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Q: My husband and I are undergoing ICSI and are keen to look at acupuncture to help. How do we find the best practitioner for us, when so many offer a range of treatments? Are there real specialists in this field? We are based in London and there seem to be acupuncturists on most streets.
A: Our party line, and we stand by it, is that all of our members are trained well enough to provide exemplary care to any prospective patient, whatever their problem. Chinese medicine is based on an entirely different conceptual framework from conventional western medicine, and there are no reservoirs of specialist knowledge which a postgraduate programme could tap into. Further study simply means going deeper into the core principles and concepts through the literature.
However, working in a western medical context does mean that some of our members focus their work on particular groups of patients, and three areas which have become the subject of intense discussion wiothin the profession are paediatrics, obstetrics and mental health. In each of these areas there are people who offer postgraduate training intended to equip practitioners better for working with the target groups. The debate we are having centres on what counts as expert practice, and whether we can agree standards which will enable someone to claim 'expert' status. We have some way to go!
In the meantime, however, there are a number of networks within the BAcC which have arisen around obstetrics, and while we cannot give recommendations, we would say that anyone who has taken the time and trouble to meet the criteria for joining these networks is probably spending more time with women who are either trying to become pregnant or who have become pregnant, and are more likely to have come across the problems with treatment than the average practitioner who may see a smaller number of patients in this group in their normal list. Visiting the websites of these networks should reveal members close to you who offer this service, or using the BAcC list of members in your area and visiting websites should quickly establish a contact or two.
Q: I'm a male and Ive been suffering from chronic pelvic pain for one year and few months. Have tried everything but have penile pain, testes pain and uncomfortable when sitting can acupuncture resolve this.
A: We are working on the assumption that you have been thoroughly tested within the NHS for possible causes of your discomfort, and that all forms of prostate problem, urinary problems and other known causes of these symptoms have been eliminated. If this is not the case, our first recommendation is that you need to do this relatively soon in case these symptoms are markers of any underlying condition which requires conventional treatment.
However, from our conversations with doctors we are aware that this kind of condition, where there may be no obvious cause for the symptom, can cause problems in deciding how best to treat. There is some evidence from small research studies, which you can find by googling 'ncbi acupuncture male pelvic pain', that acupuncture alongside some of the conventional treatments can enhance their effect in reducing symptoms, but these are generally very small studies with low levels of reliability.
The strength of Chinese medicine, however, is that it works from an entirely different conceptual basis from western medicne, and often relates the symptoms, which are the same whatever system of medicine you use, to sets of causes which fit within the diagnostic patterns of Chinese medicine and make sense here where in western medicine they are more difficult to categorise. Western medics may sometimes be a little dismissive of the terminology that is used, but it has to be remembered that Chinese medicine has existed for over 2000 years and addresses problems which were very common in ancient times and to an extent still are in a country which is largely agricultural. Problems caused by long term exposure to cold and damp, wind and heat, were understood by the Chinese in energetic terms, and treatment protocols developed to address them. The fact that we no longer live the same kind of harsh life does not matter; we can be beset by the same problems. There are a number of diagnostic categories where pains such as yours might make sense.
Even were this not to be the case, the underlying premise of Chinese medicine was that if the whole system was in balance then symptoms would resolve, and every BAcC member is equipped to provide this level of constitutional treatment. If there isn't a clear cause, from either eastern or western thought, however, it is important to be clear about how any treatment process is reviewed - it can be very easy to find a short course of treatment extending to a great deal more sessions, and a skilled practitioner should know fairly early whether to draw a line and conclude that the benefits of treatment are too few to warrant further time and expense.
Our best advice, then, is to visit a BAcC member local to you and seek face to face advice on whether they think they can help. We reiterate, though, that if you have not had the problem checked out fully by conventional medicine, that should be your first step
As you are no doubt already well aware, this is a relatively rare condition, and usually presents as a symptom of a number of auto-immune or connective tissue disorders. It is true to say, though, that much is still unknown about the problem.
From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, where the diagnostic process takes signs and symptoms and assesses them against an entirely different conceptual framework, there may be ways of interpreting how the condition manifests, and should this be the case, there may be some possibility of treating it. Even were this not to be the case, the earliest forms of Chinese medicine tended to be less symptom driven and more concerned with the balance of the system as a whole. Clearly, if this condition manifests as a sign of a widespread problem as seen in Western terms, then an overall perspective such as that applied by the more constitutional forms of acupuncture may be equally appropriate.
It is important to point out, however, that there is no research of any kind which suggests that acupuncture treatment may be effective, partly we are sure, because of the rarity of the condition and the problems of assembling enough people to make a trial worthwhile. If you did decide to consider treatment it would be best to seek a brief face to face discussion with a BAcC member local to you for them to give you a clearer assessment of whether your particular presentation might be amenable to treatment. If you go ahead, we would recommend that you set very clear outcome measures and review periods to ensure that you can assess whether it is worth continuing.
We often advise enquirers with skin problems to consider Chinese Herbal medicine as well as, or even instead of, acupuncture. Fortunately many of our members are dual qualified, and if you check the RCHM (Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine) register you may find that someone local to you is also a BAcC member. Chinese herbal medicine has built up quite a solid reputation for addressing skin problems, and we believe that there is something about the precise formulae created and the daily treatment regime which seems to work with long term skin problems. Ideally your practitioner could combine the best of both forms of treatment, should you both agree that this is worth trying.
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