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A: We're sorry to hear of your experience - we know very well how unusual events after treatment can be very disturbing.
While we wouldn't want to go as far as to say normal, it is not unknown for someone to experience strange sensations after a treatment. Very few of these are to do with physical damage caused by the needles, and where they are it is pretty obvious, like a bruise or a dull ache. Balancing up the energy of the body, which is what we do with traditional acupuncture, can sometimes cause some strange reactions, although the ones which you are experiencing are a little stranger than most.
We would probably need a little more information about where the needles have been placed and what the treatment strategy was to offer a more detailed view. We can think of a number of syndromes where the treatment might cause this of sensation, but without more information we are in the dark. A great deal depends on whether the face and body feel swollen or actually are swollen. The former is very much like the kind of odd sensations which people can experience, the latter a little more unusual.
What we always say, though, is that effects like these rarely last more than 48 hours at the outside, and most are gone within the day. If they carry on beyond that or recur over the next few days, the best thing to do is first have a chat with the practitioner and if need be drop into their clinic so that they can see what is happening and advise you on what to do. If things really do carry on for a lot longer it is always worth checking with the GP. Sometimes odd things happen which have nothing to do with the treatment, and it always pays to have things checked sooner rather than later. We have come across one or two cases where the argument about what caused a problem has kicked off without the problem getting treated, which is not a great idea. Getting treatment usually establishes what caused what.
We are confident, though, that the symptoms will quickly go away, and hopefully show that your system is responsive to treatment and will start to make positive changes very soon.
Q: I had acupuncture yesterday for anxiety. A needle was placed on both sides of my legs which left me feeling great and relaxed. A couple of hours later I experienced very strong and uncontrollable muscle spasms/twitching in both legs for a good 10-15 mins. They were accompanied by a sensation of heat within my body. Is this normal? Scared me!
A: We're sorry to hear that you had a scary experience - we know very well how unusual events after treatment can be very disturbing.
While we wouldn't want to go as far as to say normal, it is not unknown for someone to experience strange sensations after a treatment. Very few of these are to do with physical damage caused by the needles, and where they are it is pretty obvious, like a bruise or a dull ache. Balancing up the energy of the body, which is what we do with traditional acupuncture, often leads to the release of blockages, and the experience of heat is quite a common one. Some treatments actually talk about 'releasing the interior' , and certainly in cases of anxiety there is often a great deal of internal heat associated with the condition in Chinese medicine terms. It is often the case that the tip of the tongue shows itself to be a little redder, a visible manifestation of heat in the system.
The twitching of the legs is a little less common, although by chance we had a question from someone last week with the same problem, and as you might expect, by the time we managed to reply the symptom had vanished. This can fall into the same category of release, but can also just be a 'ripple' effect from an improved energy flow.
What we always say, though, is that effects like these rarely last more than 48 hours at the outside, and most are gone within the day. If they carry on beyond that or recur over the next few days, the best thing to do is first have a chat with the practitioner and if need be drop into their clinic so that they can see what is happening and advise you on what to do. If things really do carry on for a lot longer it is always worth checking with the GP. Sometimes odd things happen which have nothing to do with the treatment, and it always pays to have things checked sooner rather than later.
Q: I have suffered from pudendal neuralgia for 2 years. I would like to know if acunpuncture can be used to treat this condition? Also, details of practices that can treat this condition. I live in Newcastle-upon-Tyne
A: Pudendal nerve problems can be a source of immense discomfort and can often lead to severe depression, especially if entrapment of the nerve not only causes the neuralgia but also affects functions in the lower abdomen.
We would first want to ask a great many questions about what brought the problem on, or if there was no obvious cause what was happening at the time of onset. We would also probably want to know whether the onset was sudden or gradual, whether you had found anything which seemed to relieve the problem, and what tended to exacerbate it. These questions would be standard fare for any doctor, but the underlying theory of Chinese medicine can often make sense of symptoms and how they present within an entirely different framework.
The bottom line, though, is that quite often pudendal nerve problems result from physical changes in the lower spine or in the internal musculature, and these can often be difficult to reverse. Occasionally there is a level of entrapment brought on by a hobby like cycling or working for long hours in a fixed position, but these are easily identified and easily remedied. The majority of cases are more treatment resistant, and it would be unfair to give you unrealistic expectations of what was possible. We have trawled through the research databases and found very few studies which even look at the problem, let alone indicate that it might be amenable to treatment.
