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Ask the Expert
Chinese medicine works from an entirely different theoretical basis which can often make sense of a symptom for which there is no obvious classification in conventional medicine. In fact, there are occasions where problems which people would not take to a GP fall within an understanding of possible pathologies from a Chinese medicine perspective.
However, you do need to at least check with your GP whether there is anything going on with your system as a whole. Although it would be rare for your symptom to be a sign of a serious underlying illness, there are a small number of conditions where excessive redness of the face together with a sensation of heat might be pointing to a condition which requires conventional treatment.
After that it would be worth your while to seek the advice of a BAcC member local to you. There may be other indicators in the way that your system is functioning which point to more general patterns of imbalance, or there may be local blockages in the flow of energy which are causing the symptoms to manifest - a great deal depends on exactly where the symptom appears, and when.
We would advise you to be careful, however. BAcC members are particularly careful not to embark on long sequences of treatment for conditions like this, where changes may or may not occur, and regularly review what they do to ensure that the patient retains control of the process. We have heard of less scrupulous practitioners, though, and anyone who guarantees success or asks for a commitment to ten sessions is to be treated with caution.
There is a small amount of evidence that acupuncture may be beneficial for treating myasthenia gravis, but the studies, like this one
are small in size and while suggestive of benefit a very long way from being conclusive evidence.
The trite answer we could give is that acupuncture treats the person, not the disease, and to the extent that all acupuncture treatment is geared to helping the body mind and spirit to normal function, then all conditions should, in theory, benefit from treatment. However, one has to be very careful with statements like this because it gives a false impression that all conditions are curable, which is clearly not the case. There are many debilitating diseases which are chronic and degenerative, for which the best one can say, as one patient famously did, is that 'they are very pleased because they are getting worse slower.'
The one advantage of Chinese medicine, however, is that it looks at the symptoms which patients experience through an entirely different diagnostic framework, one which can sometimes make sense of conditions in a way that conventional medicine cannot. Very few diseases are new, and Chinese doctors were probably treating this two thousand years ago without any concept of auto-immune disorders. they would simply have made sense of the presentation of the condition based on the understanding of the physiology in Chinese medicine and the pathologies which could arise when internal or external factors disturbed the flow of energy, or 'qi' as it is called, and led to organic malfunction.
Weakness and flaccidity of the muscles could be understood as a local or systemic problem, and the skill and art of the Chinese medicine practitioner lies in determining the most elegant and effective way to restore balance and good flow. It may be worthwhile asking a BAcC member local to you whether there is something obviously out of kilter in your system which might be contributing to the problems you have.
On balance, though, we have to be realistic and say that even anecdotal evidence is not that great, and what acupuncture may do, more than remove or reduce symptoms themselves, is to help you withthe secondary stresses and anxieties which the condition can engender. Many patients report this as an outcome which in itself makes treatment valuable.
Q: This may seem like a daft question but anyway I had 7 teeth removed from my lower jaw and had a bone graft and dental implants on a bridge of 10 teeth. The thing is that I'm having great difficulty getting used to them and my tongue doesn't know where to go. Could acupuncture help in any way?
A: This is one of the more interesting questions we have been asked, if not intriguing!
We could, I suppose, make a case that acupuncture treatment is always seen as restoring natural balances, and that as such it might help the tongue to find its 'proper place', but ancient Chinese medicine was not familiar with bone grafts and dental implants, so this might be a bit of a stretch. There are certainly points on the body which were traditionally said to promote the healing of bone, and there is also good evidence for the use of acupuncture treatment to reduce inflammation. However, nothing we can find in the research literature suggests that it might be the answer to your problem.
The one thing which does occur to us, however, comes from our use of tongue diagnosis. The system depends on an understanding of changes in the colour, shape, size and coating of the tongue which reflect the changes in the internal Organs. There are a number of relatively common syndromes where the tongue can become quite swollen, many of which reflect a weakening of the Yang energy of the body which people might experience as tiredness or lethargy. It is just possible that your tongue is not so much confused by the additional hardware in your mouth but reflects the fact that you are a bit run down from the surgery. The feeling of a swollen tongue is one that people often experience whenthey are exhausted and can't quite seem to enunciate properly.
