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We have been asked this question on a number of occasions, and one of the more recent responses was:

There  are a number of small studies, two of which you can find here

which give some encouragement to the possibility that acupuncture in conjunction with conventional strategies can help men suffering from ED. However, the studies
are small and far from conclusive, so we couldn't give a definite and positive recommendation.

As a general comment we would say that there are many reasons why men can begin to suffer from ED. These can range from the simple fact of ageing and the effects
of conditions which become more apparent in older age, like mature onset diabetes, or to the problems associated with excessive drinking or smoking, through to the kinds of complex psychological issues which have arisen as a consequence of someone's life experience. Whether acupuncture can offer any help depends a great deal on the background against which the problem has arisen.

Traditional Chinese acupuncture is primarily concerned with the restoration of balance and flow in the energy of the body, and there are several distinct patterns of disease, or 'syndromes', in which poor flow or blockage of energy ('qi' as it is called in Chinese medicine) can cause erectile problems. If this were to be the case, and there were other confirming factors pointing to a specificsyndrome in the overall diagnosis, there may be some possibility that acupuncture could provide some help. However, if the cause of the ED lies in a pathological condition which means that there has been some permanent loss or weakening of blood supply to the sexual organs, or a complex psychological issue which would require specialist support, then acupuncture would be less likely to have any lasting effect.

Our only advice to you can be to seek the view of a BAcC member local to you and discuss the matter face to face, perhaps offering them a little more background
information on which they can give you a clearer assessment of whether they think acupuncture treatment may be of benefit.

We think that this is still the best advice that we can give.

We answered a similar question not that long ago and we think that our advice below still holds good:

There have been a number of studies and reviews of the effects of acupuncture on specific aspects of Type 2 Diabetes, two examples of which are:

However, as in many cases, there are not enough trials and not a consistent enough standard of methodological rigour to be able to draw any firm conclusions on which we could base positive recommendations.

One factor which our members do take into account when treating people with diabetes in any form is that acupuncture treatment may have the effect of kick-starting any residual function in the insulin-producing cells. For Type 2 this is less critical but for a Type 1 diabetic with a carefully balanced regime the addition of unplanned insulin in the system could tip them into an unexpected hypoglycaemic state.

Diabetes is not new, and was recognised in most ancient cultures, sometimes being diagnosed, as in ancient Greece, by the sweet taste of the excess sugar in the urine. Traditional Chinese medicine also recognised some of the groups of symptoms as distinct 'wasting-thirsting' syndromes, as our factsheet describes

but as the factsheet also says, acupuncture is generally used alongside conventional treatment and is not offered as an alternative to it. Although it is becoming a more common condition, partly because of the increasing age of the population and partly because of the increasing levels of obesity and dietary weakness as well as being a hereditary condition, it remains a serious problem, and can lead, if not properly managed, to some very serious complications in later life. For this reason our members are always very keen to ensure that their treatment is a part of an overall management plan for the condition.

Each presentation is different, however, and you would be best advised to have a short conversation with a practitioner about whether they think acupuncture would benefit your particular presentation. Clearly we believe that regular acupuncture treatment is a valuable way of maintaining good health, but we have to take into account that many patients have specific outcomes, and try not to commit people to open-ended treatment if what they need or want may be more limited in scope.

We should perhaps add a more positive statement about the advantages of using acupuncture to help with the factors which predispose people to Type 2 Diabetes, like diet and exercise. Although we cannot make any specific claims about acupuncture having been shown to assist in weight loss or make someone fitter, there is no doubt that the dietary advice which is a part of the Chinese medicine tradition can be very valuable. It is often surprising how many people are eating the types of food which their
system, understood in Chinese medicine terms, are least able to cope with and which make their problems worse. Even something as simple as a slight variation
of diet based on an understanding of which foods help or hinder the system can have a surprising effect.

Each person is unique and different, however, and the best advice we can give is for you to visit a BAcC member local to you for advice.

Q: I currently receive acupuncture treatment for fertility. I experience headaches after some sessions, is this common and what is it due to?

A:  There are a number of short term adverse effects after treatment which happen frequently enough that we warn patients of their possibility. Headaches, a feeling of slight dizziness and occasionally a slightly nauseous feeling are common enough to warn patients of, and much more commonly a deep tiredness after the first one or two sessions is not uncommon.

