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Q: Can accupuncture help with post natal symptoms to encourage milk flow, increase energy and prevent post natal depression? If so are you able to recommend someone in or near Redhill Surrey who specialises in this.
A: As our factsheet on puerperium, the immediate post-birth period, shows please click here
there is a small amount of evidence to show that acupuncture may be able to help with stimulating milk production. It is fair to say, though, that the number of studies is small, and some of them involve the use of electro-acupuncture, which is far from the standard treatment used by most BAcC members.
As far as increasing energy and preventing post-natal depression is concerned, the best that one can say is that, from a Chinese medicine perspective, the body, mind and emotions have been under a considerable strain for several months, and while a few ripples would be normal in the immediate post-birth period would be considered normal, if they persist into long-term problems of tiredness and depression it would indicate that the system is struggling to regain its balance. Since restoring overall balance was the main premise of traditional chinese medicine, there may well be some possibility that treatment could help to move things along. From a Chinese medicine perspective there are also certain parts of the system which bear a particular amount of strain during the pregnancy, and a skilled practitioner may well be able to target these areas in particular.
We do not give out individual recommendations, since we believe that all of our members are equally weel-equipped to deal with any patient who comes to see the. However, a significant number of members have undertaken considerable postgraduate training in working with fertility and pregnancy issues, and you may well find that this focus in their practice may equip them slightly better to discuss the specifics of your presentation. A quick view of the websites of those members nearest to you may reveal one or two who emphasise that they work with this group, and you would be best advised to seek a brief consultation with one, hopefully without charge, to determine whether acupuncture may be the best option for you.
We are assuming that you have been down the conventional medical route with your symptoms in case they are attributable to mild anaemia, but if you have not we are sure that our members would want to work in concert with your healthcare team.
Q: I have a c6 c7 herniated disc I would like to try acupuncture but am a little anxious. Horrible symptoms, dizziness, possible trigeminal nerve injury too, plus sciatica all on my left side. Do you think it would help?
A: This question is a great deal more complex than it may appear. A great deal depends on what diagnosis has already taken place and what treatment options have been explored. Many orthorpaedic surgeons, as well as manipulative therapists such as osteopaths and chiropractors, are reluctant to take any action which the body may experience as 'aggressive', and as a consequence most of the treatment options are about management rather than resolution.
To address your first comment, there is almost certainly no reason to feel anxious about treatment as far as physical damage or worsening of symptoms is concerned. Not only does acupuncture have a very good safety record, with very few significant adverse events reported in the UK over the last 20 years, but a properly trained and qualified practitioner will never needle anywhere close to a problem area if there is a risk that in doing so they will make things worse or cause physical damage.
One of the great strengths of Chinese medicine is that it understands the body, mind and spirit as a dynamic system of energy whose movement and balance ensure that we remain in good health. When this balance is compromised by injury or wear and tear there are often ways of encouraging flow through the affected area, often working at a considerable distance from where the problem manifests, which can help to restore proper flow. The Chinese took the very simple but effective view that where flow was good, symptoms would resolve. Sciatica, which is often generated by problems with disc herniation in the lumbar spine, is, as our factsheet shows, please click here
a very similar problem which appears to be helped considerably by treatment.
The idea of maintaining good flow is also critical to dealing with local problems, such as some of those which you have, where a flow has been disrupted. It is quite common for simple needling in the area to be used to great effect. We can reassure, though, that there is no likelihood of anyone using deep needling techniques in the immediate area of the herniation.
We recommend, both to ensure that treatment is a good option and to be reassured about the whole process, that you contact a BAcC member local to you and seek a brief face to face assessment of whether acupuncture is the best way forward. We are sure that they will give you honest and impartial advice
Vaginal dryness is most commonly a feature of the menopause, and if so may well be accompanied by a number of other symptoms with which you may or may not be suffering. If so, there is some evidence from trials that acupuncture can help in general with menopausal symptoms, as our fact sheet shows please click here
but the research is a little patchy and the results not consistent. This is partly because the methodology of the research is often flawed, but equally as much to do with the fact that the menopause presents in a huge variety of ways, and measuring changes across such a diverse set of symptoms can be difficult.
If your condition has arisen as a stand-alone symptom, this is an entirely different situation, and your first course of action in conventional medicine may well be to take hormonal medication to help with the problem. There is no acupuncture research of which we are aware which supports its use as a treatment. However, the strength of Chinese medicine is that it uses a functional understanding of the internal Organs, always capitalised to express the difference between this and the western concept of an organ, and body-wide understanding of some of the key concepts of Chinese medicine, like Yin, Yang and Blood. A specific symptom such as vaginal dryness may well be a local example of a systemic problem, therefore, and may also involve other mucous membranes in the body such as dry eyes, dry lips and so on, or it could point to a functional disturbance in the organ most closely associated with good balance in this area of the body, in which case there may be functional disturbances in other parts of the body or systems governed by the same Organ.
The terribly over-used, and frequently mis-used, term 'holistic' describes this very well, the understanding of this specific symptom within its broader context. We are always unhappy with the common use of this word in the context of acupuncture treatment; some doctors are very holistic and some complementary therapists are anything but. However, the routine diagnosis employed by a BAcC member will always involve looking in detail at all of the symptoms which someone has, some of which they may not even recognise as symptoms, and all of the normal patterns and rhythms of life, like diet, sleep, lifestyle and so on. From this array of information they will try to make sense of a specific symptom, and as is often the case, a single symptom can often be treated in many different ways depending on the unique balance and history of the individual.
