Find a local acupuncturist
To search by other criteria - name, town - click here
Ask the Expert
Q: Can Acupuncture help with swollen legs following the removal of veins for heart bypass surgery?
A: A great deal depends on the extent to which the veins were removed for the bypass operation. Generally speaking there should be sufficient capacity to carry the blood back up to the trunk, but we know from our experience with patients that the system can be very delicately balanced, and the removal of a major vein can precipitate considerable swelling in the legs.
From a Chinese medicine perspective there are a number of well-recognised patterns which underpin swelling of the legs. Most of these are related to the functions of the Spleen and Kidney (capitalised to be clear that we're talking about the Chinese understanding of Organs which is entirely different from a western perspective), but since the basic premise of Chinese medicine is the maintenance of a good flow of energy, called 'qi', blockages or weaknesses anywhere in the system can have a knock on effect on functions which are themselves perfectly OK but simply under-fuelled. The skill of the practitioner lies in determining the most efficient way to restore the proper flow in the body.
If there is an underlying weakness in the system which the removal of veins has exacerbated, then there may be some possibility that acupuncture treatment may help. If the system appears to be functioning perfectly well, then it may simply be a mechanical, rather than functional, problem, and the current conventional solutions such as suppprt hose are your best bet.
We advise you to visit a BAcC member local to you and to ask their advice based on what they can see happening in your system. We trust that they will be honest enough to say if they feel that acupuncture treatment would be a waste of time. If you did decide to go ahead because they feel they can help, we recommend that you are really clear about what outcome measures you are using, i.e. how you will know the treatment is working. It is really useful to find a baseline which you can use to measure whether any treatment, be it acupuncture, stockings or anything else, is working.
Q: I have been diagnosed with an over active bladder. i am taking medication but find i am still having problems. is this something acupuncture is known to help with.
A: As you can imagine, we receive the same questions quite frequently, but with the section now over a year old, some of the answers are more difficult to locate in the archive. The question and answer from last year were:
Can acupuncture alleviate symptoms of an irritable bladder?
Q: I have been diagnosed with an irritable bladder. Can acupuncture alleviate my symptoms, which is an urgent need to urinate.
A: As our factsheet shows there is some evidence to suggest that urgency of urination can be helped by acupuncture, although there is not yet anywhere near enough evidence to make substantive claims here. If you search the internet there are a number of studies such as this one
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15994629 which offer some hope.
However, we have to remind ourselves sometimes that Chinese medicine has been dealing with problems like this for over 2000 years, and has a very sophisticated process for understanding patients' symptoms against a backdrop of an entirely different conceptual framework. The understanding of the body as a system of energy, 'qi', in flow and the concepts of yin and yang to describe its flow and inter-relationships is very alien to the western ear. However, the rather wider understanding of organs as functional units with effects on body mind and spitit, and the underlying premise that symptoms are alarm bells, not the problem itself, can sometimes offer possibilities for understanding a problem in a far wider context. This will often be corroborated by other problems which a patient suffers and by diagnostic signs which the practitioner sees, and can often lead to a situation where a practitioner can tell the patient about symptoms that they haven't yet mentioned. If the problem is a part of a recognised syndrome or pattern of symptoms a practitioner will be able to give a clear idea of prognosis. Even if it doesn't the attempt to re-establish balance in the system can also have an effect on individual symptoms.
We recommend that you talk to a BAcC member local to you an ask for their advice in a brief face to face consultation whether they think that they can help you. We trust that they will give you an honest assessment, and refer you on to other modalities of treatment if they felt that these offered a better prospect of success.
We think this still reflects our view. There has been no further research of which we are aware, although there is a study which we did not mention on the last occasion from 1995 which shows encouraging results but is small in number and mainly dealing with men.
Q: I have nerve face pain - would acupuncture help?
A: We have been asked similar questions before, and one answer potentially relevant to your question was:
Can acupuncture help neuralgia on the side of my face?
Q: I have neuralgia on the side of my face, have had it for several months, is acupunture any help?
A: There is some evidence for the treatment of facial neuralgia, as our factsheet showsplease click here
and if you happen to speak Italian an interesting discussion about the use of acupuncture for facial neuralgia from many years ago at
There are many other studies, many of them in Chinese, which tend to be broadly favourable.
The evidence, as is often the case, however, is not conclusive, and invariably the call is for more and better research. This raises a number of complex methodological problems about how best to research traditional acupuncture, since reducing the variables on trial runs counter to the whole thrust of Chinese medicine treatment which is dynamic and evolutionary.
