the impediments to conception. Most of these are independent of specific cultures and just straightforward common sense - eat well, sleep well, don't work to hard, don't try to make the process happen when you don't actually feel like, and so on.
 
Chinese medicine is founded on notions of balance and harmony in good health, however, rather more than the absence of disease. This is not unique to Chinese medicine; an increasing amount of NHS resource is now directed towards healthy living. In the Chinese medical model, though, the practitioner can do a great deal to achieve states of better balance which they believe will make the person as a whole - body, mind and spirit - function much better. BAcC members are trained in depth in how to use Chinese medicine in this way, and any normal process in life should, in theory, be improved by being in better balance.
 
There are obviously no guarantees, and no-one will claim to be able to influence the process of conception to that extent. However, it appears that a growing number of women seem to have found that having acupuncture treatment while they were trying to conceive has been beneficial if only for the relaxation which treatment seems to encourage.

Thursday, 02 February 2012 14:54

Can acupuncture help with snoring?

Q. Can acupuncture help with snoring?

 

 

A. I'm afraid the evidence for using acupuncture to help with snoring is very thin on the ground. Occasionally a study on a related technique in which acupuncture is used as a test intervention shows that some specific points have an effect, as in
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2485457
 
there are no trials of which we are aware which provide anything like the evidence which we would need to give a defintive answer. We hear of individual cases where someone's snoring has been reduced or stopped, but there may have been other factors at play. Let's face it, families will usually suggest the sufferer tries everything at the same time to give everyone a break.
 
The strength of Chinese medicine, however, is that it looks at each individual patient as someone with a unique pattern of energy, and the practitioner's understanding of this pattern may offer a different take on what is going on. The Chinese had a very simple belief that if everything was in balance symptoms would disappear, and there is always a chance that something specific, understood in Chinese terms, might be correctible and offer some relief.
 
As in all cases of slightly less well documented problems, it is important to establish with a reputable practitioner before starting treatment whether they think they can help, and if treatment does commence to set very clear outcomes and review dates.

Thursday, 02 February 2012 14:47

Epilepsy

Q. I am a 30 years old male that has never had any kind of epilepsy nor seizures, but I have suffered 7 nocturnal seizures since August 2010.

At first I thought that smoking cannabis could have been the reason for those seizures and I stopped, but after over 6 months I had an other few in the last three months (and I haven't been smoking since January 2011).

The only link I manage to find so far is physical exercise: I tend to get an episode the night after I have been running or going to the gym. My doctor suggested it might be linked to endorphin.

I was given a therapy (400mg of Tegretol) to be taken daily, but I don't want to start it as the side effects can be rather nasty.

I read on a few websites that acupuncture could help in cases like mine.

Could it?

and should I contact a specific kind of acupuncturist?

 

A. There is some evidence from Chinese research, which is not generally accepted in the West, that acupuncture alongside standard treatment may be beneficial for this problem, but the trials are mostly methodologically poor and inconclusive. This does not mean that it may not be helped by treatment, only that the evidence on which to base any predictive claims is not adequate. However, if someone has been prescribed medication, we would regard the most responsible course of action to be for the practitioner, with the patient's consent, to talk to the GP or hospital consultant who drew up the prescription about using acupuncture alongside, or instead of, the medication.

This is one of a number of situations where patients might want to come off, or not take, prescribed medications, but the duty of care which BAcC members have means that they cannot recommend or endorse this. There are also ethical issues about agreeing to treat someone who might be putting themselves at risk by doing so. While nocturnal seizures are not usually life threatening in themselves, it is highly likely that your medical practitioner will have a definite treatment plan in mind, and the BAcC would have some reservations about any member who compromised it. It is not clear from the question whether the seizures have been investigated and the diagnosis confirmed by EEG or scans. This may have a bearing on your doctor's reasoning.

There are no specific types of acupuncturist; all BAcC members are trained to the same high standards and capable of offering the same standard of treatment.

 

Q. Does acupuncture help with weight problems? Going through the menopause and the weight piling on.

 

A. The research evidence for acupuncture and weight loss is not good, but that is at least in part because weight gain can occur for a wide variety of reasons, and standardising treatment to test its value will almost certainly be a very hit and miss affair. Most people trying to lose weight are also not only doing several things besides seeking help from acupuncturists or other therapists, but told categorically by weight watching organisations that progress is likely to be slow and hard fought. Deciding what effects are down to treatment, to diet, to exercise or just luck is difficult.
 
There are a number of explanations within Chinese medicine which are offered for weight gain, and being menopausal may or may not be implicated in what is going on. Although we repeat all the time that Chinese medicine treats the person, not simply the condition, this is exactly one of those cases where the unique balance and constitution of the individual is the key to understanding whether acupuncture can indeed help. The most effective way to establish this is to seek a short consultation with a BAcC member to see whether acupuncture might be appropriate.

 

Q. How can I verify that someone is fully qualified and registered with the British Acupuncture Council?

 

A. To be absolutely sure, you would need to contact the office in London. The database is updated every week, but not everyone chooses to be on the 'practitioner search' section of the BAcC website, so it is possible that you might insert a specific name in the 'advanced search' section and find no results.
 
Printed materials go out of date, and it is possible that someone might have been a member when a leaflet or register was printed but have lapsed in the following months.

 

Q. Can acupuncture help with male infertility and where would the needles go?

 

A. Although there is no conclusive evidence that male infertility can be helped by acupuncture a number of studies, such as this one undertaken in 2002 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12658811, suggest that there may be measurable changes in important aspects of sperm motility and quality. Traditional Chinese medicine clearly did not have access to such sophisticated methods of analysis but infertility was recognised as just as much a problem in both sexes over a thousand years ago, and its diagnosis was understood in terms of the patterns of energy with which infertile couples presented for treatment.
 
As we say frequently on the website, chinese medicine primarily treats the person, not simply the condition, and most treatments use points on the limbs below the elbow and knee, and powerful points on the trunk and back. As we constantly remind patients, though, they are in charge of the treatment. If any needling is suggested for areas outside their comfort zones, they can and should say 'no.' A well-trained practitioner will always be able to find suitable alternative ways to achieve the same results.