Can acupuncture help persistent viral infections?

Q: I catch too many viral illnesses/flu like illnesses, about 6 or 7 a year. I am fit and well in between and not chronically ill, I am a 60 year old lady and my only other problem is asthma which is well controlled with inhalers. Could acupuncture help?

A:  You have probably heard people talk about a weakened immune system; in fact, it is a rather over-used term in modern times. However, it does sound as though this really is the case for you, especially if you are relatively fit and healthy the rest of the time.

From a Chinese medicine perspective the point of greatest interest is that you have asthma. Although it may be well-controlled it does show that there is probably some weakness in the Lung energy. We cannot be absolutely certain from the name alone; there is no direct correspondence between symptoms and disturbance in the function of an Organ (capitalised to denote the Chinese understanding of an Organ), and quite often a named condition can have its root elsewhere. However, in the majority of cases the Lung energy is involved, and this is of particular interest because the Lung is closely associated with what is called in Chinese the Wei Qi, the defensive energy of the body. If the Lung is weakened or weaker, then it is less able to circulate the defensive energy, and in theory the body is then less well protected from what the Chinese call external invasion.

Of course, being a 2500 year old tradition there is always room for plenty of disagreement about where Wei Qi develops or is generated, but most writers seem to agree that the Lung is primarily involved in its effective circulation. Boosting this energy may have an impact on improving your defences. We would be more cautious about making any claims about your asthma. The evidence is not as strong as for some named conditions which we treat, and we find that many doctors strongly advise patients against interfering with patterns of treatment which maintain good control over the condition.

How does one's defensive energy become weakened? Well, there are many ways in which one can interpret the balances of energies in the body, and in many diagnostic systems there is not necessarily a correspondence between where a symptom turns up and its originating cause. A skilled practitioner should be able to make sense of the overall pattern, but may well find out that there is a hereditary element to the problems. Our health is determined to a very large extent by the energy of our parents who create us and also by their health at the time of our conception. If this has been at all compromised on either front, then it may leave a legacy of under-performance which might make someone more vulnerable as time goes by to opportunistic viral infections. This is something which we believe can be helped by treatment.

All of this, of course, is speculation based on very little information! The best advice we can offer, given that we think there may be some benefit from treatment, is to visit a BAcC member local to you for an informal chat about whether acupuncture is likely to help. Most members are happy to give up a little time without charge, and face to face it will be far easier to offer an individualised opinion about the possible benefits.

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