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

Ask an expert - general

173 questions

We publish a fact sheet on menopause

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/menopausal-symptoms.html

which is refreshingly candid about the chances of treating menopausal symptoms, and refers to a number of papers which seem to provide encouraging results. One of the main reasons which bedevils the results of research is that the treatment is often compared to a 'sham' treatment, and both generate better results than the control group. As a consequence the treatment is said to be 'no better than sham' and all down to a placebo effect. We, however, would say that there is no such thing as 'sham' acupuncture; sticking needles anywhere will generate a result, and it's the difference between good and better treatment. As one of our medical colleagues said, if sham treatment is better than conventional treatment, who cares how it works, just use it!

In  essence, though, we have to say that traditional Chinese medicine has been addressing the problems of the menopause for over 2000 years, and over that time has looked in enormous detail at the kind of energetic changes which occur at this time of life. Interpreting these against the backdrop of the patient's constitutional energy is where the skill of the practitioner lies. This is more than just deciding out of the five causes for a symptom which specific treatment will work best. Chinese medicine treats the person, not the condition, and simply picking off the symptom while leaving the overall balance untreated will in many cases mean that the symptom returns. This is why we are quite concerned about people learning formula treatment for named conditions; sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, and when they don't people wrongly conclude that acupuncture treatment does not work.

The best advice we can offer is that you visit a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment of what may be possible. Most members do not charge for a short interview, and face to face they can give you a much better idea than we can at a distance of what may be possible. A postcode search facility on our home page will identify the practitioners nearest to where you live and work.

Q:  I understand you can have acupuncture on the face, to slow down/ help with the ageing process!! Is this correct please? 

A: There has been something of a boom in recent years in the use of acupuncture treatment to reduce the appearance of ageing. There is little or no research to validate claims for success, but this is really no surprise. It is difficult to imagine how one could design a meaningful trial with objective outcome measures. However, when something is popular and enduring, which this appears to be, then there is usually something in it. You can fool some of the people some of the time.......!

There are literally thousands of practitioners operating in this field, not all of them professional acupuncturists with a full degree level training. We have said for many years that local interventions like this will only have enduring effect if they are underpinned by constitutional treatment. The face does reflect very well the overall balance of the person, and it would be unrealistic to expect to improve one part of the system when the rest of it is showing signs of overall imbalance and disruption. The best that one might hope for is a short term fix requiring further treatment a few weeks down the line. While this falls within the normal pattern of beauty treatment, we rather hope that our members that use facial/cosmetic acupuncture are aiming for something a little better.

There are a number of things you should check. First, is the practitioner properly trained? There are a number of

reasonably reputable courses around, and these are a minimum requirement, in our view. Some of the needle techniques are not within mainstream treatment, and the face is not a place for amateurish treatment. Second, is the person properly insured and registered for what they do? Many beauty practitioners take short courses without any information about safety, waste disposal, registration for skin piercing and proper insurance. This could have serious implications if something goes wrong.

Because we have yet to agree standards for this specific practice we have no way of telling which BAcC members offer this type of treatment. However, if you use our home page postcode search facility and retrieve a list of names, it should be fairly easy to search on google to see who offers this. Those who do tend to use it in their PR. If not, most practitioners know which of their colleagues to refer people to for speciality treatment, and it should take you very little time to find someone who can offer facial treatment alongside traditional treatment aimed at restoring balance overall.

IAs this expert knows only too well from personal experience, persistent hiccups/hiccoughs can be a very distressing experience, not the increasingly funny experience which many observers seem to find it.

There is a little bit of evidence for the use of acupuncture, mostly in the form of what are called case studies about single instances where treatment has helped, or sometimes where treatment has been offered to a specific target group where hiccups often present and where there is a need to deal with them quickly, as in post myocardial infarctions. Below are a few examples of these kinds of studies

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3035062/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15813167

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11908864

Most practitioners during their training learn a number of what we call 'first aid points' which are known to have an effect on specific conditions. There are certainly two or three which are commonly used to stop hiccups, and one additional one which appears to be effective for treating children with persistent hiccups. Overall, though, there isn't a great weight of evidence, and we would be a little remiss to suggest that acupuncture definitely provided a solution.

However, that said, we are practising a system of medicine where hiccups, a symptom like any other, is not always seen as the problem itself but is usually a manifestation of other imbalances and blockages in the system. As you may have read, Chinese medicine is premised on the understanding of the body as a system of energy in flow, and the skill of the practitioner lies in making sense of symptoms within the general background context against which they appear. This is why the same symptom can often be treated in a dozen different ways in a dozen different patients depending on what internal causes are allowing it to develop.

The short answer to your question is that you may have to visit a BAcC member local to you for them to be able to see what is going on and try to make sense in Chinese medicine terms of what is happening. This is the only way that you will get a clear idea of how treatable the problem is. What we can say, though, is that with conditions like this we tend to take the view that if they are going to respond they will do so quite quickly, and as such we would caution a prospective patient about getting engaged in a long run of treatment with no obvious improvement. We would suggest three or perhaps four treatments would be the maximum we ourselves would offer before reviewing the case in depth and deciding whether there is any point in carrying on.

