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Ask an expert - general

155 questions

Q:I have had an ongoing feeling being 'spaced out' for about 6 weeks now.  It seems to take two forms, the first -and worst- a tense, queazy, feeling in my stomach which is accompanied by the feeling almost like flu, without the flu, if that makes sense, This is generally in the mornings and it then seems to revert to a more generalised feeling of being 'spaced out' in the day. It seems to lessen in the evening. I have had blood test, all clear and an MRI scan, again all clear. I was told it could be related to a migraine issue and I have also cut out certain dietary triggers ie caffeine/ dairy. I would prefer not to take medication to try to resolve this. Do you think acupuncture could help?

This is the kind of presenting problem which many of us love to address. One of the great strengths of Chinese medicine is that it can take symptoms such as these and offer several different possible explanations within a conceptual framework which is entirely different from that used in Western medicine. As you probably already know, Chinese medicine is based on the understanding of the body mind and emotions as a flow of energy, called 'qi', the various patterns, flows and rhythms of which contribute to good functioning in the body as a whole. Where this flow is disturbed, for whatever reason, symptoms will begin to appear, although not necessarily where the imbalance
manifests.

If someone were to look at your case history there would be in all probability other aspects of your functioning which, from a Chinese medicine perspective, would probably indicate a wider pattern of which this symptom was a part. There are also some very complex diagnostic signs which would also help the practitioner to refine their view of what is happening.

If the cause is similar, from a western point of view, to vertigo or migraines, there is considerable evidence for the treatment of both of these problems, as our factsheets show

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

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

to suggest that you would not be wasting your time on giving acupuncture treatment a go. However, these are usually precisely defined in western medicine, whereas the feeling which you have is a more indefinite presentation, although none the less disturbing even though it doesn't have a distinct label.

To give you an example of how different the diagnostic process can be, this expert treated a patient once who was experiencing a similar problem, and it turned out that she was eating as much as half a pound of cheese every evening. Given the energetic balance of her body, which was already out of kilter, this contributed to the formation of what the Chinese call 'phlegm' which embraces what we give the same name but can also extend to solid lumps in the body as well as something which the Chinese call 'mist'. This is said to rise and cause all manner of symptoms of which feeling spaced out is one. Other patients can often manifest the same symptom is their work or
personal circumstances are very stressful. This can lead to a condition called the Rising of Internal Wind, again causing the same problem.

Poetic as these descriptions can sound, they are based on over 2000 years of successful clinical observation and experience, and also 2000 years of successful treatment. On that basis, we think it would be potentially very beneficial to give acupuncture treatment a go, but to make sure that you review progress very carefully so that you don't run beyond the first four or five sessions without assessing what progress there has been. This may involve you in trying to get as objective a measure as you can of how
frequent or severe the symptoms are to be able to assess as accurately as possible whether there has been a change.

Your best bet is to visit a BAcC member local to you to seek an informal face to face assessment of what may be possible. Even a ten minute chat will probably give significant clues about what is going on and whether treatment would be of benefit.

 

We are sorry to say that there are no acupuncture courses of which we are aware in Cornwall. The ones which we recognise for automatic eligibility to the BAcC are listed on the website of our sister body, the independent British Acupuncture Accreditation Board http://baab.co.uk/accredited-courses.html. This website also has a great deal of what useful information about what we regard as the appropriate level of training to become a traditional acupuncturist.

There may be other courses provided by some of the smaller acupuncture associations, but we have never heard of any being held in Cornwall, the nearest being in Bristol some years ago. However, when we trained a long time ago many several people did travel from Cornwall to undertake the training, and there are some new developments now involving larger elements of distance learning which may make a course viable even when distant.

The problem for any course provider is that setting up a suitable infrastructure takes considerable time and money, and would probably only interest someone as a project if there were a patent demand for training in an area. The current training structure sees about 200 to 250 students enrol every year, so this may give you some idea of the market into which a new provider would be emerging. That is not to say the places would not be taken up immediately; demand for training is quite high. Capital, however, after four years of recession, isn't.

Q:  BAcC registered acupuncturists' patients are prevented from giving blood. What does the BAcC intend to do about this parlous state of affairs?

A:  The current situation has moved on a little since our last press release in July last year:

The BAcC continues to receive calls and emails about the NHBTS policy that any patient who has had acupuncture treatment delivered by a practitioner who is not statutorily regulated has to wait four months before they can donate blood. This change to the NHSBT's donor criteria came into effect in late 2009,and with the statutory
regulation of acupuncturists now unlikely in the foreseeable future, this could mean that someone having regular treatment with a BAcC member would never
qualify to donate blood.

The BAcC has exemplary safety standards and campaigned vigorously to challenge this decision. We have since done our best to make sure that all of our members let their patients know that they must wait four months to donate blood or bone marrow products.

The official notification and rationale for the decision is available on

http://www.transfusionguidelines.org/docs/pdfs/dl_change_note_2009_32.pdf

and

http://www.transfusionguidelines.org/docs/pdfs/dl_change_note_2009_33.pdf

but some enquirers have found this difficult to locate on official sites.

The BAcC is fully committed to reversing this decision for the benefit of the patients of its members. The recent accreditation of the BAcC under the Professional Standards Authority Assured Voluntary Register scheme has given us hope that this new flagship scheme will provide the recognition of exemplary standards the BAcC needs for its members to be granted exemption from the deferral period for donation.

Since then, we have met senior officials in the NHBTS, and discussed with them how we might help to re-instate the donation of blood by non-statutorily regulated healthcare profesisonals, there having been no reported instances of blood borne virus transmission by acupuncture practitioners in the last decade. In order to change policy, however, there has to be evidence, and the NHBTS is proposing to conduct an analysis of previous screened donors to establish the level of risk. This study will take place later this year or early this year.

