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

Recent answers

We are very sorry to hear that you have lost your practitioner after so many years. Sadly as we become a more mature profession this has started to happen a little more frequently. We know just how much people value the fact that there is someone who has seen them through a great deal and with whom there is no need to go over ground that is already long familiar.

In these situations we always advise people to contact other local practitioners, and for want of a better word 'interview' them. You will find that nearly all will agree to talking to you for a long enough time to see if they and where they work are to your taste, and if they won't then to some extent you have already saved yourself the bother of someone who probably isn't going to be the one for you. From the practitioner's perspective this makes perfect sense. You have shown a commitment to long term treatment, and as such they would be 'inheriting' someone who is very likely to be coming to them for some time.

Although it should be possible for any new practitioner to get hold of the existing notes we find that most patients and practitioners in this situation like to make a fresh start. We all have slightly different ways of approaching our work, and although case history is important there are other factors which are likely to be more central to a new beginning.

You will probably find that if someone has been around for a very long time there are going to be colleagues who have been inspired by him and try to emulate the way he worked. This might well make your selection a great deal easier because it is very likely that you will be directed towards people with whom he was in close contact. 

There is occasionally some merit in having a trial session. We knew of one practitioner whose manner with patients was wonderful but whose needle technique might have been described as 'brusque'. It is, after all, acupuncture that you are signing up to, so if someone really doesn't suit you in that department it would be good to find out sooner rather than later.

We hope that this helps and that you find someone who will last at least another thirty years.

We have been asked about the treatment of sciatica many times, and a recent answer was:

As you can read from our factsheet

https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/sciatica.html

there has been a significant amount of research into the treatment of sciatica with acupuncture, and the results have been increasingly positive. The threshold for being able to make a definite claim is based on a research process for which very little acupuncture treatment except non-traditional formula work will work, but there have been dozens of Chinese studies aimed at finding what works better which seem to show that sciatica responds well to treatment. Certainly this 'expert's' experience is that sciatica seems to respond well to treatment in most cases.

There is no doubt that formula treatment will work to an extent, and there are many medical acupuncturists and 'cookbook' practitioners who will use the same 'sciatica' patients on every patient. The real strength of traditional acupuncture, though, is that it addresses the problem of why sciatica occurs in this particular patient, or more properly why the system does not put right and recover from the injuries which normally cause it. Twenty different people may have the same named condition but be treated in twenty entirely different ways. What this does is not just put the problem right but try to make sure that it does not recur.

There are no special treatments for sciatica, and no specialists, so any well-trained traditional acupuncturist should be able to help you. The best advice, though, since there are one or two cases which would not make us feel so optimistic, is to pop in to see a BAcC member local to you for a chat and to get a short face to face assessment of what is going on. This will not only give you more precise information but also give you a chance to meet a practitioner and see where they work before committing to treatment.

We are surprised that seeing an osteopath has made no difference, but the one strength of acupuncture is that it mainly deals with function, not structure. If an osteopath puts a lower spine back into shape but the surrounding musculature still retains levels of poor function, then it will revert quite quickly. Encouraging better function in the local tissue can of its own accord spring the spine back into shape, as well as balancing up the whole system which in and of itself can achieve good results. Many people come to acupuncture treatment for back and hip problems.

Of course, if the problem is pseudo-sciatica, the most likely cause of which is piriformis syndrome, then this is all the more likely to be the case. The effect of the spasm in this muscle can put pressure on the sciatic nerve which generates exactly the same symptoms as one would get from compression of the nerve root. Acupuncture treatment can be effective in helping to address this as well.

In summary you may well find that acupuncture can help your wife. The real question is how much help and how sustainable the outcomes are. We have great faith in treatment always doing something, but there are times when the effects are short lived and non-incremental, so it is very important to try to establish good measurable outcomes and also to review progress every five sessions or so to ensure that you don't build up an unintentional treatment habit where the weeks can slip by unnoticed.

