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We have very good evidence in the form of several published surveys and research studies that acupuncture treatment is not only safe but also that the majority of side effects are transient, minor and tend to disappear within 48 hours. However, that does not mean that there are not occasionally more serious side effects.

Where the majority of serious side effects occur, and these remain very rare, it is most often because of a direct effect of the needling in the form of a pneumothorax or nerve damage. We do hear of the occasional case of both, and the BAcC has had to deal two or three such cases in the last decade. Injuries such as you have experienced are much more rare, where the damage arises not from the needling itself but from a physical reaction to the needling, like fainting from needling and then getting bruises from falling.We suspect that your physiotherapist has called it correctly insofar as the reaction to the needle insertion has caused the twisting of the lower back and induced sciatica. Strong reactions to needling are possible, and some people do have electric shock sensations as a genuine consequence of mobilising the energy. This is generally recognisable because it does not fall along nerve pathways as understood in conventional medicine. If the problem has been induced by a kind of physical twist injury it is almost certain that it will resolve quite quickly. Further treatment would help, but we can quite easily imagine that this is not likely to be an option for you.As far as the second occasion is concerned, we suspect that the practitioner may have under-estimated your sensitivity to treatment and used points which do tend to have a higher risk of generating physically painful reactions,. Clearly it would not be fair for us to comment on someone's work without knowing a great deal more  of the case history, and we have all experienced cases where someone has had unexpected and unpleasant reactions to points which we have used thousands of times. The skill of the practitioner lies in then adjusting the treatment to a pitch which the patient can bear by reducing the number of needles, reducing the depth of insertion and the amount of needle manipulation.Where people do have an unpleasant experience of treatment it can induce a kind of 'shock' which may well undo some of the good work already done and cause the overall pattern to become a little disturbed again, bringing back symptoms which had been under control. Our experience, however, is that these episodes rarely result in a permanent loss of progress, and the system usually restores to the point which it had reached before.We are very sorry to hear of your experience, and equally sorry to hear that acupuncture treatment is unlikely to be an option for you in future.  There are many variations within the 2500 year tradition which use minimally invasive techniques, but we can understand how this would probably not be reassurance enough. We do hope that you manage to regain the place which you had reached before this episode occurred, and that you manage to continue to progress from there.
Our factsheet on nausea and vomiting

https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/nausea-and-vomiting.html
talks a great deal about the evidence for acupuncture treatment helping with this distressing side effect of chemotherapy. This quotes a study by Ezzo which is now over a decade old but which points clearly to a level of efficacy. It is in the form of a systematic review, a consolidated account of all available trials of suitable quality, and very much loved by research statisticians for giving a far clearer idea than single trials of whether something really works.We always undertake a review of literature and studies which may have been published more recently and have found several overviews for the use of acupuncture treatment with cancer treatment as a whole. One rather useful one ishttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3577953/which looks at all aspects of the management of cancer and its treatment. It's a little technical, as many of these studies are, but not beyond most people to be able to find some useful material. This studyhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24815460also provides useful background.The key thing we have to be clear about with all cancer patients is the limit within which we work. As you have no doubt read we always claim to treat people, not diseases, but if we are not careful this is extended to 'treating people with diseases' and then truncated to 'treating diseases'. When someone has cancer this is a message they would like to hear, but there is no evidence that acupuncture treatment can treat cancer per se. Where it can be really effective is in reducing the side effects of the conventional treatments for cancer which are often debilitating and distressing. We also believe that treating the person, not simply the problem which they have, also mobilises the body's own healing responses to address many aspects of the strain under which conventional treatment places the body and the mind.The best advice we can give is that you visit a local BAcC to discuss with them what may be possible for you. Most are willing to give up a little time to prospective patients without charge to see at first hand what they might be able to offer. This also gives you a chance to meet them and see where they work before committing to treatment.
We are sorry to hear of your father's problem. We are aware from clinical experience just how much suffering this can cause because of its relentless nature.