However we must not sell ourselves short! Acupuncture treatment is often the last resort for intractable problems, and occasionally generates results in the most unexpected cases. If a practitioner can make sense of the presentation you have from a Chinese medicine perspective then there may be some cause for hope that the symptom can be reduced in severity or even removed. The best way to establish this would be to see a BAcC member local to you for a chat and brief face to face assessment. The only caution we ever offer is that where we are not sure whether treatment will work it makes sense to try to find measurable outcomes and to review progress regularly, and certainly after the first four or five sessions. If there has been no change of any kind then it may be wise to call it a day early rather than run up a large bill going nowhere.
As generalists all of our members are capable of treating this problem, and using the postcode search facility on our home page www.acupuncture.org.uk will generate a list of members geographically closest to you.
Q: I have alodinya feels like permanent sunburnt but also results in pain in different areas. I have had an MRI scan and the results they don't think are anything to do with spine damage. They think it is difficult to associate it with sensory symptoms. Would acupuncture help?
A: We are very sorry to hear that you have this problem; it can be very disheartening to have something for which no clear-cut cause can be found.
We have searched the literature for any evidence of acupuncture being used to treat this, but weren't at all surprised to find nothing of significance. The condition usually presents itself as a feature or symptom of something which is already named and classified, and treatment usually focuses on that specific problem.
However, the great strength of Chinese medicine is that it has a 2500 year history of treating problems not by name but by how things appear, and understanding them within a system which is based on energy flow. This has evolved to use a great many classifications based on observation and lived experience, like feelings of heat and cold in the body, and also a complex understanding of the inter-connectedness of parts of the system. Once one steps aside from the disease label and asks more specific questions about where the sensations are, how they feel, and what makes them change this can often point to a series of possible causes, many of which are treatable.
It has long been received wisdom in the acupuncture and Chinese medicine world that skin problems are often best treated with a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Since most of the practitioners on the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine are also BAcC members too this may be the best option to pursue. However, herbs are to everyone's taste, and we are pretty confident that acupuncture alone could be just as effective.
The best advice that we can give, and often do give, is that seeing a problem face to face is always the best way to establish whether something is treatable. Most BAcC members are more than happy to give up a few minutes without charge to have a look at the problem and give more specific advice, and this also gives you a chance to meet them and see where they work before committing to treatment.
Q: I have suffered heel pain for 3 years. I have plantar fascitis in both feet after running on a trend mill in flat shoes. Now my right foot is very troubling, I stopped having cortisone injections about a year ago, I have tried all types of gel pads which have made no difference. The pain is crippling like having a nail inserted through the heel, does anyone have answers regarding acupuncture,
A: We were surprised to find that we had been asked a similar question some time ago and managed to trace some research; we didn't think that this would have been chosen as a research topic. The answer we gave then was:
There are a small number of encouraging studies, summarised in this systematic review:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23099290 We use the word 'encouraging' because the researchers used a protocol for gathering data which was partly devised by acupuncturists themselves within the framework often used to gather material, and the results reflect far more accurately than usual the probable benefits of acupuncture. However, all reviews of this kind will conclude that more and better studies are needed. This is just a reflection of the fact that while acupuncture is regarded as a fringe activity it will never attract the levels of funding which are required for studies of sufficient size, and we shall be continually reporting that there are encouraging but inconclusive signs! We would really like to know a little more about how the condition which you have developed. This is quite often associated with exercising or jogging, and this impacts on the possible solutions. What we can say is thatwe would want to know what had been ruled out by conventional tests before we gave a professional view of whether we could help. There are some forms of damage in this area which would not be amenable to acupuncture treatment, and might only be corrected by surgery. However, the majority of cases involve inflammation and tightening of the tendon, and from a Chinese medicine perspective this points either to local blockage and stagnation through over-use or accident, which might be amenable to local treatment, or a much more wide-ranging systemic condition of which this is the earliest manifestation. The skill and art of the practitioner is what enables them to determine the extent to which the problem is a reflection of a wider pattern of imbalance, and this in turn ensures that the treatment is not applied just locally as a quick fix which may not last that long. The advice in all of these cases, where we lack the specifics of the problem and cannot make a face to face assessment is to visit a BAcC member local to you and see if they are happy to give up a short amount of time without charge to give you a more balanced view of what acupuncture treatment may be able to achieve. If they think there are other and more effective options, they are likely to say so.
This probably remains the best that one can say. We are assuming that the various investigations have ruled out a calcaneal spur, which if it were the case is not really going to shift without surgery. If it does arise from tendon problems, however, then there may well be some hope that acupuncture may be able to offer something. Even as pain relief treatment can be very beneficial, but the question then becomes how much relief and how sustainable it is. This can sometimes become a financial equation - is the expense worth the extent of relief - but for some people it is important to buy some pain-free time when they need it.
Our advice always remains the same in these cases: visit a BAcC member local to you for an informal assessment, hopefully without charge, of what acupuncture treatment may be able to offer.
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