Latest posts are at the bottom of this page.
Use the filter buttons above to help find answers - click on the boxes

Recent answers

Q:  I am currently having acupuncture by a Chinese trained TCM practitioner for a respiratory infection. She has suggested taking Chinese herbs as a tea to boost my immune system in addition to acupuncture.

I have bipolar affective disorder (manic depression) and know that some immune supporting Chinese herbs are not suitable as they could trigger a manic episode. My previous acupuncturist would leave some herbs out of her immune mix - but I don't know which ones!

The Chinese acupuncturist I am currently seeing speaks fairly good English, but I am not sure she has understood why I am cautious about taking herbs as I'm not convinced she understands what bipolar is or the potential risks associated (psychotic episode requiring hospital admission).

Please could anyone provide a list of Chinese herbs that are not suitable for someone with bipolar (in Chinese and English if at all possible please). I would like to show the acupuncturist a list of contraindicated herbs in bipolar before agreeing to take Chinese herbs as tea.

A:  It is a rather anomalous fact that Chinese medicine, which is largely acupuncture and herbal medicine, is represented by two parallel sets of organisations in the UK. This has a great deal to do with the fact that there was a strong tradition of medical acupuncture and western herbs already in existence, and the separate elements of TCM grouped around them.

As a consequence, although we have a number of members who practise Chinese Herbal medicine their herbal medicine regulation is undertaken by the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, to which most of them belong. The expertise necessary to respond to your question lies there, and I am sure that if you contact them at http://rchm.co.uk/ they will be more than happy to oblige with the information which you need.

The RCHM is a smaller organisation than the BAcC, and not quite so well resourced, so it may take a few days before you get a response.

 

Q:  I am currently having acupuncture by a Chinese trained TCM practitioner for a respiratory infection. She has suggested taking Chinese herbs as a tea to boost my immune system in addition to acupuncture.

I have bipolar affective disorder (manic depression) and know that some immune supporting Chinese herbs are not suitable as they could trigger a manic episode. My previous acupuncturist would leave some herbs out of her immune mix - but I don't know which ones!

The Chinese acupuncturist I am currently seeing speaks fairly good English, but I am not sure she has understood why I am cautious about taking herbs as I'm not convinced she understands what bipolar is or the potential risks associated (psychotic episode requiring hospital admission).

Please could anyone provide a list of Chinese herbs that are not suitable for someone with bipolar (in Chinese and English if at all possible please). I would like to show the acupuncturist a list of contraindicated herbs in bipolar before agreeing to take Chinese herbs as tea.

A:  It is a rather anomalous fact that Chinese medicine, which is largely acupuncture and herbal medicine, is represented by two parallel sets of organisations in the UK. This has a great deal to do with the fact that there was a strong tradition of medical acupuncture and western herbs already in existence, and the separate elements of TCM grouped around them.

As a consequence, although we have a number of members who practise Chinese Herbal medicine their herbal medicine regulation is undertaken by the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, to which most of them belong. The expertise necessary to respond to your question lies there, and I am sure that if you contact them at http://rchm.co.uk/ they will be more than happy to oblige with the information which you need.

The RCHM is a smaller organisation than the BAcC, and not quite so well resourced, so it may take a few days before you get a response.

Q:  I have symptoms of arrhythmia.I do have an ICD to keep my heart in check in case of a runaway tachycardia episode.I take mexiletine and sotalol to prevent that from happening......The drugs themselves are enough to kill me....Would acupuncture be a viable alternative to all these medications,and to better my overall health? I am more than ready for a change! (Sick and tired of being sick and tired) I am only 61 yrs old with a lot of living yet to do.I'm in good health otherwise.Just can't do the things I used to do......frustrating!!!

A:  We have to say that acupuncture is not viable as an alternative to your current medications.

This is a problem which we confront quite often with medications, and especially those prescribed for asthma. The medications are prescribed as a preventative, and if someone's condition is stable then it is extremely unlikely that a GP will consider stopping or reducing the dose. This is not a surprise. There is evidence to suggest that if long term medications for asthma are removed there is a slightly increased risk of a serious or fatal attack, and faced with this possibility for any preventive medicine it is likely to mean a lifetime regime. Better than the alternative, as they say.

However, we do treat many people with lifetime medication regimes and there is no doubt in our minds that acupuncture can sometimes make the side effects of the medication less unpleasant, and may also start to address the underlying problem for which someone is taking the meds. There are obviously no trials to validate this statement - they'd never get ethical approval - but from a Chinese medicine perspective the drugs themselves are a toxin which will have an impact on the body's energies beyond the positive effects they have on the specific problem, and it is always possible to reduce the discomfort that these cause. A classic example for us is the use of acupuncture for the nausea caused by chemotherapy. There is a great deal of research which shows that the anti-emetic effect is strong without compromising the effect the drug has on cancer cells.

