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IQ: I am trying to find another acupuncturist who does Chan Gunn, deep intramuscular technique.
 I live in Dover but can travel to anywhere in Kent or London. Your help in this matter would be most helpful as I don't seem to be having any luck on the internet.

A:  Chan Gunn acupuncture is, as we are sure you are already well aware, a technique primarily practised by western medical professionals. Although there is an overlap with some of the techniques of traditional acupuncture with which we work, if you want to have a specific form of treatment like this we think that the best that we can do is to refer you to the BMAS( http://www.medical-acupuncture.co.uk), to which Dr Stellon belonged, or the AACP (http://www.aacp.org.uk/) , the special interest group within the physiotherapy profession. The training courses in this technique are advertised specifcially for these professionals, and the chances are that you are more likely to get a promising lead from them.
 
We can do probably not much more than you have done already by conducting a detailed internet search, which as you have found, doesn't generate any useful hits for the Kent or London area.
 

A:  Pins and needles, often called paresthesia in conventional medicine, is usually associated with poor circulation or some kind of interference with the nerve pathways. Generally speaking, it is self-correcting, so when it occurs all the time it needs to be investigated thoroughly. We don't want to sound like harbingers of doom, but there are several quite serious conditions for which constant pins and needles are a symptom or general warning sign. It is really important to discuss this with a GP and possibly arrange for a consultation with a neurologist just to be sure that this is not the tip of a much larger iceberg. The chances of it being more than it appears are remote, but we have a duty of care to our patients to ensure that there is nothing for which conventional treatment is required.
 
There is, as you might imagine, very little research in this area under the general heading of paresthesia. What you will find is a certain amount of research on peripheral neuropathy, which is one condition where pins and needles sensations are among the range of possibilities. We answered a question on this a short while ago, and you can see our answer here:
 
http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/public-content/public-ask-an-expert/ask-an-expert-general/ask-an-expert-general-general-uncategorised/can-acupuncture-help-with-peripheral-neuropathy.html
 
However, symptoms like this have existed since we started walking upright, and Chinese medicine, which has a 2500 year history, has been addressing such problems within its own conceptual framework. As you may already know by looking at our website, Chinese medicine is based on a theort of energy, called 'qi', which flows around the body in specific patterns whose flow, rhythm and balance are a precondition of good health. When the flow is disturbed or blocked, then ill health in the form of symptoms will start to emerge. The flow is maintained by the Organs of the body (always capitalised in Chinese medicine because these are groups of functions overlapping with the physical organ as it is understood in conventional medicine), and when symptoms like pins and needles appear, it usually points to a number of specific possibilities for Organic malfunction.
 
Nothing is as straightforward as that, however! The interconnections of all parts of the system mean that there is a considerable art and skill in the practitioner's interpretation of what is happening. That a part of the system is causing a problem is not difficult to determine. Whether that is the source of the problem or whether that part of the system is reacting to imbalance elsewhere is critical. Treating in the 'point and shoot' manner of cookbook formulae may help for a while, but if the underlying problem is not addressed the symptoms will come back or worse still, be suppressed while the problem continues to develop. This is why the BAcC sets so much store by the degree-level training our members have; it takes that long to be able, in our view, to begin to master these skills.
 
The best advice we can give in situations like these, where the range of possibilities tends to be quite wide, is to arrange a visit to a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment and discussion of whether acupuncture treatment is appropriate for this problem. Most members are very happy to do this, usually without charge, to ensure a good 'fit' in terms of type fo therapy and patient. If they feel that there may be other better options, be they conventional or complementary, they will probably say so. 
 
 

Q:  A nerve in my lower back does not seem to function resulting in a pronounced limp ( but no pain ).  I cannot get up onto my toes in the left foot. Can accupuncture help in this instance?

A: The crucial question here is what might have caused the nerve to function, and of course how precisely this has been diagnosed. We are assuming that you will have been seen by a neurologist, but if not it is very important that you see your GP and arrange an appointment to see one shortly. Any loss of sensation or muscular action needs to be investigated, not necessarily urgently (we don't want to sound alarmist) but certainly with reasonable haste to ensure that if there is any temporary impingement of a nerve the damage does not become more permanent through failure to get the appropriate treatment quickly.

