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Ask the Expert
Q: I have had four sessions so far but my practitioner also prescrobes herbal medicine Jin ui Shen Qui Wan and another capsule which has no name on the packaging - when questioned about what they are for she simply said they are herbal and wont do me any harm. Is it normal to have to take tablets alongside acupuncture?
A: Chinese medicine includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, tui na (a form of massage), moxibustion (burning a warming herb) and cupping, as well as dietary advice and exercise (tai chi and qi gong). It is quite possible, therefore, to have chinese herbal medicine alongside acupuncture, and the BAcC has about 300 members who are also members of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and use herbs regularly, as well as a further 250 trained to use ready made herbal formulae.
Where a herbal product comes in a ready made form it is required by law to list the contents. If the formula is made up by the practitioner, then there is no need to list the contents, and in most cases the patient would be none the wiser if they did - we certainly wouldn't! However, if we had a list, it would mean that we could check if we wanted to, and that is the important thing. In the days of the internet it is possible to find out just about anything, and the patient has a right to know what they are being given.
We are sure that there are good reasons why the practitioner has not told you what they are giving you, probably to do with the rather obscure names of the contents, but a responsible practitioner will certainly accede to your request for a list of the contents. If that is not forthcoming, then you would be entitled to take that up with the professional association the practitioner belonged to, especially if it comes in packaged form and does not list what it contains. Capsules can be made by the practitioners, so this does not count as packaging, but industrially produced boxes would seem to indicate ready-made herbs whose contents should be listed.
Q: ] I am looking for acupuncture for neck pain but can't find a therapist who has a hole in their couch for me to put my face into when I'm lying on my tummy - my neck won't allow me to lie with my face to one side. I've been told the treatment can be done with me sat up but I want to be able to relax during the treatment - don't you agree?
A: We always try to make our patient's comfort a central concern, but obviously there are going to be a few circumstances where the equipment needed to do this is not something which we could require all our members to have. The usual reason for having a couch with the hole is for massage therapy, and given that we insure a considerable number of members for massage alongside their acupuncture work, it should be possible to find someone who is suitably dual qualified. We are not able to give out the names of these practitioners because we can only make recommendations for acupuncturists, but a google search for 'massage' and 'acupuncture' in your area is likely to identify someone suitable.
Good as it is for the experience of treatment to be relaxing, we are bound to say that it is the treatment of the neck which matters most, so we would tend to take the view that the fact that someone couldn't drift off during a session was less important than getting the neck pain sorted. Although relaxation during the treatment is sometimes necessary, in most cases the treatment will be as effective if the patient is simply comfortable while being administered.
We hope, however, that you manage to find someone who can provide exactly what you are looking for.
Q: My wife suffers from spasmophilia syndrome. Its all related to her mind status. Here you call it panic attack, but in France is well know. Its also a magnesium deficiency ,so physically sometimes she suffes from big tiredness. Especially when she has to face the long commuting. Sometimes she cant walk or the face muscle become hard then she cant talk or her eyes blur in a way that she cant see for fews minutws. My question is the following, is there any help for this? I do not expect a cure because the spasmophilia is pretty much impossible to cure. So I was wondering in which way acupunture can help.
A: As you say, spasmophilia is sometimes referred to as panic attacks, although we have to say that the typical symptoms are a little more extreme than the usual panic attack patient we see.
As you can see from our fact sheets on anxiety. Please click here
there is a small amount of evidence which suggests that acupuncture may have a role to play in treating severe anxiety, but we were unable to find any papers which dealt with the treatment of panic disorders directly, possibly because of the difficulty of pinning down a definition precise enough for research.
The strength of Chinese medicine is that working with an entirely different theoretical base makes possible a diagnosis unique to the individual patient.This is able to make sense of the symptoms which they experience through an understanding of the flow of energy in the body, called 'qi', and its flow and balance, and through a functional understanding of the organs which takes a much wider view of these functions than the west, involving body, mind and spirit. This can sometimes offer explanations for what is going on which fit well with the experience which the person has, and can also offer treatment possibilities based on this. The French acupuncturist Yves Requema, for example, makes specific reference to spasmophilia in his work, and suggests a number of treatment possibilities.
