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Q: My mother is suffering from pain in the knees and shins please can you advise if acupuncture would help.
A: We would find it very difficult to answer a question like this without asking the kinds of question which any medical system would ask to establish what was going on: what kind of pain, where exactly, how long have you had it, does it come and go or is it constant, are there things that make it worse, have you found anything which makes it better, do you take medications and if so which ones and do they work, and so on.
One of the problems of modern medicine is that it has become dominated by 'named conditions' and formal guidelines for their treatment which can mean on occasion that someone might be offered a number of treatments which don't work before they get the individual assessment which they need. We are not criticising the system; where colleagues of ours have gone to help out after emergencies in a wonderful organisation called World Medicine (previously Acupuncture Sans Frontieres) the subtleties of treatment have had to give way to much broader brush treatments to get people moving quickly.
Ultimately, however, good acupuncture treatment rests on establishing why these particular pains are occurring in this particular patient, and for that you would need to be face to face with a practitioner who could very quickly elicit the information to give him or her a good idea of whether acupuncture treatment might help.
Our best advice is to visit a BAcC member local to you with your mother and ask them whether they think acupuncture treatment may be of benefit. Most BAcC members are happy to give up a short amount of time without charge to be able to give an informed view. This means that if the patient decides to go ahead with treatment there are much clearer understandings of what outcomes there might be and how to assess progress. This can save a great deal of confusion and possible discontent later on.
Q: I have been diagnosed with an inner ear problem that is causing pressure and discomfort. Can acupuncture help?
A: A great deal depends on what is causing the pressure. Although we work with a system of medicine which rests on an entirely different basis from conventional medicine, we have the advantage of an understanding of the inner workings of the body which the ancient Chinese would have loved to have. If there are gross physical reasons for the pressure being in your ear, like narrowing or stenosis of some of the fluid conduits, then acupuncture treatment isn't going to be any use at all. If, however, the flow of fluids in the area is in any way compromised because they are becoming more viscous, then this is the sort of territory where Chinese medicine may make a difference. There are, for instance, a number of protocols for dealing with local blockages and with the systemic thickening of fluids which may offer some hope.
As far as research is concerned, there is nothing which we have identified which relates directly to this kind of problem. You will find a number of studies on Meniere's disease and vertigo where there may be an overlap, but nothing which relates to 'pressure' in an of itself.
We suspect that the only way you are going to get an informed answer to your question is to visit a BAcC member local to you and explain to them the exact nature of the problem. This will enable them to give you a much more informed view than we can here. Most members are happy to give up a small amount of time without charge to enable prospective patients to check whether this is the therapy, and sometimes the therapist, for them.
We are also aware that people also use cranial osteopathy to good effect with problems like this, especially where someone has a history of major dental treatment. This can sometimes cause subtle displacements of some of the joints in the area, and while acupuncture treatment can encourage a reinstatement of proper energy flow which might help the body to reassert its proper shape, a more direct method may work more quickly. Your local BAcC member will undoubtedly be able to give you a trustworthy referral for this option.
A: We must admit to being a little stumped by this question. We don't quite know what an 'acupuncture full body massage' is and we googled it without any real success.
The only thing that we can think of is that this is being used to describe a form of Chinese massage like tui na which uses a knowledge of the acupuncture points and channels to reinvigorate the energy, or 'qi', of the body. There are a number of variations on this theme, although we find it a little surprising that someone would describe this as 'acupuncture full body massage'. The other possibility is that someone offers both modalities, and this is some sort of shorthand for a session which might involve both.
We have to admit, though, that this did ring an alarm bell because there are, like it or not, a number of practitioners out there with very poor qualifications and training who offer all sorts of strange hybrids. We find this dispiriting, because anything which they do reflects on all of us, and this is why we have maintained our call for the statutory regulation of acupuncture for over twenty years.
However, we would not want to be unfair to someone who may be doing legitimate work. If they are, there is every probability that they belong to a reputable professional association with a published code of conduct and register, and equally a probability that they will be happy to explain exactly what they are doing and where they trained to learn how to do it. If neither is the case, or if you are not satisfied with the explanation, it is perhaps best to go elsewhere.
A: A great deal depends on the precise definition of 'panic attack' which you use. It's the same as with people suffering from 'anxiety'; as a disease label it is far too imprecise because it tells you very little about what they actually experience.
Certainly from a western or conventional medical perspective, the lack of precision in the definition is a factor which has made for very little research in this area. There are no significant studies of which we are aware which would allow us to make any claim, however much qualified, about whether acupuncture may help. On the other hand, it is our experience that many people with panic attacks do benefit from acupuncture treatment, and we need to explain a little about how Chinese medicine works to understand this.
The symptoms which someone experiences remain the same whatever system of medicine one uses. The Chinese medicine system, however, is based on an entirely different understanding of the physiology of the body, and sees the whole system as a flow of energy, called 'qi', whose balance, rhythm and flow determine someone's overall state of health. The Organs, always capitalised when we talk about them in this system, all have unique functions which are much wider than their western equivalents, and the skill of the practitioner lies in being able to work from seeing the symptoms in this context and to make sense of where the flow of energy has been compromised. There are a number of diagnostic signs which are independent of symptoms which allow the practitioner to hone in on what needs to be treated. It is quite possible that two people with the same symptoms could be offered two entirely different treatments.
What you may need to do to get a better sense of whether your panic attacks are amenable to treatment is to visit a local BAcC member and see if they can offer you a brief face to face assessment in which they can see whether the specific symptoms which you experience give them a sense that your problem might be helped. The chances are that they will say yes; although each person is unique and different there are often patterns which are most associated with the main features of panic attacks and some fairly standard treatments - after all, with a 2500 year history of treatment Chinese medicine has been dealing with this sort of problem for a very long time.
The key thing is to set measurable outcomes. These will help you, if you decide to have treatment, to assess whether it is having an effect. We often encourage people to keep diaries because it is easy not to notice how much, or how little, progress there has been.
Q: I had acupuncture before for my MS and depression but it was never regular like once a week. As I am very poorly at the moment I need to find an affordable acupuncturist near me central London. I can even be a volunteer in a teaching class. I can only afford £10 for a week at the moment.
A: It is an unfortunate consequence of the fact that most acupuncture treatment is offered in private practice that its practitioners have to charge the market rate to make a living. This has sometimes led to the accusation that it remains a middle class option.
However, money was not the driving force which made the majority of BAcCv members train to become acupuncturists, and many are prepared to negotiate discounts if someone would really benefit from having treatment. The balance that many of us seek is to see enough patients at our normal fee rates to pay the bills to be able to offer treatment to those who cannot afford it at the normal rate. This is very much a personal choice and commitment by the individual practitioner; we do not interfere in this at all.
There are a number of members who are committed to a model of practice called the multi-bed clinic which has its origins in the United States. This is a clinic which houses several treatment couches in a large open space, and while it does not afford the privacy of usual practice it is how acupuncture is offered in much of China and the Far East. There is an organisation called ACMAC which is a forum for all providers of this form of treatment in the UK, and logging onto their site at acmac.net will offer you a drop down list of clinics in or near your area.
Finally there are a number of teaching institutions which sometimes have student clinics in which the fees are heavily reduced. Although the practitioners are in the process of qualifying they are under the supervision of some of the most experienced practitioners around, and this can be a very fruitful option. Contact details for all of the teaching institutions whose graduates are automatically eligible to join the BAcC can be found here http://baab.co.uk/study-acupuncture/accredited-courses.html.