Q. Hi. I have never had acupuncture before. I have a very rare bone conditon. I had surgery in April last year which involved breaking my tibia in two places and my fibula once, stretching my leg and puting a nail down the shaft of my tibia.
My foot and toes are still a bit swollen and sensitive but also numb.I can't stretch my little toes apart. My surgeon thinks it will return to normal in time. I wondered if acupuncture would be useful in aiding the healing of the nerves? Thanks.
A. One has to be very careful in giving advice in cases like this. From a Traditional Chinese medicine perspective the body is understood in terms of the flow of energy, called 'qi', and anything which breaks the flow of qi, for whatever reason, will be viewed as a potential cause of a weakness of energy 'downstream' from where the injury has been. It is not unusual, for example, for acupuncturists to treat scar tissue in this way, as a material blockage through which a good flow of qi must be restored.
From within the paradign of Chinese medicine the problems which you experience would make sense, and treatment would probably address both the over-arching constitutional balance as well as addressing the local issues where the problem lies. However, from a western perspective there is little or no research evidence (apart from a few studies of acupuncture on rats) that nerve healing can be increased or improved by the use of acupuncture. To put this in its proper context, though, the current gold standard of research against which acupuncture is measured is the randomised double blind control trial, and it is difficult to imagine how one could begin to design a trial which met the criteria for assessing this problem.
We would recommend, if you do decide to have acupuncture treatment, to talk to your consultant and ensure that they are happy for you to take this route. Acupuncture is a very safe therapy with very clear guidelines for safe and hygienic practice. Some western medical professionals still believe that the risks of infection are high, and the BAcC is happy to provide details for the benefit of patients to help them to convince their healthcare teams that treatment is not a risk.