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Q. I was wondering how I would go about finding a dentist in my area who practices acupuncture?

 

I have a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and as such local anaesthesia is ineffetive on me which is a real problem for any dental procedures. I was therefore was hoping to try and find a dentist who used acupuncture-based analgesia.


A. The best option is to contact the British Dental Acupuncture Society whose details can be found at http://www.bdas.org.uk/
 
There  are now a significant number of dentists who use acupuncture as an adjunct in their dental treatment, and you should be able to locate someone from their list local to you who can provide the appropriate guidance and advice.

Q. My father has post stroke pain ,  please can you tell us if there is any scientific evidence that acupuncture is helpful for patients suffering from post stroke pain.  our reason for asking this is that we are in the process of challenging our local hospital that is refusing him treatment. Many thanks.

 

A. The short answer is 'no'. Scientific evidence of a kind which satisfies the current gold standard of western research, the randomised double  blind control trial, is in short supply. This, however, is mainly a methodological problem; the practice of traditional acupuncture does not lend itself to standardisation and reducing variables. A review paper on the current evidence for the use of acupuncture after stroke can be found on our website here
 
Although the evidence for the use of acupuncture is not accepted in the West acupuncture is very widely used in China and the Far East for assisting in recovery after stroke. It is not unusual for someone who has had a stroke to receive a course of treatment almost immediately after the initial stage of recovery has passed, and the accepted wisdom is that the earlier treatment starts, the more effective it will be. This does not always work so well in the West, where many patients turn to acupuncture only after conventional methods of treatment are not working as well as they had hoped, and the delay in starting acupuncture treatment may make it less effective.
 
You say that your father's hospital is refusing him treatment, but it is not clear whether this is because they doubt the effectiveness of acupuncture and will not fund it or whether this is because they have concerns about the treatment itself. If it is the former you may well have a struggle to convince them. Evidence based on clinical trials is very much the determining factor. If it because of uncertainty about the safety of treatment the Council has on many occasions been happy to provide evidence that acupuncture in the hands of a properly trained practitioner is extremely safe.

 

Q. My husband has had severe tinnitus for 3 years. He has had an MRI, CAT scan appointments with the ENT hospital with no relief.He has tried cranial osteopathy, and a Chinese acupuncturist but this didn't help either. The last course of treatment with the osteopath was about 6 months ago and the acupuncturist over a year ago. He would like to try acupuncture again please can you recommend someone with experience in tinnitus. He doesn't mind travelling to see the right person.

 

 

A. Tinnitus is one of the more intractable conditions which people seek acupuncture treatment for. Our Tinnitus fact sheet, found at lists a small amount of research which suggests that acupuncture may help, but there have been no significant trials which provide solid evidence. It is also fair to say that many practitioners are very cautious about taking on patients for whom tinnitus is the primary problem. As we can see from your husband's history of treatment, it is quite easy to spend considerable time and money and be no better off than when you started, and the individual case reports in the tinnitus sufferers' magazines often have the same shape.

 

We are not aware of any member who specialises in the treatment of tinnitus. However, what many practitioners do find when treating people with tinnitus is that while the noise remains largely unchanged their ability to cope with it seems to improve. Evidence for this is largely anecdotal, though, and it would be wise to discuss carefully with any future practitioner whether they think that they might be able to help. In all events we would recommend that frequent and regular reviews of outcomes and progress are essential.

This is less common a problem than it used to be, as acupuncture has become more commonplace and accepted, and people have seen how fine needles are. However, a small minority of people do still find the idea of needles scary.

 

Practitioners are trained to deal with cases like this. For many people it's the sight of needles which can be the problem, although that's not always true – for some people it's what they can't see which really upsets them. Your practitioner will do their best to find out exactly what it is about the needles that you find difficult and work to reduce its effect. This might mean choosing points in areas where you feel 'safer' or it may mean very shallow needle insertion. If it really is impossible to bear the thought of needles a great many practitioners use acupressure techniques, or a practise a technique called moxibustion which uses a warming herb on the skin, or even a form of massage called tui na.

 

The most important thing to remember is that as the patient you can be in charge of the situation as much as you want. If you ask your practitioner to proceed very slowly or cautiously, then that is what they will do.

 

Very few people are so scared of needles that they try them and never come back or never try them at all. Most can't believe why they were worried in the first place.

The vast majority of treatments are unremarkable. Sometimes patients experience a slight tingling sensation as the needles are inserted, and in some styles of treatment there is a dull, aching sensation where the needles have been inserted and manipulated. This sensation is given the name 'deqi' (pronounced 'derchee') by the Chinese and is regarded as a sign that the treatment has 'taken.'

 

Since the use of plastic guide tubes with needles became the norm a decade ago, the effect of the slight pressure of the sterile tube on the skin surface has reduced the sensations associated with needle insertion considerably, and the increasing use of the Japanese-style sharply pointed needles has done the same. There will always be occasions when the more sensitive patient feels a little more discomfort, but most will feel very little.

 

Acupuncture needles are solid and extremely fine, as little as 0.18 mm in width, nothing at all like the large hollow needles which most people remember from their childhood injections or the nails which people see in cartoons about acupuncture! Ask your practitioner to show you how fine they are compared even to a household sewing needle, and you can be reassured that they are not going to cause much sensation.

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