Restless leg syndrome is awful, as this 'expert' knows from personal experience back in the 80s when nothing, but nothing, would make the problem relent. It is nowgaining recognition as a diagnosable problem, with a new name(!), and there are a number of treatment options which are being explored. A review article http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3101885/ cites several of these, and the one acupuncture review this in turn cites

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18843716

mentions two to three studies which are interesting but generally concludes that the majority of studies are too small and not methodologically sound enough to draw firm conclusions.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, however, there are entirely different ways of looking at the balance of energies within the body which can sometimes make sense of problems such as these within a theoretical structure which is quite different from western medicine. Problems like restless legs syndrome, where the leg feels as though it is 'over-energised' can sometimes make sense in a system of thought which looks at the free flow of energy within the system, and tries to understand the pathologies which arise in terms of excesses and deficiencies, and especially blockages. A skilled practitioner should very quickly be able to make sense of the energy flows within the system, and be able to offer you some sense of whether there is something which is treatable.

Even where this is not the case it is important to mention that the older theories of Chinese medicine were primarily aimed at balancing the whole system, seeing symptoms only as alarm bells, not the problem itself. Working in this kind of way our members very often have an effect on problems without necessarily being able to give a highly specific audit trail of what is causing something to go wrong.

We have not come across much in the way of new research, although another small study published early this year (2015)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4339862/

repeats the general pattern of significant effects but small study sizes which means that we cannot give a more unqualified recommendation.

As far as motor axonal neuropathy is concerned, there is very little focused research on this specific presentation of peripheral neuropathy. There is a systematic review published earlier this year

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28112552

which embraces a number of papers about neuropathies very similar to axonal neuropathy, but nothing specifically about it. Most studies of this kind tend to be very small, and inevitably the conclusion is that more studies on a larger scale would be necessary. The main question which is left unanswered is 'who will pay for them?'

If you are considering acupuncture treatment for the problem the best advice we can give is that you visit a local BAcC member to ask for a brief face to face chat about what may be possible. It follows from what we have said before that each case is unique and different, and a face to face assessment is the only way to get a specific answer about what you might expect. Many practitioners are happy to give up a small amount of time without charge to prospective patients to make this kind of assessment.

As far as we are aware, the BAcC retains all the materials relating to complaints about a practitioner's conduct or behaviour indefinitely. There are very few each year, so there is no logistical problem about keeping them. The logic behind retaining them indefinitely is that if a pattern emerges over time then even where a complaint is not pursued or no ruling is made. 

The only minor complication would arise if the complaint were not to be about the conduct or performance of a practitioner but about the consequences of a treatment, i.e. the basis for an insurance claim. Along with most other healthcare professions members of the BAcC are required to retain their treatment notes for a minimum of seven years (or seven years after the age of majority for a child under sixteen, so theoretically as much as twenty three years) for insurance purposes. The insurers rarely have claims arising after three years from point of treatment, and although the insurance cover lasts indefinitely if the member was insured at the time, there are a number of data protection issues about holding on to historical information about past patients.

This might mean that although the BAcC may have a record of a complaint eight years ago and all of the attendant statements from the time, the primary record may no longer exist. In most cases this is not so; unless we are pressed for storage space we tend to hold on to files for much longer because people do return after a decade for treatment. There does come a point, though, where it is unreasonable to be holding personal information taken a very long time ago, and where there can be no real justification for hanging on to material.

We hope this answers your question. If you wish to re-visit the matter then you can always contact our Ethics Secretary on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for specific advice.

A great deal depends on whether the damage to the nerve had become permanent before the operation successfully dealt with the disc herniation. It is unlikely that the continuing numbness is a consequence of the operation itself unless it was already impinged and then further damaged by the surgery. If this is the case then the evidence for nerve regeneration through acupuncture is not at all convincing and related mainly to experiments on animals. From a conventional medicine point of view unless there is an obvious site of inflammation, or the operation itself has left scar tissue which is impinging the nerve it is probable that this may be permanent.

However, from a Chinese medicine perspective it may just be possible that what you are experiencing as numbness may derive from changes in the flow of energy caused by first the herniation and then the operation itself. We are not in the business of giving people unrealistic expectations but we have come across situations, especially post-operatively, where changes in the flow of energy, called 'qi' in Chinese medicine, can manifest as a loss of sensation. Reinstating this flow can sometimes start to restore some of the sensitivity of the tissues.

This would be a bit of a long shot, but may nonetheless be worth trying. The best advice we can give, and which applies particularly in your case, is to visit a local BAcC member for an informal assessment of what may be possible based on physical sight of the problem. Most members offer some time without charge to prospective patients to check whether acupuncture is the best option, and if they find that there is a strong correlation between your areas of numbness and acupuncture channels it may convince them that treatment would be worth trying. 

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