The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, and until that time anyone who has had acupuncture treatment from a BAcC member will have to wait four months until they are allowed to give blood.

The study mentioned in the press release has now progressed a great deal further, and the information which has been gathered will be given the full statistical analysis by August, we are told. It is also interesting to note that the Welsh Assembly has accepted the BAcC's accreditation with the Professional Standards Authority as a basis for exemption from its new licensing arrangements, and this opens up a potential second front if the statistical evidence is inconclusive.

The whole situation has been rather odd from the outset. Leaving aside all of the arguments about accountability and statutory recognition, the simple fact is that we all use single use disposable needles, and short of a practitioner with a blood borne virus inserting a needle in themselves and then into a patient, itself a criminal offence which even statutory regulation could not prevent, there is no possible risk of cross infection. However, by the time that this very simple fact became a part of the discussion the moment had long been lost. Indeed, there had been minimal consultation at the outset because the decision makers did not anticipate any adverse reaction to what they planned.

However, there's no point in re-hashing a poor process. We are where we are, and still working constructively to bring back into play the 10,000-15,000 donors we believe may have been lost as a consequence of this decision.

Q:  My acupuncturist told me there's some problem with my kidney (kidney deficiency) because of my symptoms - : pain around my kidney, muscle stiffness and tingling or pain around my hips. It radiates radiate down to my legs causing stiffness, cramp, tingling and weakness, as well weak erection. Does this sounds right? Also what supplements or vitamins are is good for the kidneys. For your informtion my acupuncturist has  30 years experience, running an acupuncture school and also a PhD degree..

A:This sounds the sort of thing that might happen when someone has a kidney deficiency. However, notice the capital letters. Rather misleadingly, the organs of conventional medicine and the organs of Chinese medicine bear the same name, but there are huge differences between how each is understood. In the West, the organ is very much viewed as a purely physical thing, with specific physiological structures and functions. The organ in Chinese medicine also describes various functions, but of a much more generic nature across the whole system, in the body, mind and spirit. This is what gives Chinese medicine its great strength and perspective - seemingly unrelated physical, mental and emotional symptoms can all point to disturbances in a single organ.

Over the 2500 years of Chinese medicine history a number of syndromes have become second nature to practitioners where from simply looking at the tongue and taking the pulse they are able to say with some confidence the kinds of problem from which the patient may be suffering. This can sometimes be quite perturbing to patients, a bit like a magic show, but it also gives great confidence in the system that someone is able to use their diagnostic skills to spell out a number of problems which a person might have and which might not even count as symptoms to them.

Your practitioner has many years of experience and can almost certainly be relied on to be accurate in his assessment. If you are looking to add supplements to the treatment programme to enhance its effects, he is the best person to approach for advice. There is an almost infinite variety of possible supplements, but an experienced practitioner will know which ones are most likely to be appropriate for your specific needs. This is something which does need to be assessed carefully; the liver and kidney are understood in Chinese medicine to be the two Organs most involved in processing substances which are introduced into the body, from legal supplements and
prescription drugs through to recreational drugs. If someone takes large doses  of synthetic vitamins, for example, they can add to the burdens of an already
struggling organ.

 Q: I get very emotional (start crying) when I see or hear of anything happy going on.  My eyes just start to cry, even when I see or hear about sad things. It is  affecting my work as a supervisor. Can acupuncture help?

A: This is the sort of problem which is not that well-researched other than in the context of something which admits of 'real' definition. Thus, you will find reports  and studies of over-emotional reactions during pregnancy and over-emotional causes of sleep disturbance, but very few case reports for what you describe, simple 'over emotion'. We can imagine, though, that while in some Mediterranean cultures open displays of emotion are much more acceptable, in this country we tend to be a little uneasy when someone is easily affected in this way and this can cause them a number of problems.

To a Chinese medicine practitioner this would not seem at all unusual, however. In Chinese medicine theory, the correct balance of energies in the body and the interconnection between body mind and spirit lend themselves to a central idea that the body in balance responds appropriately to the circumstances in which it finds itself. On an emotional level, this would translate into being able to express the full range of human emotions congruently, i.e. the right emotion at the right time, and appropriately, at the correct 'volume level'. Someone still grieving excessively 20 years after the death of a loved one, or laughing hysterically at very little, or getting angrier than would seem OK for whatever appeared to be the cause would make us think that the balance of the system had been disturbed. The way in which the display of emotions came out, when it happened, what makes it better or worse, in short all of the questions which you might ask about a physical pain, all point a practitioner to an understanding of the patterns and then in turn to potential treatment.

That is not to say that you are guaranteed to get a good response. Even though someone may diagnose in Chinese medicine terms exactly what is going on, there can be an awful lot of what one might call 'habit energy' in the body - every time a particular event happens, we get the same reaction. This may not always be a comfortable reaction, but we are used to it and sometimes reluctant to let it go. This may sound silly, but many of us are resistant to change, even when it is beneficial. That is the reason why many practitioners are familiar with NLP, a technique for trying to 'unlock' these fixed patterns, and why they may consider referring you on to a hypnotherapist specialising in what is called Ericksonian hypnotherapy or just simply NLP to try to shift these problems.

We mention this only to alert you to the fact that there are a number of options, but we are pretty sure that traditional acupuncture itself may be able to offer you some benefit. The best advice we can offer, and usually do for cases where the personal circumstances of the individual may be integral to understanding what is happening, is to visit a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment of what may be possible and whether they believe that they are able to help you, and if not, what may be the best way of addressing this problem.

 

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