As you say, a total remission from symptoms might be a little much to expect, and this always means that you have to take care when committing to courses of treatment. In the UK we tend to set a review point at four or five sessions and try to establish some clearly measurable outcomes to assess whether the treatment is having an effect. Otherwise people can find themselves ten sessions or more in for what amount to a substantial amount of cash without any real change.
About 300 or more members of the BAcC also practise Chinese herbal medicine and belong to the RCHM, and it is possible that this may also offer a route to some lessening of the symptoms. The advantage is that small daily treatments can often produce a much better incremental effect when faced with a chronic conditions like this. Finding someone who can provide both modalities might be a very worthwhile option.
We believe that most conditions are capable of improvement, but the key question is how much improvement and how sustainable it is. If the effects are short-lived and cannot be maintained, then it is probably not worth pursuing treatment with any form of therapy, even though it might produce short periods of calm.
Q: My 9 year old daughter has transverse myelitis. I am looking for an acupuncturist who understands her condition and is qualified to treat a child. Can you advise me?
A: We do not have agreed special qualifications for treating children. However, for a number of conditions children are not simply small adults, and there have developed over the years a number of courses in the UK which train practitioners in the treatment of children. This extends to how best to handle small children and babies, and how to modify the standard treatments to ensure that they are not too powerful for a child. Because we have not yet reached agreement on the standards which would enable someone to advertise themselves as expert practitioners in this field, the best advice we can give is to use google to search 'acupuncture and the treatment of children'. This will generate a number of websites belonging to course providers who list postgraduate diploma holders who may well work in your area.
As far as understanding the condition itself is concerned, although most BAcC members have a thorough grounding in Western medicine, this may not extend to all of the technical details of specific conditions. What we imagine will happen, however, is that a practitioner would as a part of their normal duty of care for a patient find out more about the specifics if they treated someone with a problem such as this. Of course, Chinese medicine is based on an entirely different theoretical structure from conventional medicine, working with a concept of energy,or 'qi', and its flow and balance. That said, symptoms are the same whatever the system of medicine which describes them, and a practitioner's skill lies in understanding how the symptoms present from an eastern rather than western perspective. This can sometimes generate treatment options which are not available within conventional medicine.
However, there are conditions, and this is one of them, where the structural changes in the body are such that it would be over-optimistic to expect change. There are a small number of case studies, such as
Please click here:
which describe encouraging successes, but these are too sporadic to be used as a basis for claiming efficacy, and with far too many potentially contributory factors involved in the changes.
If you can locate a BAcC member local to you who has undertaken postgraduate training in the treatment of children we are confident that they will be able to offer you a realistic and honest assessment of what they may be able to do for your daughter.
Q: I am considering accupuncture treatment for smoking cessation. i had this before some years ago combined with Chinese herbal medicine herbs and it worked wonderfully well, now i can't afford the herbs, just the accupuncture. i have been offered 5 appointments of 45 minutes each over 2 weeks for £150 total for accupuncture treatment. Do you think I will manage to give up smoking again with this treatment without the herbs? i just relapsed the last 3 months due to severe family upsets. After being a non smoker for 12 years, i would value your opinion. i have been diagnosed with schzophrenia in the past since 1992 and just recently have a new diagnosis of personality disorder instead.
A: This is a difficult question to answer. It is impossible to say whether it was the acupuncture, the herbs or the combination of the two which made such a successful impact on your cigarette smoking before, so the only way to find out, we suppose, is to see if the acupuncture alone can do it. There's no doubt that the fact that you managed to stay off cigarettes for twelve years would seem to indicate that you are more likely to be able to give up again, especially if the circumstances which brought about your relapse have resolved a little.
However, there are never any guarantees with treatment for giving up smoking.
We wish you the best of luck!