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Ask an expert - general

148 questions

Q:  I just wanted to ask whether acupuncture has any benefit with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. I have been suffering with it for some time now and I desperately need some help, but Internet search doesnt prove or confirm its efficacy. Can you please give me some input on this, so I can go ahead and find an BAcC acupuncturist.


A:  The problem with both of these conditions is that the research is not that good methodologically, nor entirely conclusive, as our two factsheets show.


Please click here
Please click here

One of the problems is that both conditions lack precise definition, and isolating test groups with exactly the same symptoms from the same underlying causes is extremely difficult.
One of the great strengths of Chinese medicine is that it can often make sense of some of the symptom groupings that characterise these problems in ways which relate directly to the functions of the Organs, as they are understood in Chinese medicine, and on the flow of energy, called 'qi', in the body. If this is the case, then a practitioner may feel considerable confidence in being able to effect some change for the better.
This is very much a judgement call based on the individual case, however, and we would not be able to say that, sight unseen, you would benefit from treatment. If you can find a BAcC member local to you who is happy to gove you a brief face to face assessment, hopefully without charge, they can tell you whether in their view acupuncture treatment may benefit you, and if not, what other alternative approaches they might recommend.

Q:  I'm hoping to start a course of acupuncture within the next 2 weeks. However I'm currently taking birth control pills. I understand this can cause problems? Im currently in my 7 pill free days. would you advise I don't restart taking the pill and start the acupuncture?


A:  We are aware that there are some practitioners who feel that the energetic effects of contraceptive pills are sufficiently powerful to create imbalances in someone's overall energy, and have been known to give advice to the patient that they should desist. A good example of this kind of logic can be found on one of the leading US acupuncture sites
where the author stops short of saying someone shouldn't use them at all but speaks about the complications they cause in trying to establish balance in the system.
Our view is that you have to weight up the disbenefits of using elective medications like the pill against the disadvantages of not using them, in this case pregnancy or a potential return to menstrual problems which the pill can quite often be prescribed to deal with. If someone started taking the pill simply for contraception and is quite happy with the alternative methods, then that probably removes one or two consequences of treatment which make the overall patten clearer. A qualified practitioner, though, will be well aware of the likely energetic effects of taking hormones and factor that into their diagnosis.
Let's face it, if not taking the pill means that there is significantly greater risk of falling pregnant that is a life-changing event, and that has to be set against the problems for which you are seeking treatment. Our usual position is that it is better to carry on with the pill and work with the practitioner to see exactly how much it is impacting on the system before taking a step that may have very significant consequences.


As you may be aware, most health professionals are more severely limited in what they can say than ever before by the advertising restrictions which are now in place to protect the consumer/patient. The criterion for being able to name what you can treat, a particular form of research trial most frequently used for testing drugs, doesn't really work well for acupuncture treatment where variables are a part of the work, not something to be reduced to zero. It might seem a little odd, then, that when nausea is one of the conditions which we can mention, and when vertigo is not far from being accepted, as our factsheets show.

Nausea and vomiting factsheet


Vertigo factsheet


that we are not just going to say 'ah yes, you'd be well advised to have treatment.'
One of the main reasons is that Chinese medicine works from an entirely different theoretical basis from western medicine, and the translation from one system to another is very imprecise. In Chinese medicine there are dozens of reasons why someone might experience any of the three symptoms which you mention, but no properly trained practitioner would just treat the nausea without fitting it into the overall context of your health. That is not to say that doctors don't do differential diagnoses to eliminate more serious underlying possibilities, but once they have done the range of treatments is usually fairly small. In Chinese medicine, each person is regarded as unique, and as such the practitioner will want to know the exact details of a wide range of aspects of your health and lifestyle to determine how best to put right what is going on.
We believe that it is very likely that acupuncture treatment is going to be of benefit, but your best option is always going to be to arrange a short visit to a local BAcC member, hopefully without charge, so that he or she can give you a brief face to face assessment of what they think they might be able to achieve. There is no doubt that problems such as yours are high up the tables of conditions for which people seek treatment, but not every case is straightforward, and our members are willing and able to refer on to other forms of treatment if they think that these are more likely to help you, based on what they see.    

Q: I had surgery for  sinus drainage and nasal septoplasty and since then I have had facial pain.  I was recently  refered back to ENT.  They could not find anything and refered me to neurology,  who said that the pain may be due to the pain and mucus pressure and for it to cause nerve damage.  Neurology have now refered me to a pain management team as I am not keen of taking pills.  Is this an area that can be cured by acupuncture as my neurologist said there is no cure?   I am unable to lead a normal life like this.

A:  As our factsheet shows please click here
there has been very little high-quality research into the use of acupuncture to treat sinusitis and sinus problems, so we cannot give you an unqualified recommendation that acupuncture would be of benefit.
Generally speaking, however, a great many sinus problems seem to stem from, in Chinese medicine terms, a wider problem with the fluids in the body which tend to become thicker and do not flow as well. There are several well-documented protocols in Chinese medicine where the sinus problems would be a part of a wider picture of symptoms, and the skilled practitioner will be able to take these, together with any observations of their own, and identify the specific patterns of imbalance with which acupuncture may be able to help. It is quite often the case that there are dietary issues involved in the problem. The prevalence of dairy produce in the diet of most people can often push a system already weakened by other factors into generating some very unpleasant long-term symptoms.
We are intrigued, though, by the fact that you have been referred to a neurologist and told that the problem is permanent. This does suggest that the surgery may have caused minor damage locally, because any pressure from mucus build-up is potentially reversible. This can happen with septoplasty, and if there has been physical damage to a nerve causing long term neuropathy, not from any incompetence by the surgeon but simply because this is a known risk of any nasal surgery, then the prospects for recovery are not great. That said, Chinese medicine is based on a theory of the flow of 'qi' or energy in the body, and anything which causes a blockage in the flow can be a source of long-term pain. We are not suggesting that anyone is going to needle scar tissue inside the nose itself, but local treatment can sometimes encourage the recovery of local energy flow, and with it a reduction in pain.
Each case in Chinese medicine is unique and different, depending on not just the specifics of the symptom but also on the unique characteristics of each patient. Our best advice, especially in your case, is to seek the advice of a BAcC member local to you. On the basis of a short face to face assessment, probably without charge, they will be able to give you a good idea of whether acupuncture would be of benefit to you or whether there are other forms of complementary medicine which might be more appropriate.    


Q:  I have a raised red spot for want of a better word on my right inside ankle.  Some years ago I remember an accupunturist remarking that was the exact entry point for a needle.  I don't remember the name of the point and what it would be connected to...


A: There are a great many points on the inside of the ankle, and it would be very difficult to say which it was likely to be from your description. The three acupuncture channels or meridians on the inside of the ankle belong to the Liver, Spleen and Kidney Organs, and it is most likely to lie on one of these.
The fact that a skin blemish or spot lies over an acupuncture point may simply be a contingent fact, and probably has no great significance. However, we are interested that you are interested (!), and assume that there is something in your health or general functioning which may be a cause for concern. In any case involving a spot or skin marking, we always advise people to see their GP and get a referral to a dermatologist if they are in the least bit concerned. Both GPs and dermatologists are more than happy to see people when they have unfamiliar skin marks because although the majority are benign there is an occasional one which requires treatment. The earlier something is dealt with, the better.
If it is not a health concern, your best bet is to pop around to your local BAcC member and ask them. We assume most would be happy to spare you the 30 seconds it would take to identify the point for you.   


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