There isn't a great deal of published evidence for the treatment of itching as such, although what there is is quite positive, as this systematic review shows: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4430643/

Most of the research which would prove relevant is buried away in studies of diabetes and kidney problems where the itching is a part of a wider clinical picture.We suspect that there is no easy fix for this problem. There is a very strong chance that the changes in blood chemistry caused by the diabetes and kidney disease are the drivers for the itching, and these are not likely to relent as his age increases. What acupuncture may be able to do, though, is to break the cycle of discontent which can mean that the anxiety and distress caused by the problem become one of the factors which ensures that it escalates. Many conventional medicines are prescribed in this way to stop thins building on themselves, and there are certainly points used in Chinese medicine which would accomplish relief both from itching and anxiety at the same time. The only major question is now much relief and how sustainable it is.However, Chinese medicine looks at the whole person, not simply at the condition which someone has, and there would be a great deal of questioning about where the itching was, what made it better or worse, and so on, and looking at this within the context of the overall functioning of the body. There is a tendency sometimes to ascribe any symptoms to the headline conditions which people have, and this may not be the case. There may be all sorts of treatable reasons why someone develops itching, and a skilled practitioner might find something eminently treatable.The best advice as always is to try to get your father to visit a local BAcC member for an informal chat. Most are more than happy to give up a little time without charge to prospective patients, and this will allow someone to give your father a much better idea of what may be possible.  
Restless leg syndrome  is now egaining recognition as a diagnosable problem, with a new name(!) (Ekbom Syndrome), 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 citeshttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18843716mentions 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.We have looked at all the available research and there is nothing new to report. However, from a Chinese medicine perspective it would be unusual to treat a named symptom by itself. The whole essence of Chinese medicine is that we treat the person, not the problem, and even where a dozen people suffer from restless leg syndrome in the same way, each might be treated entirely differently depending on how the symptom was perceived to be arising from the overall patterns of imbalance. The best advice that we can give is that you visit a local BAcC member to see what might be possible for you. Seeing the overall pattern as well as hearing your individual account of how it affects you will probably help them to see what causal pathways are involved and advise you on how effective acupuncture treatment may be.

We were asked a similar question a number of years ago, and our answer then contained the following paragraphs:

Chinese medicine is based on an entirely different theoretical basis from conventional medicine, what is often called a different paradigm. The essence of Chinese medicine is a belief that the body, mind, emotions and spirit are all manifestations of an energy called 'qi' whose proper flow and balance means that everything functions the way it is supposed to. If this flow becomes blocked or disturbed in any way, then functional disturbances appear, often affecting all 'levels' of the system and for which needles are used by the practitioner to restore flow.

When someone reports blockages it makes one question immediately whether the energy of that area is flowing as well as it might, and a skilled and experienced practitioner could determine quite quickly whether, from the Chinese medicine perspective, there was something which might be done. Even if there were no immediately obvious signs in the area itself, the principles of Chinese medicine are founded on a notion of overall balance which means that symptoms are less critical, being indicators of a wider imbalance in the system rather than the necessary focus of attention. It would be worth your while to visit a BAcC practitioner local to you for an informal assessment of whether they believe that acupuncture treatment may be of benefit to you.

That said, we have to say that the research evidence for the treatment of both conditions with acupuncture is a little bit thin. There are a few studies, but one of the key factors in undertaking research from a conventional perspective is trying to reduce the variables, and this means being able to define clearly what the problem is. Blocked tear ducts  have several possible causes, and this means that comparing like with like becomes more difficult, and the results less reliable. What research we have identified is of relatively poor quality, and if we were making recommendations based solely on that we would have to say that it would not be worth pursuing. However, our clinical experience is that where there are clear energetic blockages treatment can sometimes have a very direct effect, and it would certainly be worth seeking advice from a BAcC member local to you.  

There are, in fact, some quite useful studies of related problems like dry eye syndrome, and although it is rather technical this paper

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3355143/

is both realistic and encouraging.

This expert has to admit that it has not been the most successful area of his practice. While few patients have come specifically for this as a problem several have had it as a secondary problem, and even where the main problems have responded well this hasn't. That said, in the minority of cases where there has been a positive change the result has been welcomed with great joy.

Acupuncture treatment is always worth a try. There is very little chance of an adverse effect, and there are enough reports of treatment working for this problem to suggest that it is worth a go. The only issue for cases where there is less evidence is to make sure that a patient doesn't get tied into a long and potentially expensive course of treatment without any tangible benefit. In another context, Dr Johnson once described something as 'the triumph of hope over experience', and we always ask our members not to succumb to joining patients in a desperate hope for good outcomes. If there is nothing happening after four or five sessions it may well mean that nothing will happen.

If you do decide to go for treatment, we hope that your case is one of the ones which does respond.

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