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Q: I'm wondering if acupuncture could solve my problem which is centred around vertigo/dizziness/tinnitus. 30+ years. Recently found I have spondilosis in my neck, which has cast a new light on the condition.
A: A great deal depends on the extent of the spondylosis and the extent to which it may be impinging on the nerves in the neck and causing problems. That may limit the prospects for change or improvement. However, the fact that there is a malformation in the neck may not in itself be directly linked to the balance and tinnitus problems you suffer. It is quite common for people with bad backs to have X-rays showing arthritic deterioration of the lower spine and to have a causal connection made between the arthritis and the pain. It may well be, but on the other hand most people over 50 have some arthritis, and it is not a necessary consequence that they have pain, nor that the pain derives directly from the arthritis.
Chinese medicine has an entirely different understanding of human physiology from western medicine, based on the flow of energy, called 'qi', and its balance throughout the body. The organs of the body are understood differently too, not simply physical objects doing a physical job but having a number of functional aspects which manifest in mind body and emotions. A skilled practitioner would want to know exactly what kind of tinnitus, what kind of vertigo and what kind of dizziness and then related these as symptoms to their own readings and observations to determine whether there were functional, rather than structural, reasons why you may have experienced these problems for such a long time.
They may well conclude that it is the physical structure which causes the problem, in which case treatment may be limited to attempting to reduce some of the spasms and inflammation which invariably accompany spondylosis to reduce the secondary effects. They may refer you onward to an osteopath or chiropractor, whose work focuses on structural matters, to see if anything can be done to free the cervical spine. However, they may also be able to offer some reduction in your symptoms if these are related to functional disturbances. There are an increasing number of reviews and studies, a good example of which is
which offer encouragement in the potential for acupuncture in the treatment of a range of balance and ear problems.
Our best advice, however, is to visit a BAcC member local to you to get a more informed face to face assessment of whether treatment may be of benefit for your specific problems.
SAD is often taken to be a form of depression, and as our factsheet shows - please click here there is growing evidence that acupuncture has a part to play in the management of conditions associated with depression.
However, from an entirely different perspective, that of Chinese medicine, the fact that someone finds the winter months difficult to handle is not simply dealt with in terms of light deprivation or serotonin levels. In Chinese medicine two key concepts are those of 'appropriateness' and the interdependence and inter-relationship of body mind and spirit. For the western ear, the concept 'appropriate' can sometimes be an irritant because it appears to be institutionalised fence sitting. Things in balance are frequently described as 'neither too hot nor too cold' or 'neither too dark nor too light', the sorts of statement which sometimes drive people who want specifics to distraction. However, what underlies this is a sense that we should all respond to the ebbs and flows of days and years in a way which reflects the conditions around us. If someone finds a particular time of day or year difficult to handle it can point directly to imbalances in their system, which because of the interdependence inside the body can lead to symptoms on all levels. The often used 'in harmony with nature' is not simply a rallying call of the advertiser but a specific statement in Chinese medicine about being in balance with the energies around us.
As such there is a possibility that acupuncture may have an effect on the condition. It is often a secondary benefit of treatment for specicif conditions such as musculo-skeletal problems or digestive disorders that patients will report finding that they feel 'better in themselves' and this can be particularly noticeable in cases of people with SAD who have simply resigned themselves to feeling bad at specific times and batten down the hatches every year to get by.
The best advice, as we often say, is to visit a BAcC member local to you and seek their advice face to face on whether acupuncture may be of value in your wife's case. Based on their experience of similar cases they should be able to give you sound advice on whether acupuncture may benefit her.
Q: I have had chronic pain in my left shoulder, back, left hand for the last 2.5 years, following a broken elbow and resultant frozen shoulder.
I have seen a pain management specialist and after a number of diagnostic tests (including MRIs, XRays and nerve conduction studies) and a variety of treatments including physio, trigger point injections, NSAIDs, dorsal root steroid injections and pulsed radio frequency.
All the tests indicate that I have a highly sensitised nerve at C6/C7 but no entrapment. The steroid injections were really the only treatment to give me much relief - but unfortunately this only lasted about 6 weeks. After the PRF lack of success, I have really been advised to take NSAIDs and/or start SNRIs. I don't really want to take either of these medications on a long term basis and was wondering if acupuncture is likely to provide any pain relief, since this has never been mentioned as an option.
I would appreciate your views on the likelihood of success.
