Latest posts are at the bottom of this page.Use the filter buttons above to help find answers - click on the boxes
Q: I have severe spondylosis in my neck causing neck pain and pins and needles and weakness in arms can acupuncture help , tried physio no help. My husband has sever restless legs syndrome tried meds which made things worse can acupuncture help?
As far as the spondylosis is concerned, a great deal depends on the extent of the physical deterioration of the cervical spine. If the wear and fusing has been considerable, the no amount of acupuncture treatment is going to help reduce the effects other than to provide limited short term pain relief. This is fine for those with deep pockets, but as practitioners we are often unhappy to treat in situations where we are aware that we cannot progress matters but only offer pain relief.
Having said that, we would still want to check with you or your consultant whether a direct causal link had been established between the neck bones and the cranial nerves emerging in this region, and the pains and numbness you were experiencing. It is not unknown, for example, for someone with low back pain and degeneration of the lower spine that the latter causes the former, when in fact many people have degeneration of the lower spine without symptoms and many cases of low back pain resolve with the degeneration unchanged. Acupuncture has a reasonably good track record with neck pain, and although the research is far from conclusive, a great many anecdotal reports exist of good improvement.
The best advice is to visit a BAcC member local to your for a brief face to face assessment of what they believe acupuncture treatment might be able to achieve. Some forms of cranial osteopathy may also offer a possible solution as far as the pains and numbness are concerned, although serious manipulation would probably be out of the question.
As far as restless legs are concerned, this is a question which we have been asked twice before, and the most recent answer we gave last September was:
Q: I am enquiring if acupuncture could help allieviate my restless leg syndrome (Ekbom Syndrome)symptoms which are now affecting my ability to rest in the evening and to sleep.
A: Restless leg syndrome is awful, as this 'expert' knows from personal experience back in the 80s when nothing, but nothing, would make the problem relent. It is now gaining recognition as a diagnosable problem, with a new name(!), and there are a number of treatment options which are being explored. A review article
cites several of these, and the one acupuncture review this in turn cites
mentions two to three studies which are interesting but generally concludes that the majority of studies are too small and not methodologically sound enough to draw firm conclusions.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, however, there are entirely different ways of looking at the balance of energies within the body which can sometimes make sense of problems such as these within a theoretical structure which is quite different from western medicine. Problems like restless legs syndrome, where the leg feels as though it is 'over-energised', can sometimes make sense in a system of thought which looks at the free flow of energy within the system, and tries to understand the pathologies which arise in terms of excesses and deficiencies, and especially blockages. A skilled practitioner should very quickly be able to make sense of the energy flows within the system, and be able to offer you some sense of whether there is something which is treatable.
Even where this is not the case it is important to mention that the older theories of Chinese medicine were primarily aimed at balancing the whole system, seeing symptoms only as alarm bells, not the problem itself. Working in this kind of way our members very often have an effect on problems without necessarily being able to give a highly specific audit trail of what is causing something to go wrong.
As you are no doubt well aware, there is still a great deal of controversy in the orthodox medical profession about whether candida constitutes a 'real' condition, and a great deal of sharp practice on the fringes of the alternative medicine profession selling people expensive remedies of doubtful provenance. For those like yourself who suffer, however, there is no doubt - after a long course of antibiotics a range of symptoms have developed which often prove intractable to treatment.
From a Chinese medicine perspective there are a number of issues which the practitioner would want to look at carefully. Chinese medicine is premised on the flow of energy, called 'qi', in the system whose balance and rhythms are integral to the well-being of the person. Many things can disrupt this flow, and western medications can be a major source of problems. However, when people say sight unseen 'antibiotics do x' or 'antibiotics do y' that is not really within the spirit of the system. Each person is a unique balance of energies, and how western drugs affect them can be very different. Obviously the Liver and Kidney (capitalised to denote the Organs as understood from a Chinese perspective) take much of the burden of processing medications, but if there is a pre-existing weakness anywhere in the system, this may be the weak point which is further weakened by the stress of the drugs, and the symptoms may not relate directly to specific Organs normally deemed to be under threat.
At the same time, the symptoms which someone has can point to under-performance in specific parts of the system, and if you have searched on google for 'acupuncture' and 'candida' you will often find reference to 'dampness', a form of imbalance within the system which can have both internal and external causes, and which often relates directly to the Spleen as understood in Chinese thought. This often leads to dietary recommendations as well as treatment.
However, we would recommend that your best course of action before committing to treatment is to visit a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment, hopefully without charge, to establish whether the presentation you have is best served by acupuncture treatment or not. There are some cases where it is clear that acupuncture may have a good effect, and others where there is no obvious direct connection between what someone is experiencing and an energetic weakness. This is not always a bar to treatment; the ancient systems treat the person, not the disease. However, where one can see a direct link, it is often easier to predict movement and change.
