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We were asked this question once in relation to xerostomia induced by radiotherapy, and our answer was, taken from our factsheet on palliative care and further supplemented:
Dry mouth (xerostomia)
A systematic review found possible benefits with acupuncture for radiotherapy-induced xerostomia (O’Sullivan 2010). Not all the inter-group differences were significant but this is typical in trials comparing acupuncture with sham acupuncture, for the latter is commonly viewed as being an active treatment itself, not a placebo, and hence may underestimate the effects of the therapy (Lundeberg 2011; Sherman 2009; Paterson 2005).The RCTs to date are few in number and small in size. Although they have produced encouraging results, and are supported by observational studies (for example, Meidell 2009), larger trials are required to achieve more robust evidence. Acupuncture may also help with xerostomia dysphagia (swallowing difficulty) in late-stage palliative care (Filshie 2003).
there is some evidence for the value of acupuncture treatment for dry mouth after radiotherapy, and the two studies below certainly seem very positive.
Clearly there is a considerable difference between the kinds of functional disturbances caused by disruption of the balance of the body's energies through normal wear and tear and the kinds of damaged brought on by injury or accident. This does mean that it is more difficult to predict whether acupuncture treatment might be of benefit. Treatment of the kind used in the studies tends to be localised or precisely targeted, and this can mean that it does not really conform to the patterns of treatment which a Chinese medicine practitioner would employ. In broad terms, however, acupuncture treatment is aimed at putting the whole system back in balance with the underlying belief that a body in balance tends to deal with symptoms itsef, and on this basis it may well be worth talking to a BAcC member local to you to see if a combination of systemic and local treatment may, in their view, be of benefit. Most BAcC members are more than happy to give up a little time without charge to give a face to face assessment of whether treatment would help.
There is a chance, of course, that the xerostomia which you are asking about is not related to cancer treatment. From a Chinese medicine perspective this makes no difference. The understanding of the dhe nechanics of the disruption of the physiology of salivation from within the Chinese medicine paradigm will be the same whatever the cause, although the cause, again seen from this perspective, may have a considerable impact on the treatment. By this we mean that radiotherapy might be seen as a cause of great heat and dryness within the system as a whole or locally, and this would almost certainly feed into the treatment strategy.
As we said above, speaking to a BAcC member local to you who can assess the problem face to face may well be the best option for you before committing to treatment.
Q: I suffer from pain and stiffness in my neck, back and shoulders caused by a build-up of 'muscle knots'. I do go for massages when I can afford however an hour of massage only serves to loosen them and within a few days they are back. I do have a regular weekly yoga class which also helps. I believe they are brought about mainly by stress and the tension this creates in my body. Sitting at a computer all day doesn't help either! Is this something that acupuncture could help with or is massage the more suitable treatment?
A: There's an expression which is very common amongst practitioners of NLP, and indeed is one of their guiding principles when they try to change bad habits - 'if you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got.' This is backed up by the secondary principle - 'if what you're doing isn't working, do something different.'
We suspect that as long as you sit at a computer all day you're probably going to get the same patterns developing. Acupuncture treatment may help to remove some of the knots and tension, but as we often say to people working 75 hour weeks, the real answer is working less - acupuncture treatment cannot make people able to perform super-human feats.
Our own recommendation would be that in the first place you do, or commission, an ergonomic assessment of your workplace. It is still amazing after twenty years of increasing computer reliance that people have machines at the wrong height and angle. The second thing we would recommend is that you look carefully at your posture, either with an osteopath or chiropractor to check for misalignment or with an Alexander teacher if it is a question of re-educating your body to adopt a good posture again. We believe that this would be the most effective route.
Of course, we'd be delighted if you chose to see a BAcC member, and you may even find that acupuncture treatment helps you to maintain your resolve to do something about your situation, as well as dealing with some of the stress and anxiety from which you suffer - there is increasingly good evidence that acupuncture can be beneficial for these problems. Ultimately, however, if you always do what you always did.......
Q: Can acupuncture be used to regulate cycles after miscarriage? Please not I DO NOT have fertility issues. I am being investigated for repeat miscarriage NOT fertility.
A: We have been asked similar questions before, and this one is indicative of the responses we give to this kind of question:
Q: I currently have no periods and am keen for my cycle to return so I can start a family. Is this something accupunture could help with?
A: There is no short answer to this problem. There are a number of reasons why a woman's periods might not be happening, and before we could give a reasonable assessment we would have to know whether your hormone levels had been checked carefully, whether you had been on the pill for any length of time before your periods stopped, whether you were underweight or anaemic - all the sorts of questions which your GP would ask and the results of the tests to which he or she would refer you.
Of course, Chinese medicine works on an entirely different theoretical basis to western medicine, and amenorrhea has been a health issue for the whole duration of its two thousand year history, so there are obviously explananations for why someone's periods have stopped which can co-exist with a western diagnosis. It is, after all, the same body, just two separate ways of looking at it. However, the importance of having undertaken all of the conventional medical tests is that there are some reasons for the lack of periods which no amount of acupuncture treatment will affect, and western methods may be more assured and more effective.
That said, there are often functional disturbances and blockages in the flow of energy, understood in Chinese medicine as a pattern of flow and balance which maintains health bodily function, and the correction of these may, if there are no underlying problems which make it impossible, get the system moving again.
There is very little research into amenorrhea, because as the books will always say, this is a symptom, not a problem itself, and such research as does exist will be into the specific causes as identified in western medicine. The best advice we can give you is to visit a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment of your signs and symptoms, and also more importantly for a brief discussion of how the problem developed - were the periods sporadic and then stop, did they stop suddenly, and so on. Once they have had this brief chat with you they will be able to offer you an informed view of whether acupuncture treatment can help you.
What we would add to this is that the issue of repeated miscarriage is something on which a practitioner may be able to offer a view from a Chinese medicine perspective as well. Although this problem is most often and possibly best understood from a conventional medical viewpoint, the Chinese obviously had a very clear understanding of what made for favourable conditions for conception and what caused problems, and there are a small number of reasons from a Chinese medical perspective which may explain what is happening.
It is important to note, however, that the earliest systems of traditional chinese medicine were largely asymptomatic, i.e. although the patient could give a precise account of the problems they were experiencing, the practitioner used his or her skill to determine what needed to be done to put the system as a whole back into better balance, in the belief that a system in balance puts symptoms right of its own accord. It is rather like helping the system to help itself. From this perspective, it is easier to see the task as better overall functioning than the resolution of specific problems. We have often found that patients can engage with this as a strategy better than something expressed in more specific terms like 'releasing cold from the womb'.
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.