A: There is no doubt that acupuncture is an option for the kind of problem which you have, and many patients attend clinics throughout the UK with exactly this kind of problem. The research evidence for the success of your specific problem is not very plentiful, not because none is performed but because many studies conducted in China are methodologically unsound. However, the fact that you derived benefit from steroid injections is a positive sign. Many patients turn to acupuncture after they have exhausted the number of injections that can be safely used in an area, and quite often the acupuncture appears to reproduce the effect which the steroid has, as far as we can tell from the anecdotal evidence which we come across.
Although acupuncture can be used, and often is, in dealing with the specific named problem with which the patient presents, though, the theory of Chinese medicine is underpinned by an entirely different understanding of physiology and organ function based on the flow of energies, called 'qi', in the body. The fact that you have had such extensive pain across a wide area of the body speaks of blockage in and impairment of this flow, and the practitioner will be interested to find out whether the local manifestation of pain is its focus or whether it is as a result of blockages within the general area. From a Chinese medicine perspective, pain only arises from blockage, excesses and deficiencies, and the skill of the practitioner in identifying what needs to be done and where is critical to ensure that symptoms go away and stay away.
Your best course of action is to visit a BAcC practitioner local to you who can offer you advice, based on a short face to face conversation, of whether they think acupuncture would benefit you. We trust that they will be honest enough to say so if they feel that this is not your best option.
Q: Do you know of accupuncture being used to treat/ help with the pain of Peyronie's disease. (pain/lumps/curve of penis). As a person I know in SA says it has helped him
A: Your question is very specific, i.e. can acupuncture help with the pain caused by Peyronie's disease? Although pain relief is one of the most frequent uses of acupuncture in conventional medicine as well as traditional chinese medicine we have never come across any references to the use of acupuncture for pain relief in Peyronie's. It is no doubt possible that some individuals will find that acupuncture is beneficial, but a great deal will depend on the degree of fibrosis in the penile material and whether the condition is in an acute or chronic phase. There is no doubt that acupuncture cannot do any harm, but if you did decide to see whether this would be of benefit here it would be sensible to have a small and finite number of treatments to determine the extent to which acupuncture relieved the pain and how sustainable the change was.
As far as treatment of the condition itself is concerned there is no evidence that acupuncture has been used successfully in more than the odd case to bring about improvements. The major treatments are surgical, and there have been more recent attempts to use ultrasound to break up the plaque. There are also a number of drug treatments in use, and some anecdotal evidence for high doses of vitamin E and some herbal preparations. The evidence remains poor, however.
There is a small possibility that needling directly into areas such as this might effect some change, in the same way that acupuncture is occasionally used to help deal with serious scar tissue, but to needle the genitalia would immediately breach the codes of conduct of all professional bodies in the UK of which we are aware. If anyone offers this treatment to you, you would be well advised to exercise considerable caution.
Q: I suffer from excessive sweating when any exercise (walking short distances, playing golf and the gym (the worst)) takes place or when I feel under pressure or nervous.
It feels like the heat mostly comes from my feet and a general high body temprature which makes chest sweating and head sweating a regular occurrence
Does Acupuncture help reduce sweating?
A: Hyperhidrosis can be a very difficult social problem, aside from the discomfort which it causes. There is often a vicious circularity about its occurrence, too; being worried that it might happen can easily create the conditions where it does.
There is not a great deal of research which we can quote, not because it doesn't exist but because most of it has been done in China and is not methodologically rigorous enough for us to quote. The Chinese researchers often begin from the premise that acupuncture works and want to find out what works best, whereas the focus in the West remains whether it works at all, which demands a much more complex and expensive set of rules.
However, Chinese medicine has a different way of looking at human physiology, underpinned as it is by theories about the flow of energy, called 'qi' in the body. A symptom such as excess sweating points to weaknesses in specific parts of the system, and offers some chance that correcting the imbalances in this area may have an effect on the symptom. Of course, nothing in life is that simple, and the reality is that the appearance of a symptom does not mean that there is a straightforward correspondence between the symptom and a part of the system directly responsible for it. The problem may well lie elsewhere in the system, and the skill of the practitioner lies in making sure not that the alarm bell gets turned off but that the reason it is ringing is attended to.
It would be very worthwhile to visit a BAcC member local to you to get face to face advice on whether they think acupuncture would be a good option for you. Some of the more obvious causes, viewed from a Chinese medicine perspective, might be immediately apparent and might enable them to give them to give you a good idea of how successful treatment might be. Even if the immediate cause is not apparent there may still be reason nto give acupuncture a go. There is certainly evidence that it can help in dealing with anxiety, and this may itself help to break the cycles which make the symptom persist.