Will it work for you? We can't say. if it is a menopausal symptom or relates directly to a specific imbalance a practitioner may feel confident that they could help. Even if this were not the case most BAcC members also work constitutionally in the belief that a system in balance deals with symptoms wherever they appear. Our experience, however, is that some menopausal symptoms can be difficult to help, and even where treatment provides benefit it is often a case of reducing severity rather than removing altogether. Since the variety of presentations is so great, however, we can't really give a definitive answer here and would recommend that you visit a BAcC member local to you for specific advice on whether they believe acupuncture treatment may help you.
Q: Please could you tell me if acupuncture can prevent hormonal migraines which occur during ovulation? I suffer from migraines with aura every month at the end of the ovulation time. Can acupuncture be used to prevent these types of migraines and how would it do so?
A: As you may have seen in the press recently with the announcement of the NICE Guidelines for tension headaches, acupuncture is being increasingly recognised as a worthwhile option for treating headaches, and is certainly high on the list of conditions for which patients seek treatment with BAcC members. As our factsheet shows. Please click here
the evidence is encouraging and migraine is one of the conditions where we believe the evidence is good enough to allow us to claim so in our marketing,and for which we continue to make our case regularly with the ASA.
Migraines are differentiated in many ways, however, a medical term meaning they can arise from a number of different causes. This is equally the case in Chinese medicine; one old but influential article in the Journal of Chinese Medicine outlines 57 varieties of migraine, which sounds uncannily like a famous advertising slogan of the time. The key thing which would engage the practitioner's interest in your case is the fact that the migraine occurs mid-cycle, where the great majority of cycle-related migraines tend to occur just before or just after the period.
The Chinese understanding of the physiology of the body is entirely different from the western one, based as it is on the flow of 'qi', the Chinese term for energy, and a functional understanding of the internal Organs, not simply physical things which work in their precise location but functional units which can carry on working even when the physical organ has gone, like the Spleen or Gall Bladder. This means that the physiology of the menstrual cycle, when expressed and understood in these terms, identifies various peaks and flows during the cycle which can help to make sense of some of the symptoms which occur. A skilled practitioner may be able to make sense of your specific presentation and adjust the balances of your energy accordingly. Even where the symptom may not relate directly to a specific physiological understanding of the problem it is important to bear in mind that there is a very powerful strand in Chinese medicine which regards symptoms as merely alarm bells which, if the whokle system is in balance, will resolve.
How does it work? Well, from a Chinese medicine perspective it is all about ensuring a good flow and supply of qi to all of the body, and the needles are used to re-balance everything, adjusting excesses and deficiencies, and removing blockage and stagnation. Of course, this presupposes that you buy into the Chinese medicine understanding of the body, which most western medical practitioners don't. Their research often looks to identify changes in body chemistry achieved by needles, or to neuriphysiological effects, and there is no doubt that there will be changes in these - it's all one body after al.
The key thing is to ensure that acupuncture treatment is worth pursuing, and if not, to look at what else may be of benefit. The best advice we can give is that you visit a BAcC member local to you for an informal assessment of whether they think acupuncture may be of benefit.
Q: Is it possible that acupuncture can help with leveling thyroid levels and maintaining them. i am slightly over active thyroid but am finding meds that i have been prescribed as having diverse effect on joint problems so am unable to take them.
A: This question comes up quite frequently, either for hypo- or hyper-thyroidism, or for unstable thyroid function. The answer we gave for a question on hypothyroidism was:
There isn't a great deal of research to underpin a straight recommendation for the use of acupuncture in the treatment of hypothyroidism.
What there is suggests that acupuncture may be of benefit, but this is a condition for which some form of maintenance medication is often essential and this makes testing it in trial conditions somewhat more difficult.
For the same reason our members are always told to be cautious in treating conditions where someone is on essential medication. Recommending that someone stops their medication is out of the question - only a doctor should be making this decision in the case of essential meds - and there is always an issue about adjustment. If the treatment as the effect of improving someone's thyroid function it may then mean that the dose of medication which they take may no longer be suitable. Since it often takes a long time to achieve a stable balance with the medication in the first place, it is important to avoid as much as possible the kind of yo-yo adjustments which people often experience when they are first prescribed their medication.
That said, the important point to make is that the Chinese would have recognised the symptoms of hypothyroidism two thousand years ago but have no idea about the relationship they had to a thyroid malfunction. The symptoms would have been analysed within the diagnostic systems of Chinese medicine, and a treatment plan devised to help correct them. The Chinese understanding of human physiology was entirely different, and rested on a concept of energy, called 'qi', and its various functions and inter-relationships. The kinds of symptoms which someone experiences with hypothyroidism would be linked to a failure of organic function as understood by the Chinese, and even where there was no explicit correspondence, the underlying premise that where there is balance symptoms disappear would nonetheless apply.
If you are thinking of having treatment it would be good to see if you can discuss your specific presentation first with one of our members, and see if they feel that this is something which they feel would be of benefit to you.
The same advice would apply to the treatment of hyperthyroidism. There is a considerable overlap between the condition and a number of recognised syndromes in Chinese medicine, but we have to remind, ourselves especially in cases like these, that we are best described as complementary rather than alternative. As long as our members maintain a good dialogue with the conventional medical practitioners looking after cases of either, however, there is a possibility that treatment may help to reduce the medications which someone is taking or help them to maintain better stability while taking them.
We would add to this advice that there are many people who do apear to manage a variable thyroid function with acupuncture, but it is crucial that if someone tries to avoid taking medication their bloods are taken and checked on a relatively regular basis.This ensures that the thyroid function is not suffering from a kind of 'creep' where the person adjusts to altered levels and allows them to stay elevated for longer than is desirable. We all notice sudden change but can often ignore small incremental changes, even when we are fucntioning enmtirely differently from how we did six months ago.