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Gavin Erickson

Gavin Erickson

Tuesday, 14 February 2012 10:42

How can accupuncture help EDS?

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is one of a number of genetic connective tissue disorders which manifest in a wide array of symptoms and as congenital degenerative conditions are not likely to change or improve. In these circumstances the best that one could hope to achieve with acupuncture would be to relieve some of the symptoms which are manifesting your particular case, and perhaps to slow down the progressive deterioration.



There have been attempts to use acupuncture as part of a package of measures to help people deal with the condition, but no research on the use of acupuncture with conventional treatment in contrast to conventional treatment alone which would allow us to make specfic claims. From a Chinese medicine perspective, however, there are a number of ways in which treatment is pitched at systemic problems rather than unique symptoms themselves, and sometimes ways of making sense of a collection of disparate symptoms in a way which Western medicine might not recognise. There may well be some merit in asking the advice of a practitioner local to you about whether the way in which EDS presents in your particular case makes sense from a different medical perspective.


One caution for possible treatment, however, would be the tendency to bruise and the effect on wound healing. Acupuncture is a remarkably gentle treatment, with especially fine needles being used at relatively shallow levels, and only in severe cases of blood thinning through illness and medication is it contra-indicated. Any practitioner worth their salt will always treat conservatively in cases like yours to gauge how well the body responds to the physical process of treatment.

There is not a great deal of evidence from research trials for the treatment of osteoporosis with acupuncture. There are some very positive laboratory-based studies of the treatment of rats, but nothing of substance on human subjects.



However, it sounds from your question as though the pains may be coming from sciatica induced by the erosion and collapse of the lower vertebrae, and there is certainly more evidence suggesting that acupuncture may be of use with this, as can be seen from our factsheet here


As far as the underlying problem is concerned, however, while Chinese medicine works from an entirely different theoretical basis, the problems which people now face are no different from ones have faced for thousands of years. There are a number of ways in which what we term 'osteoporosis' was recognised and treated. In some systems of Chinese medicine the treatment offered is aimed directly at the problem; in others, the treatment is much more a matter of balancing up the energies of the body in the simple belief that where balance exists, symptoms disappear.


The important thing to remember, though, is that direct physical loss or damage is the same in any system of medicine, and in the words of the sales slogan, 'once it's gone, it's gone'. For chronic degererative conditions the best hope is that things get worse slower or stay at the stage they have reached, so this is very important to bear in mind if you choose to seek treatment from a BAcC member.

Thursday, 09 February 2012 19:09

Can modern acupuncture help with asthma

We're not entirely sure what you mean by 'modern acupuncture'? This can either mean western medical acupuncture of a kind used most often by doctors, or it can mean traditional acupuncture used in a way which is aimed at a specific condition rather than using it in a traditional way which sees named conditions as the manifestation of a deeper pattern of disharmony.



The research which has been done has used both types. We have summarised the information in a Review Paper to be found here but this is a fairly dense piece of information in comparison with our fact sheets which are a little easier to access. The summary of findings is encouraging but not conclusive. This is not a surprise to us, though; the format for running trials of acupuncture for asthma are not particularly sensitive to the way acupuncture is practised in everyday use. There is a long history of treating asthma-related conditions in Chinese medicine, and we hope that in time this is validated by research which meets the current western models of best practice.

The one factor which it is very important to bear in mind is that doctors are reluctant to encourage people to come off the long term medications which they are taking for asthma, especially steroids. We encourage our members to be careful only to talk in terms of reducing the medications over which patients can exercise some choice, the 'puffers' like salbutamol/ventolin.

Thursday, 09 February 2012 19:06

Lewy Body Dementia

Q. hello, my mother has recently been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia of an alzheimer type with parkinsons. She is prone to shakes, getting quite anxious over small changes to her routine , plus currently in a low mood. I am looking to see if something like acupuncture can provide her with some help. ...and then finding a practioner who is experienced in dealing with this type of condition with acupuncture. Can you help me out at all with some advice. Thanks!


A. This is a very difficult problem for which to give advice. It is highly unlikely, given the severity and number of the symptoms, that acupuncture will have a great deal of effect on your mother's physical deterioration.



There is little or no evidence that acupuncture has a well-documented effect on conditions such as these, and it would be irresponsible of us to create false expectations by suggesting so.


What we do hear very often, however, is that acupuncture treatment appears to help people to cope better with difficult conditions. Whether this is the treatment itself or the care and attention which our members give is disputed by detractors, but inside the profession we often hear reports back of people feeling 'better in themselves and better able to cope' so there may some benefit to your mother of this kind.


All of our members are equally well-qualified to deal with any person asking for their help, although it is fair to say that when dealing with progressive and deteriorating conditions it helps to have had some experience of working with similar cases. If you contact BAcC members local to you for advice we are sure that they will give you an honest assessment of whether they are equipped to deal with your mother's case and if they feel it is beyond their limits of competence to recommend someone who may be able to help.

While some studies


seemed to give encouraging results, the most recent systematic review of trials of acupuncture for dry eye syndrome are not very conclusive.