On the assumption that the condition has been assessed by a specialist, the best we can say is that acupuncture treatment may help to restore some of the function, but there is very little evidence of research which would enable us to give even a partly qualified recommendation. If the nerve has been damaged in some way, then we have to be honest and say that acupuncture treatment will probably have no impact at all. The regeneration of nerve tissue in this part of the body is not as much as people might hope after injury, and once damage has occurred that is usually that.

That said, Chinese medicine is premised on an entirely different understanding of the body mind and emotions as a system of energy, called 'qi', in movement, and symptoms are understood in this context to be a result of some changes in the nature of the flow which affect the rhythm or balance of the energy. From this perspective, a weakness in a specific muscle set or loss of sensation would usually be seen as a deficiency of flow or a blockage, and the practitioner's skill would lie in working out how to reinstate the flow.

In some cases, such as the treatment of post-stroke patients, there is a growing body of evidence that the paralysis and muscle flaccidity which accompanies a stroke is significantly improved by acupuncture treatment, and in China patients are often given an intensive course of acupuncture treatment starting as soon as possible after the event. The point that we are making here is that from a conventional perspective this does not make sense, but clearly patients benefit, and the argument is that from the Chinese medicine perspective and understanding of strokes, something can be done. 

The same can be said of sciatica and other problems, such as osteoarthritis, which are diagnosed as being the result of changes in the lower spine causing impingement of nerves and pain. We have treated enough patients over the years whose X-rays show degenerative change but whose pain has been reduced to know that the causation accepted as 100% by conventional medicine need not be so clear, and that a percentage of these cases are amenable to acupuncture treatment because the pain arises from a different cause which ca be understood in Chinese medicine terms.

Our best advice is to visit a BAcC member local to you and ask if they can give you a better assessment based on a brief face to face interview about whether in their view acupuncture treatment may be of benefit. It is highly unlikely that this is the only symptom linked to a major physiological change, and they will also be able to assess using Chinese medicine techniques whether there is other evidence of energetic disturbance which may explain what is happening.

However, as we said, a great deal depends on whether your condition has been thoroughly investigated within conventional medicine, and what if any reasons were given as to why the problem occurred in the first place. Practitioners of all systems of medicine will ask the same generic questions - when did it start, was the onset gradual or sudden, what treatments and investigations have you had, what was happening at the time of the symptom appearing or shortly before, and so on - to make sense of what is happening. If you have the answers to these from your existing health practitioners it will inform what an acupuncture practitioner can advise you.     

Q: I have suffered with back pain since I was 14 years old.  I'm now 27 and still suffer greatly. I was diagnosed with scoliosis in my lumbar region and was seen by a physio. I've made several visits to my GP but they keep supplying pain relief. Last year I paid to see a chiropractor- most of my spine was out of line and he helped. Then pain carried on and I then tried accupunture and deep tissue massage. This eased the pain a little. Because both practises mentioned a lot wrong with my spine, sciatica and whip lash symptoms I revisited my GP hoping for a scan to get some answers. Instead they referred me to back2health- an NHS back clinic. I have been having accupunture and chiropractor there and my pain is getting worse- and I'm finding daily activities demanding. I am now having to take constant pain relief. Is the treatment they are giving me a cause for the worsened pain do you think? As the acupunture is extremely painful there- unlike when I received it at a Chinese clinic. I just want some answers to my pain and find a way of managing it

A:We are very sorry to hear of your experience. It must be very disappointing to have been getting somewhere with treatment only, like in a game of snakes and ladders, to find yourself going downhill again.

In our experience, any disturbances which people experience after acupuncture treatment are usually short-term and transient, lasting 24-48 hours at most. We are aware from patients who visit chiropractors and osteopaths that much the same applies, two or three days of mild to moderate discomfort followed by a gradual improvement. Our view is that often when the body is severely out of alignment, any attempt to correct posture means bringing into play muscles which have been working out of position for a long time and which are resistant to change, even positive change.

If things are getting worse rather than better, then we always recommend that patients stop having treatment. It may be that the getting worse has nothing to do with the acupuncture and chiropractic, and we are used on occasion to be taken to task because we happen to be treating at the same time as a problem is deteriorating for other reasons. However, if there is any doubt we recommend that someone stops treatment for two or three weeks to see what is really happening.

