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There is no doubt that the treatment which you have already been prescribed, oestrogen in pessary form, has been consistently shown to help prevent recurrent UTIs in post-menopausal women. As such, we would be unlikely to recommend acupuncture treatment as an immediate alternative, but there may be some scope in discussing with your GP what happens if the oestrogen brings the UTIs under control. Using acupuncture alongside the other treatment may improve the overall results and may facilitate a safe withdrawal from long term medication use.

Whenever we receive an enquiry we look through all the research databases to see what, if any, research exists. Most acupuncture research is undertaken in China and not translated, so restricted funding and the problems of assembling suitable cohorts of patients can mean not a great deal exists. However, there are two studies from Bergen in Norway

which showed some very promising results. Both of these are cited on reviews of the treatment of recurrent UTIs, and the following two

are worth a look because they spell out all of the options and are generally very positive about the treatment which you have been recommended to have.

There are obviously ways of treating UTIs from a Chinese medicine perspective; they are not a recent invention! The theoretical basis of Chinese medicine is entirely different, and the manner in which the condition presents will point to specific patterns of imbalance which may be reflected in other systemic problems. It is not often that a symptom stands in isolation, and our basic premise of treating the person, not simply the condition, tries to make sense of a symptom within its overall context. This can sometimes mean treating the overall patterns without specific reference to the individual problems, which can be quite confusing to a patient. However, if it works...!

Our one concern in cases like this is that people often get caught up with treatment regimes which it is quite difficult to unravel. The Trospium and Lansoprazole may not be entirely necessary if the oestrogen takes effect, but a practitioner would not be able to make that call, only the GP who prescribed them. This can make the clinical picture a little more confusing, but a properly trained practitioner will be able to assess the impact of medications on the system and allow for them.

Trospium is often prescribed for an over-active bladder, and if that is one of the manifestations of the UTIs you have been experiencing, there is some good evidence that acupuncture may have be of benefit. These three studies

all make interesting reading.

However, the best advice that we can give is that you drop in to see a local BAcC member to discuss what may be best for you. Complex presentations are always best advised on face to face, and most of our members are very happy to give up some time without charge to prospective patients to ensure that acupuncture is the best option for their problems. This also gives you a good chance to meet them and see where they work before committing to treatment.

You will not be surprised to hear that we have been asked this question before, although not for some time. Our last answer over a year ago said:

We have to be honest and say that there is not a great deal of evidence for the effective treatment of Morton's neuroma with acupuncture. We published an answer through this same section three years ago to a question from a patient who was convinced, and with some justification, that treatment with one of our colleagues has been wholly responsible for a complete improvement in his condition. 

We have to say, though, that our clinical experience runs counter to this, which is why the very upbeat tone of webpages like that of this American practitioner

(informative as it is) raises a wry smile. If only...

Having said that, what he describes in the formation of the tissues which cause the condition is something with which we deal elsewhere on the body, and in theory there is no reason why treatment should not be able to reduce some of the discomfort. However, we would be very surprised if this could be done without the aid of orthotics which reduce some of the pressure on the affected areas while any treatment beds in.

Each case is unique and different, however, and the only real solution is to seek face to face advice from a BAcC member who can look at exactly how the problem manifests in you, and more importantly, can see the overall context in which it is occurring. One of the great strengths of Chinese medicine is that it looks at the whole system, not simply at a symptom which is regarded as merely a warning sign. Thousands of people with identical foot structures to you will walk thousands of miles without gettinneuromas, and there may be systemic problems which have predisposed this to happen.

The other recommendation we would make, and we are sure that you have done this already, is to find a good chiropodist or podiatrist who can work alongside any other treatments you try to help to maintain improvements. Working in partnership with other health professionals for problems like yours can often be extremely powerful

This still represents the best that we can say. We have looked at the research databases to see whether any further case studies have appeared, but the cupboard is remarkably bare.  There is an interesting case study about the use of therapeutic massage

which is useful for the background information, but nothing new involving acupuncture treatment.

Our earlier advice, to visit a local BAcC member for an informal assessment of what may be possible, is still likely to be your best option. We are confident that you will get an honest opinion before committing to treatment.


