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Q. My wife suffers from Primary Orthostatic Tremor. This is a condition where signals from the brain do not reach the legs correctly, and causes instability when standing still. It does not affect walking. Has any member had experience of treating this condition.


A. With over two and a half million treatments being administered by BAcC members every year it is highly likely that someone has been treated for orthostatic tremor or one of a number of similar conditions. Unfortunately, we do not keep a central record system which details all of the problems which members treat, and rely on our own internal networks for information gathering.


A common response, however, when a member posts on an internal forum 'has anyone treated x?' is for other members to say, 'don't tell me about the western name for the condition, tell me about the signs and symptoms from a tradtional acupuncture perspective and describe how the problem manifests.' The whole basis or paradigm of chinese medicine is different, with an entirely different understanding of physiology and pathology. There are sometimes occasions where a description of a condition will make sense and offer a prospect of treatment in traditional chinese medicine where in the west it is regarded as permanent and beyond help.

However, this is the sort of statement that has to be made with extreme care, because these occasions are more rare than not, especially where complex chronic conditions which defy western treament are concerned. It is true that Chinese doctors have been treating the same problems for two thousand years under a different name, but equally true that they had their fair share of cases which did not improve.


The best course of action is to visit a BAcC member local to you to see what they make of the specific symptoms which present here and whether they have experience of similar presentations and can offer you a view of whether this specific case may be helped. If you do decide to go ahead, it would be essential to set very clear outcomes and review periods from the outset. Conditions such as this usually fluctuate a little, and there is often a will from all sides to see any small improvements as a sign the treatment is working when it is no more than a normal pattern of variation.

Q. Dear Sir, would you please be so kind to help me.

My mum has problems with her feet. She had oedema around ankle joint and around feet, which become more and more painful when she walks but also when she rests. She has a bad circulation with cold toes. All lab results are within normal ranges. Doctors excluded any cardiological cause. She was exemined by rheumatologists, but no conclusion.Would she benefit with acupuncture?

Many thanks


A. This is not an uncommon situation for an acupuncturist, where someone comes to them who has exhausted all of the usual tests with nothing unusual found and yet the pains and discomfort from which they suffer continuing to blight their lives.


Traditional Chinese acupuncture is based on an entirely different way of looking at the body and its workings. The symptoms which people have are understood within a different framework and often make sense from an oriental medicine perspective where in the western view they are simply a number of different items. The underlying theory of Chinese medicine is also based on very simple premises of balance and good flow of qi, the word used to described the body's energy. Even where a practitioner does not go directly after a symptom, there are strategies involving the whole system which are none the less effective in restoring good overall function and having an effect on symptoms wherever they appear.


The problems which your mother is experiencing - cold extremities, poor circulation, swelling - are all commonly found in specific syndromes described in Chinese medicine, and the skill of the practitioner is mainly deployed in making sense of these in conjunction with diagnostic signs unique to Chinese medicine - looking at the tongue and taking the pulse at the wrist. Your best course of action is to see if a BAcC member local to you is prepared to have a brief chat with you and your mother to assess whether treatment would be beneficial for your mother, and if so, what kind of timescale and frequency of treatment might be involved.


As a footnote, it is always good, when people have had a great many tests, to know that some of the problems which cause a great deal of worry have been ruled out. It may be cold comfort to someone still in pain, but ruling out heart disease and other blood-testable conditions is extremely reassuring.

From a western perspective the evidence for treating fibroids is not that good. In a major review undertaken two years ago


the authors concluded that while acupuncture was heavily used in China to treat fibroids, there was not enough research conducted according to the best practice in the West to be able to draw firm conclusions. The same applies to acupuncture for the treatment of (in)fertility. As our own factsheet acknowledges such evidence as there is does not really provide a strong enough foundation to make sustainable claims.


However, one of the great strengths of Chinese medicine is that it operates with an entirely different understanding of pathology and physiology. There are ways in which conditions which are given western labels like 'fibroids' are understood which do not overlap or translate exactly with the western label. Fibroids, for example, are sometimes described as 'Blood stasis' or as manifestations of 'Dampness', and the treatment protocols are aimed at these as systemic problems which manifest in the local disturbance. If the diagnosis is one of 'blood stasis' or 'dampness' there may well be other symptoms and diagnostic signs which confirm this pattern.


