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Ask the Expert
Q: I would like to ask if your treatment is suitable for people with cerebral palsy to reduce pain in legs, we don't know what the cause of pain is but is there any way you can help?
A: Such research as exists for the use of acupuncture treatment in reducing some of the effects of the condition usually focus on treating children under 10. If you undertake a google search with the keywords 'ncbi acupuncture cerebral palsy' you will find a number of studies, many of which show quite encouraging results for reducing hypertonicity and spasm.
There are also a number of case studies from other sources which are worth looking at, one such being on a leading Americam acupuncture website.
However, we are bound to say that the focus on the condition or disease label is not a helpful one from the perspective of Chinese medicine. Although it is not a sympto driven system the symptoms are understood within an entirely different conceptual framework, and the way in which the symptom presents would be understood as a disruption of the flow of energy, called 'qi'. The art and skill of the practitioner would lie in trying to determine whether this was a local problem or evidence of a much deeper systemic problem, and treating accordingly. The fact that someone has cerebral palsy would be a factor in determining what was happening in the system as a whole, but may not impact on the way that the pains were understood or treated. While they may be an expression of the condition, they may not be, but it would take a face to face assessment to be make this determination.
The best course of action is to seek the advice of a BAcC member local to you about whether your specific case was something they think they could help with. Our members are honest and objective, and will not make claims which cannot be sustained. If they believe that there is something which might help, our only advice is to ensure that you have measurable outcomes and set proper review dates to check whether something really is changing.
Q: I am doing a presentation on infertility and acupuncture what research journals/articles and books do you suggest I can read to help me with my presenttion?
A: Our factsheet on fertility gives a number of references to journals and papers but these are probably not the sort of thing you would find most useful. We are also not sure how academic or informal your presentation is going to be.
Our own choices for presenting a paper on this topic would be:
1) We would check out what articles have appeared in our 'house' journal. the European Journal of Oriental Medicine. Our whole archive is now online, and these two items, found by using the search facility, would be handy,
They contain a number of references to the main books and journals which you can track down, and the wider search will also give you a number of references to articles about the ethics of IVF and acupuncture and some interesting case studies
2) There is also a useful research resource in America, NCBI, whose website contains many of the main free databases for research. Typing 'ncbi acupuncture' and whatever you want to research into google will generate a number of hits such as this one which we have not cited on our factsheet
3) There are always magazine articles and opinion pieces, especially in the United States, and the article below is one of several of a kind which we are sometimes asked to provide on topics like anxiety, stress and so on.
4) Finally there are first hand accounts which often personalise the process and offer a user's perspective. Rowan Pelling's piece in the Guardian a few years ago is a good example.
Q: I would like some information regarding practitioners within your organisation which specialise in treating MS sufferers (particulary the progressive form).
A: We do not have specialists within the traditional acupuncture profession as such; the same basic knowledge and skills underpin the work of both newly qualified adnd experienced practitioners alike, and the only difference is the degree of experience which each has. There are one or two areas, such as working with children or pregnant women, where we are developing guidelines for achieving recognition of expert practice, but single diseases such as MS are unlikely to be dealt with in a similar way for the foreseeable future.
The problem with named conditions is that the overlap between east and west is not precise. Someone with MS may have one of a dozen different primary disease classifications from a chinese medicine perspective, while a single syndrome in Chinese medicine might manifest in up to half a dozen different symptoms in conventional medicine.
From our perspective all of our members are equipped to deal with the treatment of anyone within the framework of Chinese medicine. The major caution we impress upon students is that this can be misheard by people with terminal or degenerative conditions, where 'treat' is sometimes heard as 'cure'. In essence all we do is to try to achieve the best possible balance of energy, or 'qi', in the system that we can, and enable the patient to improve as much as is possible within their own limitations.
The only other factor we would take into account is that the experience of the practitioner can make a difference in dealing with chronic or degenerative conditions. Newer graduates can occasionally find it difficult to deal with terminal or degenerative illnesses and used to be advised by their colleges to refer people on if they felt that they did not have the resources to cope with what they would have to deal with. We're not sure whether this is still the case, and we may be doing more recent graduates an injustice but our experience was that it takes some experience to be able to handle what they might perceive as 'difficult' cases.
Q: Can acupuncture get rid of pain that is caused by a bundle of nerve tissue protruding into the 4-5th vertebrae of the neck which is causing the pain.
A: Acupuncture has a relatively good record as far as pain relief is concerned. As our factsheet shows
there is now a growing body of evidence that acupuncture treatment can play a useful part in the successfull management of chronic pain.
That said, the problem you have is largely a mechanical one, some tissues protruding where it should not be and being impinged. If this is as a consequence of inflammation there is a possibility that the acupuncture treatment may be able to assist in bringing the inflammation under control and breaking the spiral which keeps the pain running - inflammation causes impingement causes further inflammation, and so on. If, however, we are talking about a physical change of a nature which means that certain movements will always create pain, then pain management may be less effective.
The question really is not whether acupuncture will relieve pain, but only by how much and how sustainable any improvement is. In some cases this can lead to some rather difficult financial considerations; if someone gets two good days after a treatment it becomes a matter of whether they can afford that frequency of treatment or whether they can come to some continuing and cost effective arrangement with a practitioner.
However, without a great deal more detail than we have here about the way in which this has become a problem, what medical and especially neurological opinion has been sought and given, and the nature of pain itself, we cannot be more specific. The best advice that we can give is that you contact a BAcC member local to you and seek a brief face to face assessment where you can explain in greater depth how this problem troubles you, and its history, and they can look at diagnostic information which will enable them to give an honest and informed opinion of whether they believe that acupuncture treatment would be of benefit to you.
Q: I'm 16 and would like to get some piercings in the ear (one rim on the right ear and one scaffold on the left). Obviously, I'm concerned about the acupuncture points in the ear. Is it safe ? I've contacted the piercer who told me that "It might cause an interference once pierced but it is only temporary. Your body will heal and re-route and restore meridian points to make up for damage so that you can function normally". Is it true ?
A: This is an extremely good question! Unfortunately, we do not have a precise answer, partly because ear/auricular acupuncture is not central to the traditional acupuncture lineage, having been developed more in Europe over the last fifty years on the basis of points used occasionally in traditional treatment.
The generally received wisdom is that in the vast majority of cases there is no problem arising from ear piercings. However, it would be very difficult to gather meaningful information because we would only rarely see people who had either just had ear piercings or were in the middle of a course of treatment and had their ears pierced. The usual professional view is that there may be a short term affect because of the formation of scar tissue around the piercing site, but this would only be short term as the energies re-route around the hole. Since the piercing is complete, i.e. from side to side, there is no likelihood of there being a constant stimulus from an earring or stud. We find the same with body piercings like navel studs; there is no evidence suggesting that this is causing a continuing energetic reaction.
You would be well advised, however, to address this question to the Society of Auricular Acupuncturists whose members specialise in ear acupuncture and may have had to field this question many more times than we have. They can be contacted at http://www.auricularacupuncturecollege.com/saac/