Unfortunately by its very nature traditional acupuncture, if undertaken according to classical principles, is a generalist practice. Indeed, in ancient times the specialists were somewhat disparaged for being limited in  their scope of practice, and the generalists were regarded as the supreme physicians. This very much fits with the idea that each individual is unique and different, and the true skill of the practitioner lies in looking at why these specific symptoms arose in this particular patient. This explains why twenty people with the same named condition might be treated in twenty different ways.

That said, we understand from the rather unusual nature of the problem you have that you might prefer to see someone who had seen this kind of problem before. This might prove tricky because the only two areas where we have advanced towards recognising degrees of specialism are obstetrics and paediatrics. There aren't really that many practitioners who are working in environments where the bulk of their patient work would be in the neuro/psychological sector. 

The one thing you do have going for you in York is a long-established college, the Northern College of Acupuncture. While the clinical work there will mainly be undertaken by students the faculty contains some of the most experienced acupuncture practitioners in the country, especially its principals. You could do a great deal worse than seeking a view from them about whether there is someone amongst them who has seen or worked with something similar. We tend to find that groups of practitioners very often know better than we could hope to track who specialises in areas of work or has spoken of such treatments.

We would be bound to say, however, that if you have seen someone in the past whose services have been very good, you would probably find that these would still be the best choice, especially if you have already had experience of their work and found them good.


As long as you are planning to have a natural labour for your baby and your midwifery team and specialists are not preparing you for another C-section there is nothing to stop you asking for an acupuncture practitioner to assist you in the labour as they would for any pregnancy.

We prefer not to say 'acupuncture for induction' because this implies a direct causal relationship which isn't quite how we perceive what we do. We prefer to think in terms of helping the body through the natural stages of labour as smoothly as possible. The process is a very gentle one, and carries little risk as far as we are aware. It certainly isn't going to generate sudden results. The only caution we tend to apply is checking that the facilities are ready and in place in case the process really does accelerate the labour. This is especially the case if the process kicks off over a weekend.

Although we regard ourselves as generalists obstetrics is an area where we are well advanced in our recognition of specific postgraduate training which would allow someone to lay claim to expert practice. There are four or five specialist courses which are very popular, and although we cannot name them you will find that our members who advertise themselves as specialising in working with fertility and pregnancy issues will invariably have taken this training. You can rest assured that if they have then they will have covered areas such as yours in great depth and know exactly what they are doing when treating someone with a previous C-section in their history.

We hope that all goes well for you and your baby.

We are delighted to say that there is some very good evidence  for the treatment of lower back pain with acupuncture. Indeed, until a recent reversal of policy based on what we believe was very unsound interpretation of research, NICE, the clinical guidelines body, was recommending ten sessions of acupuncture treatment as one of the basic offers for people with chronic back pain of over six months duration. You can see some of the evidence on which this decision was based on our factsheet which can be found here:

Of course, from a Chinese medicine perspective treating back pain per se is not really how we work. It isn't just empty rhetoric that we treat the person, not the symptom, and although the symptom might be identical in twenty people they may well be treated in twenty different ways. Each symptom arises against a backdrop of imbalance, and it is by treating the imbalance as well as, and sometimes instead of, the symptoms real change can both be made and sustained. There are obviously specific points which can affect the lower back, but if these are treated alone and a deeper underlying problem is not addressed the pain will return.

The fact that pain can arise in many different ways means that sometimes the obvious diagnosis doesn't really work either. Most people over the age of 50 have some deterioration of the lower spine, but although it is often declared the cause, it may not be. We have certainly treated many people with serious deterioration of the lower spine whose pains have gone.

Acupuncture can also be used for straightforward pain relief, and here the main questions which we have are not whether it works but how much and how sustainable the results may be. There has been a great deal of high quality research into the use of acupuncture to release the body's own painkillers (easily measured and easy to assemble test groups), and it is largely on this basis that most Pain Clinics offer acupuncture.

The best advice that we can ever give, since each patient is unique and different, is to visit a local BAcC member for an informal assessment. Most are only too happy to give up a little time without charge to see whether acupuncture is the best option for your specific presentation. We are confident that you will get an honest appraisal and assessment.

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