As far as fertility is concerned, much the same reasoning applies. The Chinese took the simplistic, but effective, view that if everything was in balance, then natural processes should happen without problem. If a natural process like conception did not function, then it was simply a matter of correcting the overall balance and letting nature take its course. Even if there are specific symptoms which are implicated in the failure to conceive, these may still be best understood as part of an overall pattern and treated accordingly.


Our one word of caution is that the acupuncture treatment of fertility issues, especially related to assisted reproduction such as IVF and ICSI, has become a growth industry over the last few years, and alongside BAcC members many other individuals and clinics have set up which often charge extremely high fees for treatment which is no better than that offered by any BAcC member. While we do not recognise specialisms, there are many BAcC members who focus their work on fertility and pregnancy issues, and often have a wealth of additional background knowledge in these areas. For women undergoing IVF and ICSI this understanding can be a valuable addition to the work that a BAcC member does. The acupuncture treatment itself, however, is based on principles over 2000 years old which underpin the work of all BAcC members.

Q. I hav had accupunture done in January on my neck{i have cervical Spondilosis}and i'm also told ny an oestopath that I have a overstretched ligament.When the needle was put in it was really painfully I did tell the accupunturist and was told that how it will be but I feel he may have either gone into a muscal.Since then I have pain in my neck across my neck/back and in the top of my right arm although it is a little easier but still very stiff.I really want to know if this will ease in time or if having accupunture again will correct my pains.I would really appreicate your advise as to ease the pain I am rubbing in Biofreeze which eases it for about half an hour.Many Thanks



A. Although acupuncture is a very safe form of treatment, there are occasional adverse events. The vast majority are transient - someone might gets a small bruise, or feel a little lightheaded but it would be rare for these to persist for more than a day, two days at most.


In your case the fact that the symptom has persisted for over a month is a cause for some concern. In the first instance it is normally best to talk to the practitioner who gave you the treatment to seek their views, but if you feel a little reluctant to go back until you know what the cause is the next step is to see your GP and ask for his or her view. The chances are that there has been bruising fairly deep within the muscle which is taking a long time to heal but in the meantime is putting pressure on a nerve. However, given that you have spondylosis your GP may arrange further tests for you to rule out other possibilities.


The BAcC is very keen to gather information on adverse events arising from acupuncture. The last formal surveys, both published in the BMJ a decade ago, were very positive about the safety of treatment, but to remain up to date the BAcC has just launched a pilot scheme based on the GPs' Yellow Card Scheme to collect information on any adverse event brought on by treatment, including ones which are associated with improvement.


In the unlikely event that there has been a more substantial injury it is worth reminding everyone that BAcC members are covered by a 'gold standard' professional insurance from Royal Sun Alliance as a part of their membership package, and that the general public can be reassured that their interests are fully protected.

Q. I have a gential rash, apparantly an immune reaction to a cycle racing crash. I also have low abdominal pain and pain through my urethra, although passing urine is surpisingly OK. Minor injuries are not healing as well as normal. I am 53 and extremely fit.

I believe that my immune system is seriously disrupted due to the crash.

Can acupunture restore the immune system balance, ie not just relieve the symptoms?



A. There is no doubt that the aim of traditional acupuncture is to restore balance to the whole system, not simply to remove symptoms. The practitioner will aim not only to get someone better but to keep them better. This is one of the many reasons why the BAcC is so adamant in arguing that extremely short courses in acupuncture are not fit for purpose; if someone has treatment aimed only at removing a symptom, the chances are the symptom will return and they will conclude that acupucture didn't work, when all they have established is that symptomatic acupuncture didn't work.


In your case, there are features of your symptoms as a group which may make sense from a Chinese medicine perspective. There is every likelihood that the physical shock of an accident could cause a lowering of the body's immune system as a whole, but there may well be more specific injuries which may fall within the scope of practice of Chinese medicine. One of its great strengths, aside from treating the person as opposed to the disease, is that it has an entirely different take on the pathology and physiology of the body, and can sometimes make sense of a seemingly unconnected symptoms within one recognised diagnostic pattern. It may well be that a local blockage or disruption caused by the accident is impacting on the overall balance, rather than the accident itself affecting the immune system.


It would be best to seek advice from a BAcC member local to you, and to ask if they feel that they can do something for your specific symptoms. Most practitioners are willing to give up a little time without charge to assess whether acupuncture is appropriate for potential patients before committing them to treatment.

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