There are a number of possible reasons for the effect, although we could never say with absolute certainty why things happen because each patient is unique and different. The energy system is a closed system, and so any treatment which improves the flow of energy can occasionally uncover slight blockages in the system which were not an issue when the flow was impaired. It's a rotten analogy, but sometimes central heating systems will function fine when used occasionally in the summer but then develop major problems when cranked up full in the winter. An experienced practitioner may well be able to tell from the tongue and pulse that there are blockages and deal with them.

It is also possible that the treatment is causing functional disturbances whose outcome is to generate a headache. There has been some very lively discussion over the years between those practitioners who argue that treating the person as a whole in a traditional fashion is enough to kickstart the system into operating normally, and those who use a much more formulaic syndrome-based approach to treatment which addresses the reproductive function. This latter approach can sometimes generate unwelcome consequences elsewhere because the internal connections within the system make other parts react and sometimes over-perform. Again, an experienced practitioner should be able to make sense of either of these situations, because if a symptom develops there is always going to be some evidence in the diagnostic signs that we use.

We have answered a similar question before and there we cautioned the person not to make the assumption that the headache was caused by the treatment even though it happened immediately after it. Sometimes there are coincidences, and we are always keen to ensure that if an unusual system kicks off that people don't waste time arguing about whether the acupuncture caused it or not while it goes untreated. In your case, however, the chances are that since it has happened a few times after sessions and then subsides it is treatment related.

The best advice that we can give is to talk to your practitioner and see what can be done to make these less intrusive and hopefully stop happening altogether.

And good luck with the fertility treatment!

We are sorry to say that there are no acupuncture courses of which we are aware in Cornwall. The ones which we recognise for automatic eligibility to the BAcC are listed on the website of our sister body, the independent British Acupuncture Accreditation Board This website also has a great deal of what useful information about what we regard as the appropriate level of training to become a traditional acupuncturist.

There may be other courses provided by some of the smaller acupuncture associations, but we have never heard of any being held in Cornwall, the nearest being in Bristol some years ago. However, when we trained a long time ago many several people did travel from Cornwall to undertake the training, and there are some new developments now involving larger elements of distance learning which may make a course viable even when distant.

The problem for any course provider is that setting up a suitable infrastructure takes considerable time and money, and would probably only interest someone as a project if there were a patent demand for training in an area. The current training structure sees about 200 to 250 students enrol every year, so this may give you some idea of the market into which a new provider would be emerging. That is not to say the places would not be taken up immediately; demand for training is quite high. Capital, however, after four years of recession, isn't.

Q: I had fire cupping. what do the marks indicate? For example  the colouring? I have range from light pink, dark pink and some purple.

A:  The marks which appear after fire cupping are usually bruising, which is why you have such a large range of different colours. This is a very common outcome after cupping, and our members are all recommended to warn patients that this is a possibility after the treatment. The bruises tend to be slightly different from the ones you get after a bump or thump. They are caused by blood being drawn to the surface by the suction created by the partial vacuum, and small capillaries rupturing. the theory behind cupping is that it moves the blood and draws toxins to the surface to be expelled.

For the most part the minor bruising is not an issue, but there are occasions when it might make a difference. The actress Gwynneth Paltrow may have been happy to turn up to a major event with a backless evening dress showing the marks of cupping, but in our experience that is rare. Most people, if they are aware that this will happen, are happy to trade off a short period of bruising for the undoubted benefits which cupping can bring.

On very rare occasions the marks can be indicative of minor burns if the cups have been applied for a long time or have been heated beyond their normal range. This is very infrequent in the UK where the technique is applied very gently. However, in the Far East where cupping is used a great deal more and not always by practitioners with sufficient training serious burns do occur.

The best advice we can give you is that you keep an eye on the marks. If they are bruises, as we suspect, then they will begin to fade very quickly. If they start to show any signs of irritation or infection then you would be well advised to see your GP promptly, and not attempt to treat any of the affected areas with salves or lotions bought over the counter.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should mention this to your practitioner who can check what has been done and make any necessary adjustments to future treatment.

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