Your mention of the different between the needling at a Chinese clinic and the needling at the Pain Clinic does make us wonder what kind of acupuncture you are receiving. In our experience, many of the western medical professionals who use acupuncture use thicker needles inserted in a slightly different way, and this can often feel quite rough after a more traditional Chinese approach. However, the really big difference is the theory underlying the different types of acupuncture. Whereas western acupuncture is largely based on trying to release trigger points in muscles and achieving a neurophysiological effect to jam out local pain signals, Chinese medicine is based on an entirely different view of the body as a system of energy, called 'qi', whose balance, rhythm and flow needs to be optimal for the body to function properly. If everything functions as it should, then the structure of the body follows. This is the opposite direction to osteopathy and chiropractic which both work on the premise that correct structure allows and encourages normal function. This is why the two types of treatment can dovetail well.

Whether the current treatment is causing your problems to be exacerbated we can't say. In our experience it would have to be serious mis-treatment to make things worse, and we don't believe this is likely. Much more probable is that the treatment you were having before was successful in maintaining a level of balance where the pain was manageable, and if it is within your means to do so we would recommend that you go back to what was working for you. There used to be an old maxim in the profession, whether true or not it is difficult to say, that it often took as many months as the years a patient had suffered with a problem to help to remove it. This may just have been to make us more realistic about how quickly we could help people to get better, but in any event it made us remember that long-standing problems would not simply vanish but would require perseverance and patience. Having had your problems for nearly 14 years it may take a while for the full benefits of treatment to work their way through.

We are assuming that you were happy with the treatment you received from the Chinese clinic, and if so, you would be well advised to go to them again. If not, we are sure that there will be a BAcC member local to you who will be more than happy to see you for a brief chat without charge to give you the benefit of a face to face assessment of what acupuncture treatment as they do it may be able to offer.

Q:  I have a chronic medical infection. I am receiving treatment to combat it but I have been ill for so long that a number of body systems are now locked into "be ill" mode and I need to do something to unlock them.
 There are lots of things doing the rounds at the moment including sticking a stent into the jugular vein and expanding it on the nerve cluster in the neck where I know there are a number of acupuncture points.
 Rife and Fenzian technology is also being used with some success but is massively expensive. I am interested in establishing if it might be possible to do something with electroacupuncture as there seems to be a lot of cross over between a lot of these therapies.

A:  The problem you mention, one of the body being locked into a 'be ill' mode, is a very familiar one to us and a great many other complementary and conventional medical practitioners. A person can be ill for so long it becomes their reality, and attempts to change it can often be thwarted by kind of 'habit' energy which resists even beneficial change.
 
We were going to say that without knowing more about the precise nature of the infection were were limited in what we could say, but of course Chinese medicine is about treating people, not conditions. Although the last twenty years has seen a considerable increase in the 'acupuncture treats x, y and z' articles, we must never forget that Chinese medicine is based on an entirely different theoretical system in which the overall balance of the energies of the body is seen as critical to all aspects of a person's health and ability to recover from ill health.
 
However, your question is a very specific one. As far as we can judge RIFE therapy and Fenzian treatment are very cutting edge interventions which are still the subject of vigorous debate in both conventional and complelentary medical circles. The results of some of the limited trials are, if replicable on a larger scale, very ground-breaking, and the logic of their effects seems compelling. We think that there probably could be overlaps with some of the more experimental forms of electroacupuncture around, but the 'mainstream' traditions of EA equally have overlaps with TENS machines and ultrasound, which are as far from cutting edge as you can get, so the spectrum of possibilities is very wide.
 
We do not keep separate lists of practitioners who use EA, and are not really able to advise you on who you might be able to see to discuss whether EA might prove a close enough approximation to RIFE and Fenzian approaches to warrant a few sessions. One of our members has written the definitive UK textbook on EA, and if you contact him (he is easy to track down by internet searches but our house rules forbid naming him) he may be able to comment more specifically than we can about the latest EA developments. We have to be cautious in what we publish, however; EA is within our wider scope of practice but is not a core element of traditional acupuncture. 
 
We are duty bound to say that good old-fashioned acupuncture practised according to 2000-year old principles has often been effective in our experience in breaking these self-sustaining cycles of illness, and the concept of qi which underpins Chinese medicine theory has a great deal in common with some of the more cutting edge fields of quantum physics and field theory, so it does not necessarily mean that someone has to be using cutting edge equipment to be generating effects at this kind of level.
 
Our advice, as always, is to visit a BAcC member local to you so that they can offer you more precisely targeted opinion based on a face to face assessment than we can at this remove.