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Q: I have numbness in my feet (not 100%)which prevents me from falling asleep and is generally most uncomfortable. It is apparently not related to diabetes - according to medical tests - nor to a neurological condition. Can acupuncture help?
A: The short answer is that it is difficult to say! Had you gone to one of our members before seeking any other treatment they would have referred you back to your GP for tests for diabetes and for further neurological assessment. Given that both of these have been done and nothing has been found, the next question would be whether the condition developed slowly or whether it had a sudden onset. This might point to an injury or set of circumstances which might explain its occurrence.
In broad terms Chinese medicine is based on a theory of energy, called 'qi', the flow, balance and rhythms of which maintain the body, mind and spirit in healthy function. There are a number of internal and external causes which can disturb the flow, and also a number of constitutional factors which predispose people to certain types of symptom. The practitioner will cover a great deal of ground trying to understand the unique balance of each patient to find the most effective means to try to address the problems.
In the case of symptoms such as numbness, there are functional reasons why this can occur, and it is a recognised part of several syndromes. If this were the case the practitioner would expect to find other parts of the same pattern in someone's health, not necessarily as symptoms, but just as features of daily living which they have come to accept as 'normal', like bruising easily. There may be more localised reasons for the symptoms, although the fact that both feet are involved tends to suggest otherwise - an identical bilateral local blockage would be unusual.
There is such a wide range of possible interpretations based on diagnostic evidence which we do not have that realistically the only way you are likely to get an informed answer to whether acupuncture treatment will help would be to see a BAcC member local to you for face to face advice. It is the kind of condition which we often find ourselves treating when conventional explanations have yielded no answers, but not every condition is necessarily treatable by acupuncture, and a responsible practitioner will want to see how the problem manifests before committing you to treatment.
Q: I've done a search for acupuncturists closest to me. I want to know which are 5 elements but there is no information at all about the practitioners. Do I need to go through the list and phone each one up?
A: We have had many discussions over the years about how to communicate information like this to prospective patients, and we're sorry to say that we're no nearer to an answer. Our problem is that although we know where people trained there is no guarantee that this remains the style of practice which they mainly use. Many members take postgraduate training in other styles like TCM and Japanese Meridian Therapy, and it is highly likely that most members now use combinations of different styles as best suited to their individual patients.
I'm not sure that you need to ring very practitioner in the area. Asking one or two should very quickly elicit an answer about who locally uses this style, or if you type 'five element acupuncture milton keynes' into google search it generates two or three members in your area who focus on this style.
Q: I've read articles about the possible benefits of acupuncture in helping people with Tourette's Syndrome. If I want to try acupuncture for this condition, do I have to find a particular type of practitioner or will any qualified acupuncturist be willing to try and help?
A: We have to admit to a certain amount of surprise to find a number of studies showing apparently very good results with the use of acupuncture treatment. Examples such as:
offer very impressive success rates, although neither was followed up, as far as we can tell, and they were both conducted in China, which predisposes many conventional medical reviewers to consider them as metholdologically flawed, sight unseen.
There are, indeed, a number of recognised patterns within traditional Chinese medicine for which the kinds of manifestations of Tourette's 'fit', and since we are a part of tradition or lineage which has existed for over two thousand years, there has to be some evidential basis for their development, whatever the reluctance of conventional medicine to accept traditions which survive by working. However, our experience is that these sorts of problems, if they are likely to respond to Chinese medicine, do so relatively quickly, not necessarily into full remission but at least showing measurable signs of improvement. It is important not to get locked into an unending course of treatment.
As far as practitioners are concerned we are not aware of any members who specialise in treating the syndrome, and in principle any are equipped to treat. The best advice is to seach for a local BAcC member using our 'find a practitioner' facility, and see what each says. There may be individual practitioners whose experience may predispose their colleagues to refer to them when they are dealing with relatively uncommon conditions.
Q: My sister has been experiencing tummy bloating for the last two years. She is interested in having acupuncture.
A: We are assuming in answering your query that your sister has had her symptom checked out thoroughly by conventional medicine. When you say 'tummy bloating' we don't know whether you mean 'all the time' or 'after eating.' Although it would be unlikely there are a number of fairly serious conditions which constant bloating may indicate, and it would be important to check that none of these is present, since delaying conventional treatment may have serious consequences.
The most likely outcome, if your sister has seen her GP, is that the problem has been diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a term which is used to cover a wide range of symptoms of which bloating is one. Within Chinese medicine abdominal bloating is very often tied to the poor functioning of a specific part of the system, the Spleen as understood in Chinese medicine terms, but the issue then is deciding whether this is a primary problem in itself or whether within the complex inter-relationships of the system, this is a problem elsewhere causing the Spleen to malfunction. The art and skill of the practitioner lies in making this kind of determination.
There are inevitably going to be many questions which the practitioner will ask about when the bloating occurs and what specific triggers your sister may have noticed, but we suspect that even without knowing more detail that the timing of eating food will be an issue as well as the kinds of food she is eating. This is not quite the same as food intolerance. From a Chinese medicine perspective there are certain types of food which aggravate some of the constitutional imbalances which people have and are best avoided. Many people, for example, are hindered by eating a great deal of cold and damp food, like raw fruit and vegetables, for example, and the irony is that many diets using these as a staple aimed at weight loss often have the opposite effect. However, it would need a proper face to face assessment to make this kind of judgement.
We cannot recommend individual practitioners, but if you use the search facility on the front page of the BAcC website and enter your postcode and nearby postcodes we are sure that your sister will find a practitioner who can offer her face to face advice on whether treatment would be of benefit to her.
Q: My husband has oesteoarthritis in the hips with intractible pain left hip. Cannot find a painkiller he can tolerate. Cannot have hip replacement untiL investigations for recent TIA are completed with any neccessary treatment. Would acupuncture help for the pain?
A: As our factsheet on osteoarthritis shows. Please click here
there is a some evidence that acupuncture can provide relief. The evidence is not sufficiently clear nor in sufficient quantity to allow us to make any formal claims for efficacy, but this is an area where we feel that there is likely to be a growing body of evidence, as there was with back pain and migraines, which will enable us to say with confidence that treatment may be beneficial.
The crucial aspect of treating conditions like osteoarthritis of the hip, however, is not whether or not it 'works', because ultimately many sufferers will have a hip replacement, but the extent to which treatment relieves the pain and for how long. We tend to take the view that acupuncture treatment will provide some relief from pain, whether this is through needling or simply through a form of placebo effect, as our critics claims, but for us the issue is how much relief and how sustainable it is. If treatment buys 48 hours of rest after which the pains return, then to put it crudely a great deal will depend on the resources one has or the generosity and flexibility of the practitioner. We have heard of people being happy to pay for bi-weekly or even tri-weekly treatment, but more common is for a practitioner to offer a number of shorter consultations within a week in order to keep the costs down. If treatment does have a measurable effect, this is a route worth pursuing. If any effect is very short-lived, however, then it may not be worth the time and expense.
The best advice, as always, is to visit a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment of what they believe they can do. If you do decide to go ahead, it will be extremely important to set measurable outcomes and to have a fixed review period agreed from the start. If nothing is happening after four or five sessions it may be wise to call it quits; our experience is that by this stage there should be some tangible change, even if short-lived.