Ask an expert - body - head - throat - difficulty swallowing

1 questions

Q: Please could you tell me if acupuncture can definitely help with muscle tension dysphonia which affects the voice box, excessive mucus production and choking due to constriction of the entrance to the trachea. A: None of us could say that acupuncture can definitely help with anything. From a Chinese medicine perspective each individual has a unique balance of energies, and even where several people have the same visible symptom they could nonetheless each be treated differently depending on the patterns of disharmony in their general energy flow. We were asked earlier this year about spasmodic dysphonia which has overlaps with the MTD you describe and we replied: A: There are a very small number of studies such as these http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14513964 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9181547 which provide a basis for arguing that a larger scale trial would be useful. However, small scale trials are always problematic when being used in evidence for a form of treatment. Although we are not great fans of the randomised double blind control trial which is often taken as the gold standard for research, the need to take individual and unique variations out of the equation is important, and case studies on this scale can often owe a great deal to extraneous factors. However, that said, Chinese medicine has a very different way of looking at the functioning of the human body, one which rests on a theory of energy called 'qi' and its flow and circulation around the body. When blockages or deficiencies occur, this can lead to aggravation and symptoms. The Organs of the body as understood by Chinese medicine (always capitalised to differentiate them from a western understanding of organs) have a variety of functions on all levels - body, mind and emotions - some of which may have an impact on the ability to speak. One of the great strengths of Chinese medicine is that each patient is seen as unique and different, and the practitioner will look at all of the systems of the body, as well as all of the circumstances surrounding the onset of the problem, to try to understand the patterns of causation. Although symptoms can suddenly appear out of nowhere, there are often underlying issues which predispose someone to develop these symptoms. If this were to be the case with your problems, then there may be something in the overall presentation to encourage a practitioner to feel that they may be able to help to sort things out. Given that each case is unique and that research on this condition is sparse, your best bet would be to visit a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment of whether in their view acupuncture treatment might be of benefit. Even when there isn't a clear 'audit trail', the premise of the very old traditional systems was that treating the person and re-establishing balance would surely remove symptoms. This can cause problems in modern practice; it is possible to get rid of a symptom without anyone ever establishing what caused it, which some people find perplexing! The standard options, such as botulin injections, remain available to you, we imagine, but these offer only temporary relief from the problem. It would be nice to think that acupuncture treatment might offer a more lasting solution, but we have to be realistic and say that if you do choose to have some acupuncture sessions, you should set a very clear review date to make sure that acupuncture doesn't become a habit process. We have known patients to clock up a dozen sessions or more without much change because weekly bookings become a weekly pattern which easily stacks up to a large-ish sum of money. This is basically the same advice we would give now for your problem. The one factor which you mention, the excessive mucus production, is a factor in the condition anyway, but would certainly be of particular interest to a Chinese medicine practitioner because there may be other aspects of the system which are contributing to the problems you have.

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