However, for a number of reasons, the structure of trials are not well suited to the daily practice of acupuncture. The symptoms which you are experiencing have been described in Chinese medical literature for hundreds of years, and treatment protocols to deal with them have been used for a similar length of time. Whether these are appropriate for your specific would be a judgement which would have to be made by a practitioner able to assess your overall diagnostic signs. The fact that you have had the condition for a long time may have a bearing on how easy it is to treat, however.


Your best course of action would be to consult one of our members local to you to obtain an assessment of whether they think acupuncture would be appropriate. If you did decide to have treatment we would recommend that clear outcomes and regular reviews of progress are essential.

Wednesday, 08 February 2012 11:53

Acupuncture and lower back pain

Plumber Stephen Morris shares his thoughts on how acupuncture treatment helped his lower back pain

Wednesday, 08 February 2012 11:44

Breech and blood type

Q. I am 37 weeks + 5 days pregnant and hope to deliver vaginally. However, my baby is breech, with a nuchal cord (x1), and I am RH negative. I want to do moxibustion to try to get baby to flip, but am worried about the possibility of negative side effects, such as placenta abruption or possibly tightening the cord. I have already done one session of moxi (at home) thinking it was safe, but as I search deeper online, I find that some say not to do it if the mother is RH negative.

Any insight would be much appreciated,



A. Our advice to members is certainly that Rh negativity is one of a number of conditions where we would strongly advise that they do not use moxibustion to attempt to turn a baby in the breech position. There might also be some concerns about using moxibustion at such a late stage in the pregancy.



In any case such as this our advice to members is to be guided by the midwife or consultant obstetrician in charge of the case. If they are happy for you to continue to use moxibustion, then that would based on their own clinical judgment. If they came to us for advice, however, they would be told what we have told you, advice which was put together by an expert working group of members trained both as acupuncturists and midwives, that we would not recommend to use of moxibustion in this case.

Vulvodynia is a particularly painful and distressing condition. Unfortunately it has not been very well researched, and the two articles which are most frequently cited


are not enough to satisfy the requirements for making a positive recommendation. An article published by one of our members in an acupuncture journal mentions it in passing as a condition often associated with interstitial cystitis


Interestingly, however, when this was recently posted as a topic on one of our members' forums for discussion there was very little 'chatter', which probably indicates that it is not frequently being treated.


This does not mean that it may not in your case be treatable. The strength of Chinese medicine lies precisely in its ability to connect apparently unrelated symptoms and make sense of them according to treatment protocols which have been developed over thousands of years. Visiting a practitioner local to you for a brief consultation to see whether in your case acupuncture may help may be the best course of action.

Wednesday, 08 February 2012 11:28


Q. I have three "issues" (!) that I think acupuncture may help to overcome: addiction to micotine, generalised anxiey and also I am trying to become "more fertile", after a bad miscarriage 6 years' ago. Obviously, smoking isn't helping on either the pregnancy or anxiety front. Can you tell me whether acupucture is particulrly successful re. stopping smoking?


A. The evidence for acupuncture helping people to stop smoking, either traditional acupuncture or ear acupuncture, is not that great. This was certainly the case when the BMA researched conditions for which acupuncture was effective over a decade ago, and nothing new in the field of acupuncture research has been published since to change that view.



However, research for areas such as nicotine addiction or stress tends to employ a model of treatment which is rarely similar to the ways in which a traditional acupuncturist normally works. The use of formula points, the same ones applied time and time again, does not square with traditional treatment which is developmental and evolutionary - the results from a session help the practitioner to refine the diagnosis and inform amendments to how they treat the patient on the next visit. This is all premised on a system of Chinese medicine which aims to balance energies in the body in the simple belief that a system in balance tends to see a reduction in the symptoms which arise from underlying disharmony. Various forms of addiction, anxiety states and system failures are seen as the alarm bells of disease, and treatment is aimed at correcting the underlying patterns.


It is often worthwhile talking directly and in person to a practitioner to get a sense of whether your own individual case is something which they believe they might be able to help. Using our 'find a practitioner' search on the website or your local Yellow Pages should identify a number of BAcC members working in your area.

Wednesday, 08 February 2012 11:25

Can acupuncture help carpal tunnel?

Although a number of studies, such as


have shown some interesting and positive results for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome, the more recent systematic review


is not that encouraging. In many cases it is the methodological flaws in the studies themselves which mean that they cannot be taken as solid evidence. Anecdotally the BAcC is aware that some patients benefit considerably from their treatment, but there are just as many for whom the treatment does not appear to work and for whom steroid injections and/or an operation are the only options which offer some help.


The best advice, since from a Chinese medicine perspective all cases are unique and different, is to see if you can arrange a short consultation with a practitioner local to you to get their view on whether your particular case may be amenable to treatment. If you did so and opted to go ahead with treatment we would recommend that the outcomes are very clear, as well as the interim review periods. Obstinate conditions, of which this is one, sometimes lend themselves to the development of 'habit treatment' where progress is minimal but hope gets the better of experience.