Ask an expert - body - skin conditions - rash

2 questions

Q:  I am 61 years old female and I have had a non scaly erythemous rash for about a year. It started on one inner thigh and has spread to the other, the abdomen and under my arms. It can be sore and itchy at times. I have seen a dermatologist but there is no diagnosis. Can you recommend acupuncture and/or a local acupunctuist.

A:  We are always intrigued by problems such as this. As you may already know from more general reading on the website, traditional acupuncture is based on a theory of energy called 'qi', and its rhythms, flow and balance across the body. The energy flows in distinct patterns on the surface of the body, and each channel or meridian, as they are called, is connected to one or more Organs, the functional units within the system which overlap slightly with the western concept of an organ but are understood to have far wider functions on all levels.

What this means is that when someone develops a rash which spreads over time, there are several ways of looking at what is happening. It could be a problem in a specific channel, and the pattern of the rash's development may well outline the path of a channel and its successors, or it may point to an underlying pathology in the Organ which is generating Heat in this case which is being directed away from the Organ to the outside. The skilled practitioner will then be doing their own detective work to see whether the pattern involves just the Organ which is possibly generating the symptoms, or whether it is reacting to patterns of disharmony elsewhere. Chinese medicine is a great deal more than simply a correspondence between a symptom and the use of a number of points, and the sophistication of the understanding of aetiology and pathology which leads to the unique and individualised treatment is not as well understood yet as it might be. That is out continuing challenge!

The one additional point we would make is that the received wisdom inside our profession is that Chinese herbal medicine is often the preferred modality for treating skin problems. CHM gained some considerable exposure in the 1980s and 1990s when one particular London clinic had queues going around the block for skin problem treatments, many of which we successful. The reality is that any trained Chinese herbalist belonging to the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine or the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine will offer the same standard of care. Most RCHM members are also BAcC members, and this may offer the best option.

On balance, based on what you have told us there may be straightforward acupuncture treatments which can help with what you have. We cannot make individual recommendations, mainly because we take the view that all of our members are equally well qualified in what they do to offer the same level of quality service. Our postcode database search on the home page will identify at least half a dozen practitioners in close proximity to you.

 

Q:  I wondered whether acupuncture is able to treat rosacea. I was diagnosed by my GP about one year ago. I have since tried creams and medications as suggested by my GP. Although I have seen some improvement in the condition it still remains present, largely on my head.

A: It's always a good indicator how well something responds to acupuncture to type the condition and 'acupuncture' into google and see what comes back. We have trawled the databases for evidence that there have been trials which have looked at how successful acupuncture treatment was for this condition, but there are very few in English. This does not mean that there are none at all; the Chinese conduct many thousands of trials each year, the vast majority of which are never translated. Where there are good ones, they tend to emerge quickly. Many suffer from methodological weaknesses, however; the Chinese know acupuncture works and want to assess what works better, whereas in the West we are still fixated on whether it works at all. This requires a much more rigorous level of trial with standards which many Chinese studies fail to meet.
 
However, the fact that there are no relevant trials does not mean that Chinese medicine cannot help. There is a vast difference between the way that conventional medicine and Chinese medicine address their patients, and while symptoms are the primary focus of conventional medicine, in Chinese medicine these are mainly relevant as indicators of deeper underlying imbalances which affect the whole system. Chinese medicine primarily treats the patient, not the disease. This may mean that a practitioner can, in your case, identify areas of weakness or imbalance which might be contributing to the symptoms which you have. Many people, indeed, turn to Chinese herbal medicine, which affords the possibility of daily treatment, something which can really help in bringing a stubborn long-term condition under control.
 
However, much research is stimulated by anecdotal evidence, and there isn't a great deal to be found on the internet suggesting that acupuncture is the treatment of choice of this condition. We think that you may well benefit from seeking the advice of a BAcC member local to you. This will at least alert you to the background against which your condition has developed, and may offer some useful  suggestions about how best to avoid making the condition worse. If you did decide to give treatment a try, we recommend that you ensure that you set measurable targets and also review dates; long term chronic conditions can easily become a money pit unless one is very careful.
 
There may be some merit in finding a BAcC member who also uses Chinese medical herbs, not that difficult since the majority of RCHM members are also members of the BAcC, but we cannot give you an individual recommendation, we are afraid to say. From our perspective all BAcC members are equally well equipped in Chinese medicine skills to address any patient, and this means you can contact any with confidence that you will be getting an honest and informed assessment of how acupuncture may benefit you.
 

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