A: If you use the power of google to see whether acupuncture can help with anosmia you may find a number of references but they will all lead back to a single paper: http://aim.bmj.com/content/21/4/153.full.pdf+html which is an N=1 case study, i.e. a practitioner writing up a note of treating a single patient, and very successfully too. However, that is all that there is, although there are a number of Chinese studies which have not been translated which appear to suggest that something can be done. We would be very reluctant to give a positive recommendation on this basis alone, however. Evidence has to be a great deal more robust even from an Eastern perspective which is not bound by the so called 'gold standard' of the randomised double blind control trial before we would start to make claims for success. The one thing which may have a bearing on your problem and which we cannot assess at a distance is the virus. Chinese medicine has an entirely different way of assessing viral infections, based as it is on an entirely different understanding of the physiology of the body. This rests on a fundamental belief on an energy called 'qi' whose flow, balance and rhythms are essential for good health and which can be compromised by all sorts of external and internal factors which manifest as disease. The skill of the practitioner lies in seeing what has happened and correcting it. There may an underlying connection between the virus you had and the olfactory function, and a practitioner may just believe that correcting blockages and flow may help. It may be worth visiting a BAcC member local to you for a face to face assessment. However, our experience of trying to treat this condition has not been that good that we would regard acupuncture as first choice for its treatment.
Q: I am having difficulty switching off and relaxing. This results in tension in my neck and other areas. I am interested in finding a "good" acupuncturist for, perhaps, treating stress. My stress isn't chronic but I'd like to try such therapy. Other than emailing each acupuncturist located in my area suggested by your site, is there any way of telling which ones are better experienced in certain treatments?
A: The short answer is 'no'. From our perspective, all of our members are equally well qualified to treat all patients. The only areas where we are looking to develop standards which define expert practice, and which may have an impact on our recommendations, are obstetrics, paediatrics and mental health problems. In each of these areas, there is additional learning, often in conventional medicine but in the case of paediatrics in Chinese mediicne, which would mean that someone working primarily with each group maybe better qualified to deal with what they find. In all other respects, the Chinese medicine which underpins the approach is known by all, and to a large measure is independent of the conventional disease labels which we all tend to use. Chinese medicine treats the person rather than the disease, and a label like 'stress' can mean as many different diagnoses in Chinese medicine as it can mean descriptions of stress in conventional medicine. The skilled practitioner will listen to what you tell them about how the stresses manifest in your system and from that, using Chinese diagnostic signs as well, determine areas of imbalance and poor flow which they need to correct. Having said that, many patients like to be able to make a good rapport with their practitioner as a part of the process of improving their health, and phoning rather than simply e-mailing often gives a prospective patient a good idea of who they are going to be dealing with. In this respect we're just like any other business; the services are pretty standard but we use the ones which suit us as individuals. Word of mouth referral still remains very important, though, and although you may not want to divulge your intention to anyone else you may well find that someone you know has had treatment and can give you a personal recommendation. This is the best guarantee of finding what you want and remains the most valued and effective source of referrals for most practitioners.
Q: Can acupuncture help pain caused by scar adhesions resulting from raditation treatment for cancer? Is there any suggestion that after the lymp nodes have been removed that acupuncture treatment should not be done?
A: Acupuncture has a considerable history of use for pain relief, as our factsheet shows http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/chronic-pain.html The treatment of pain, and trying to understand the relationship between eastern treatment and western recognised effects in terms of endorphins and enkephalins, was one of the most commonly researched areas of acupuncture treatment, especially because the measurement of chemicals gives nice crisp data. However, as with any pain relief, the question is never as simple as 'does it work?' but is usually 'how much does it work and for how long?' In the case of scarring and adhesions inside the body we have no evidence to which we can point. Scarring on the surface of the body can occasionally block or prevent the free flow of energy in the channels, and there is some anecdotal evidence that treating local blockages caused by scarring can have considerable impact. However, although the same must apply to a degree internally, we have no anecdotal accounts to draw on. Indeed, it is fair to say that physical damage and irreversible change are just as much an impediment to health in eastern as in western medicine. One could argue that the essential premise of Chinese medicine, that in restoring the balance of the whole system recovery of all kinds becomes improved, may have some impact, and there are certaonly styles of acupuncture premised entirely on restoring balance, treating the patient and not the condition, which can have profound results. We think that in this case this would be a very long shot. Most of the best results we have heard of involve a variety of physical therapies aimed at stretching out or releasing the adhesions and freeing up the internal tissues the movement of which they restrict. The treatment of someone whose lymph nodes have been removed has been the subject of great discussion in the profession for years. Although acupuncture is routinely used in China for the accumulation of fluids, called lymphoedema, which can happen after lymph nodes have been removed, in this country the position is that people are told not to have acupuncture treatment in the affected limb because of the increased risk of infection, especially cellulitis. The advice we give to members is to take care not to needle the affected area, and to use alternative point combinations to achieve the desired aims. However, if treatment of the affected limb is avoided, acupuncture treatment performed according to the proper guidelines is perfectly safe.
If you have any questions about acupuncture, browse our archive or ask an expert.
Research based factsheets have been prepared for over 60 conditions especially for this website
Catch up with the latest news on acupuncture in the national media
Keep up to date with our news or join the #acupuncture conversation
Thinking about trying acupuncture?
Have a look at our Frequently asked questions, browse our video testimonials or the Ask an expert area
63 Jeddo RoadLondon W12 9HQPhone: 020 8735 0400
Fax: 020 8735 0404