There would be no harm in asking a BAcC member local to you if they can see anything in your overall energy patterns which might be contributing to this feeling, but we suspect that it will settle down of its own accord eventually, irritating and uncomfortable as it must seem now.
Q: I have had chronic nausea for two years. Many investigations have not found a cause. I am on antidepressants at the moment. Can accupuncture help me?
A: As our factsheet on nausea shows
acupuncture treatment has been used with some success in treating a number of specific types of nausea, mainly those ones where there is a clearly defined cause which enables an acceptable research protoco, to be drawn up.
In Chinese medicine itself there are a number of well-recognised protocols which have been developed over the last two months for understanding not simply the symptom but its possible cause in Chinese medicine terms. There are a number of disturbances of functions of the Organs (always capitalised when we talk about Organs because the Chinese concept is far wider than the physical organ of coventional medicine) which can lead to nausea, and the art and skill of the practitioner is in determining which of these patterns or syndromes need to be addressed.
Although we would feel optimistic, based on our clinical experience, that acupuncture treatment may be of benefit, each case is unique and different, and it would be important to set measurable outcomes and set review periods if you did decide to have treatment.
However, you mention that you are on anti-depressants, and this raises two issues. Firstly, in conventional medical terms, the nausea may simply be a side effect of the drugs you are taking. Although most people who experience a reaction to a medication find that the effect is almost immediate, there are some for whom this kind of reaction develops over time. It may be worthwile exploring with your doctor whether there is another tablet from the same group which you might try to see if this reduces the nausea.
The other issue is that from a Chinese medicine perspective medications are dealt with by Organs, primarily the Liver and Kidney, which can be put under a constant low grade strain by having to process the chemicals. There are a number of Liver syndromes for which nausea is one of the presenting symptoms, and it may be that while you are taking medication this may always be a concomitant factor. A skilled practitioner should be able to support these functions and reduce the side effects.
It is important, though, that if you find not only that the nausea reduces but also your overall mood lifts through having treatment, as is sometimes the case, that you keep your GP in the loop about any changes to your medications. We occasionally have patients whose improvements encourage them to stop taking their anti-depressants, and sudden stopping of the tablets can cause a rebound effect which makes the condition recur, only more severely. Most GPs are happy to discuss planned reductions in medication.
As you can imagine, we have been asked this question on several occasions, and our replies have not been that encouraging. The fact sheet which we have on the website
is quite upbeat about a number of small studies, but our clinical experience is not as good, with tinnitus among the more intractable conditions with which patients present. In a recent answer, to which we can probably not add a great deal more, we said:
A. Tinnitus is one of the more intractable conditions which people seek acupuncture treatment for. Our Tinnitus fact sheet, found at lists a small amount of research which suggests that acupuncture may help, but there have been no significant trials which provide solid evidence. It is also fair to say that many practitioners are very cautious about taking on patients for whom tinnitus is the primary problem. It is quite easy to spend considerable time and money and be no better off than when you started, and the individual case reports in the tinnitus sufferers' magazines often have the same shape.
However, what many practitioners do find when treating people with tinnitus is that while the noise remains largely unchanged their ability to cope with it seems to improve. Evidence for this is largely anecdotal, though, and it would be wise to discuss carefully with any future practitioner whether they think that they might be able to help. In all events we would recommend that frequent and regular reviews of outcomes and progress are essential.
We don't think you can say more than this. There are two or three clearly identifable patterns in Chinese medicine, described as syndromes, where tinnitus is a specific named symptom which frequently appears, and it is possible, if your tinnitus has arisen as a part of the syndrome, that there may be some help which acupuncture treatment may offer. An experienced practitioner should be able to make a very straightforward determination on whether this is the case. Overall, however, there is not a great deal of cause for optimism about getting rid of the unwanted noise.