There is a long and rich tradition of treating facial neuralgias in China, though, not least because conditions like Bell's Palsy are much more common since people are working in the fields and exposed to adverse climates a great deal more than they would be in the West. There are a number of clearly defined syndromes which are defined by the grouping of symptoms associated with neuralgia, and this may offer some hope of improvement from established treatment protocols. If the condition has existed for some time it may be more difficult to treat, but not impossible.
However, not every neuralgia is treatable, and a practitioner would want to see their diagnosis confirmed by other signs and symptoms before making an assessment of whether acupuncture might help, and to what extent. Your best advice is to visit a BAcC member local to you and seek their advice face to face. There is a possibility, for example, that the neuralgia may be connected to structural misalignments in the tempero-mandibular joint, quite common if someone has had some serious dentistry recently, and osteopathic manipulation may represent a faster route back to good function.
This remains a reasonable summary of the treatment options, but a great deal depends on the exact presentation of your problem and what may have caused it. If it is a consequence of a specific injury or accident the prognosis may not be as favourable; acupuncture treatment cannot reverse permanent damage. Similarly, if you have had a great deal of dental work, there may be a connection to some of the work which has been undertaken. There is not doubt, though, that a BAcC member will cover the ground with great thoroughness to understand how your problem has arisen and developed in order to give you the best possible advice about whether it can be helped by treatment.
Q: can you tell me if accupuncture can help with infertility? i have one blocked tube & havent ovulated since had my son 5 years ago.
any advice would be great. thank you
A: This is a far from straightforward question to answer. As far as research is concerned there is very little of sufficient quality to be able to make any encouraging noises about what acupuncture might achieve. Our factsheetis very clear on this point.
That said, the fact that you haven't ovulated for the last five years is precisely the kind of reason why many women start to look at therapies like acupuncture which have an entirely different understanding of the physiology and pathology of the body. Chinese medicine is based on theories of energy, called 'qi', and its patterns of flow within the body. Within the paradigm of Chinese medicine most problems are ascribed to either blockages or disturbances in this flow which in turn lead to functional disturbances in organs and the natural rhythms of the body. Modern problems are not new, and the Chinese medicine practitioners two thousand years ago confronted the same difficulties and found ways of explaining them within their system of medicine. This also meant that they had potential solutions, and there are several distinct ways in which fertility problems are described and treated.
The caution in modern times is that the fertility industry has become a big business, and there are now many people offering acupuncture treatment as a part of their package for helping women with problems who are not necessarily using the sophisticated system of Chinese medicine as it was intended. Formula treatments are rarely going to be enough to deal with complex issues, and the strength of Chinese medicine lies in the skill and artistry of the practitioner in discerning the unique patterns of the individual's disease.
Our advice is always to visit a BAcC member local to you for a face to face assessment of whether they think acupuncture can help. We are in the process of developing systems for accrediting postgraduate training in this field so that members can make it known that they are experts in the field, but since this work is still being finalised we cannot give referrals to individual practitioners with special expertise in this field. Most BAcC members who spend a great deal of their time working with fertility issues are very clear about this on their websites, and it should be relatively simple to identify a BAcC member near you with this particular focus in their practice.
Q: Can acupuncture help with weight lose?
A: This question comes up relatively frequently, and one answer we gave was as follows:
Q. I am interested to know if acu will help with weight loss.
A. Weight loss was the subject of some critical scrutiny a decade ago, and the conclusion drawn at the time was that acupuncture did not have any significant effect on weight loss. However, trying to test whether acupuncture can help someone to reduce their weight is likely to be a difficult matter; there are dozens of reasons in Chinese medicine why someone's weight may be increasing. Trying to group together a sufficiently large number of patients whose western problem and eastern diagnosis are the same is extremely difficult.
In one or two cases there is a very direct correlation between someone's weight and their underlying imbalances from a Chinese medicine perspective. Correcting these may have an immediate impact on, say, the amount of fluid someone is carrying, and that could create a 3-5kg loss very quickly.
However, all of the best dietary programmes say that after the initial and often quite dramatic week or two most good weight loss programmes at best will see someone lose only a pound or two every month, and in fact, there is discouragement from trying to do more in order for the body's system to keep pace with the change. Acupuncture may well have been used successfully alongside some fairly strict dietary rules, and from a patient's perspective it would be very difficult to say whether the acupuncture treatment added value to what someone was doing already.
The bottom line is that there are are no 'magic' points which reduce someone's weight without effort, and the effect of acupuncture may be no more than to give someone the support and commitment to keep trying with diet and exercise programmes. However, if someone remains motivated as a consequence of acupuncturre treatment that itself would be a very positive outcome.
There is nothing that we would add to this advice other than to beware of anyone making promises they cannot keep about what acupuncture treatment can deliver. Some of the less reputable high street shops still appear to be making claims of a fairly speculative nature without any evidence which supports what they claim.