This all sounds rather negative, especially when many of us have stuck a needle in with almost immediate effect like a party trick. However, everything works for someone, but something doesn't necessarily work for everyone, so we would advise caution.

Q:  Unbearable pains of body, muscles,nerves.bones,sprain,numbness,twisted feeling from head to toe due to acupuncture treatment over  30 days @twice a week,half hour each for diabetes,bph-prostate enlrgd. A tv doctor in Bangalore advised me to continue acupuncture treatment inspite of severe  kinds of pain.

A:  We have to be careful how we express this, but the first thing to do is to seek conventional medical advice about what is happening to you. These would be most unusual adverse effects of acupuncture treatment, the majority of which are transient and rarely have any impact after the first 48 hours. For something to continue for this long and to such effect would be unusual, so it needs investigating soon. We say this because we have come across a number of cases over the last few years where some really extreme symptoms have started at around the same time as a patient has started having acupuncture treatment, and it is a natural and obvious assumption to make that one has caused the other. Rather than spend time arguing about whether there is a causal connection or not, it is vital to get the problems analysed in case there is treatment which would help or even be necessary.

If, however, it is a result of the acupuncture treatment there are only a few reasons which we can think of where something like this can happen. Physical damage I think we can rule out; you do not appear to have had a single treatment after which everything went wrong. The possibilities are that the treatment is done too vigorously for you, the frequency of treatment is too much for your system, or more rarely, you are one of a small percentage of patients for whom acupuncture is not a good treatment.

In the last case we do find on occasion that there are patients who react too strongly to acupuncture treatment, and it stirs up far too much in the way of reactions. In these cases all that we can do is advise other forms of treatment which are less disturbing to the system. Gentler manipulative therapies like cranial osteopathy or regimens like homeopathic treatment may the best option.

If the treatment is too frequent this can sometimes cause problems. Since the system is a self-enclosed whole, anything which stirs things up could cause all sorts of apparently unrelated problems elsewhere. One of our old teachers used to use the analogy of cleaning a muddy pond. When you do this the water becomes cloudy and you really can't see how well things are until the residual mud has settled. If you keep stirring things up the water will be perpetually cloudy. Reducing the frequency of treatment may help matters settle down.

If the treatment is too vigorous this is simply a matter of discussing with the practitioner whether he or she could use fewer needles, less vigorous needle action, or less powerful acupuncture points. Treatment always has to take into account the patient's overall health, and just as you wouldn't give a sports massage to a 90 year old, there are treatments which may be too powerful for a person to deal with. 

This really comes down to communication with the practitioner. If he or she can say with confidence that what you are suffering now is on a pathway to better health, then you could choose to continue. If your own doubts are growing, then simply take a break from treatment and see if the symptoms relent, in which case you have your answer. In any event, we still think that getting a conventional medical perspective is important. These symptoms may be indicative of another as yet undiagnosed problem, and we would be remiss if we did not direct you to your GP for advice and direction. 

A:  As this expert knows only too well from personal experience, persistent hiccups/hiccoughs can be a very distressing experience, not the increasingly funny experience which many observers seem to find it. 

There is a little bit of evidence for the use of acupuncture, mostly in the form of what are called case studies about single instances where treatment has helped, or sometimes where treatment has been offered to a specific target group where hiccups often present and where there is a need to deal with them quickly, as in post myocardial infarctions. Below are a few examples of these kinds of studies

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3035062/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15813167

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11908864

 Most practitioners during their training learn a number of what we call 'first aid points' which are known to have an effect on specific conditions. There are certainly two or three which are commonly used to stop hiccups, and one additional one which appears to be effective for treating children with persistent hiccups. Overall, though, there isn't a great weight of evidence, and we would be a little remiss to suggest that acupuncture definitely provided a solution.

However, that said, we are practising a system of medicine where hiccups, a symptom like any other, is not always seen as the problem itself but is usually a manifestation of other imbalances and blockages in the system. As you may have read, Chinese medicine is premised on the understanding of the body as a system of energy in flow, and the skill of the practitioner lies in making sense of symptoms within the general background context against which they appear. This is why the same symptom can often be treated in a dozen different ways in a dozen different patients depending on what internal causes are allowing it to develop.

The short answer to your question is that you may have to visit a BAcC member local to you for them to be able to see what is going on and try to make sense in Chinese medicine terms of what is happening. This is the only way that you will get a clear idea of how treatable the problem is.  What we can say, though, is that with conditions like this we tend to take the view that if they are going to respond they will do so quite quickly, and as such we would caution a prospective patient about getting engaged in a long run of treatment with no obvious improvement. We would suggest three or perhaps four treatments would be the maximum we ourselves would offer before reviewing the case in depth and deciding whether there is any point in carrying on.

This all sounds rather negative, especially when many of us have stuck a needle in with almost immediate effect like a party trick. However, everything works for someone, but something doesn't necessarily work for everyone, so we would advise caution. 

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