The best advice that we can give is that you visit a BAcC member local to you for a brief consultation about what benefits acupuncture may be able to offer. Your condition will have some sort of history, and even a brief narrative account may well offer some useful insights into what the problem is from a Chinese medicine perspective, what the underlying causes may be, and also what effects the medications are having on the system. This may encourage a practitioner to feel that there is a good chance of reducing the impact that these medications are having.

Q:  I have just been dignosed with fibromyalgia and was wondering if there is any were I can get information leaflets, books etc on it and any  help I can get?

A:We can and do treat cases of trigeminal neuralgia (TN), and as our factsheet shows:

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/neuropathic-pain.html

there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that acupuncture treatment may have a role to play in dealing with the symptoms.

However, this is one of those problems where we tend to be as realistic as possible, i.e. not making too much of the results from research. Our clinical experience has been that this can be a very intractable condition. One particular cause can be a misalignment of the tempero-mandibular joint, and if this appears to be the case we might well decide to refer someone to a cranial osteopath in the first instance to try to correct the joint. Even when this has been sorted, though, we do sometimes find that the condition can continue to be a problem. The research seems to show that acupuncture treatment alongside medication seems to work well, and can mitigate the effects of the drugs themselves.

Each case is unique and different, though, and this is very much the ethos of Chinese medicine. We regard each person as a unique pattern of energy flow and balance, and this can mean that for a named condition like TN twenty patients diagnosed with it might be treated in twenty different ways. This is a great strength, but it does mean that when we are asked 'does acupuncture treat x?' we are somewhat reluctant to give a definitive answer because it may depend on the patient. This is not just a traditional acupuncture view; the great Canadian physician William Osler often said 'The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.'

The best advice we can give is to pop along to a local BAcC member to get an informal assessment based on a brief chat about what might be possible. We are sure that this will give a well-informed answer, and equally sure that our members will be honest in their assessment about whether acupuncture treatment is in fact the best option for you.

Q:  48 hours ago I received my first treatment for whiplash from a car accident 4 months ago. Yesterday I noticed some tender lumps on my neck at the base of my skull. This morning I noticed those lumps weren't as tender but more tender spots developed while I was sleeping. I have a really tender one behind my left ear that almost feels like a swollen gland. Is this normal? My acupuncturist told me any tender spots should dissipate within a few hours with heat application but it's been 2 days and more lumps developed even after using heat. I can't find anything online about acupuncture causing swollen glands.

A:  We wouldn't go so far as to say that this is normal, but it is possible. We do sometimes find that when we treat areas where there has been some form of congestion or blockage a number of unusual reactions can occur as the flow of energy resumes.

However, your acupuncturist's advice is probably right - these sorts of reactions should die down within 48 hours, and if they don't they are worthy of further exploration. The obvious question to check first off would be whether the lumps have appeared where the needles themselves were applied. Many practitioners use a number of points in this area for treating whiplash, often to dissipate some of the muscle tension that gathers in the area, and there are a few patients who are allergic to needles themselves. Some, although not as many as used to be the case, contain nickel, to which people can often be allergic, and some have a silicon coating to aid insertion. This too can cause a small minority of patients to react strongly. In both of these cases, there resulting 'bumps' might last a little longer.

If they persist after four or five days, then it would be necessary to find out more about how they present. Are the lumps under the skin and palpable but with no surface appearance, or is there redness and inflammation. This would help to determine whether there is any localised infection, although that would be very rare. The use of single use disposable pre-sterilised needles has all but removed this as a possibility, but it does present a theoretical risk, with the most likely sites of infection being where the needles were actually placed.

There is, of course, the possibility that this has actually nothing to do with the treatment itself but is some form of strange coincidence. We say this because with nearly 3 million treatments a year there are going to be unusual symptoms which begin after a treatment which have nothing to do with the treatment itself. This can sometimes lead to inconclusive arguments about what caused what while the problem is not properly addressed. This is why in all these cases we tend to say that if the symptoms persist for more than three or four days you should book an appointment with your GP as a safeguard to ensure that if this is something which requires conventional treatment it is better treated earlier than later.

It is also worthwhile staying in touch with your practitioner and possibly arranging to pop back in to see him or her so that they can take a look at what is going on and offer any relevant advice based on their knowledge of what they have been trying to achieve.

 

Post a question

If you have any questions about acupuncture, browse our archive or ask an expert.

Ask an expert

BAcC Factsheets

Research based factsheets have been prepared for over 60 conditions especially for this website

Browse the facts

In the news

Catch up with the latest news on acupuncture in the national media

Latest news