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The majority of acupuncture provision in the NHS is through GPs and physios, both of whom offer acupuncture treatment within their existing scope of practice, i.e. it can be used as another tool in the toolbox for what they normally do. However, they are both limited by the evidence accepted in the west and by NICE guidelines in what they can offer, so treatment for many of the conditions for which people seek treatment from a traditional acupuncturist would not be available from a GP even if they did regularly offer acupuncture treatment.

 

 

There is very limited traditional acupuncture provision within the NHS. A small number of BAcC members are funded by PCTs and GP consortia to provide free treatment, but unless you are fortunate enough to live within the catchment area of one of these groups or individuals there is not much we can offer.

 

It is worth pointing out, though, that the majority of BAcC members are prepared to discuss their fees if someone really needs treatment but is unwaged or on benefits. There are also a number of multibed clinics set up by BAcC members which offer treatments in group settings for slightly lower fees. There are no rules set for these arrangements, and while few practitioners offer free treatments, many are willing to consider substantial reductions if someone's health is at stake.

A great deal depends on how the problem is being generated. It usually manifests in a pinching of one of the nerve roots in the neck, and if the cause is physical and of this nature, then acupuncture will have little long term effect, although it may be of value in bringing some form of temporary relief. If the pain is not arising as a result of pressure at the nerve root, there may be more hope

 

 

One of the strengths of acupuncture and Chinese medicine is the different understanding of the physiology and pathology of the body. This often allows it to make sense of a symptom or a group of symptoms in ways which are different from western medicine, because whatever system of medicine one employs, the patient's account of what they feel and the visible signs are the same. Chinese medicine has developed over 2000 years with a system of its own for classifying pain and discomfort by location, strength, heat or cold nature, how it feels - sharp, dull, etc, and has a number of ways of making sense of symptoms like yours which may help to reduce the level fo discomfort you are feeling.

 

The best course of action is to see if one of our members local to you is happy to spare you a little time without charge to assess briefly whether your specific problem is one which they feel they may be able to help.

A great deal depends on the relationship between the various symptoms you have and the Arnold-Chiari Malformation Type I which you have. If the symptoms are arising directly from the malformation it is highly likely that acupuncture might have minimal effect other than perhaps to reduce their severity. As you will see from the factsheets of evidence here for vertigo and headaches, there is a gathering body of evidence that acupuncture may be of value.

 

 

Tinnitus is a different matter. Although the factsheet here offers a small hope the reality is that tinnitus can be one of the most intractable problems to address, with many people investing huge amounts of time and money to no avail and then experiencing a total loss of symptom for no apparent reason.

Given the specific nature of the malformation you have, however, if you did decide to have acupuncture treatment your practitioner would benefit greatly from talking to your consultant(s) to detemine how much of your symptom pattern derived directly from the physical fault, and how much might simply be contingent. This would enable them to give a much clearer answer to how much they think they might be able to help you.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is one of a number of genetic connective tissue disorders which manifest in a wide array of symptoms and as congenital degenerative conditions are not likely to change or improve. In these circumstances the best that one could hope to achieve with acupuncture would be to relieve some of the symptoms which are manifesting your particular case, and perhaps to slow down the progressive deterioration.

 

 

There have been attempts to use acupuncture as part of a package of measures to help people deal with the condition, but no research on the use of acupuncture with conventional treatment in contrast to conventional treatment alone which would allow us to make specfic claims. From a Chinese medicine perspective, however, there are a number of ways in which treatment is pitched at systemic problems rather than unique symptoms themselves, and sometimes ways of making sense of a collection of disparate symptoms in a way which Western medicine might not recognise. There may well be some merit in asking the advice of a practitioner local to you about whether the way in which EDS presents in your particular case makes sense from a different medical perspective.

 

One caution for possible treatment, however, would be the tendency to bruise and the effect on wound healing. Acupuncture is a remarkably gentle treatment, with especially fine needles being used at relatively shallow levels, and only in severe cases of blood thinning through illness and medication is it contra-indicated. Any practitioner worth their salt will always treat conservatively in cases like yours to gauge how well the body responds to the physical process of treatment.

There is not a great deal of evidence from research trials for the treatment of osteoporosis with acupuncture. There are some very positive laboratory-based studies of the treatment of rats, but nothing of substance on human subjects.

 

 

However, it sounds from your question as though the pains may be coming from sciatica induced by the erosion and collapse of the lower vertebrae, and there is certainly more evidence suggesting that acupuncture may be of use with this, as can be seen from our factsheet here

 

As far as the underlying problem is concerned, however, while Chinese medicine works from an entirely different theoretical basis, the problems which people now face are no different from ones have faced for thousands of years. There are a number of ways in which what we term 'osteoporosis' was recognised and treated. In some systems of Chinese medicine the treatment offered is aimed directly at the problem; in others, the treatment is much more a matter of balancing up the energies of the body in the simple belief that where balance exists, symptoms disappear.

 

The important thing to remember, though, is that direct physical loss or damage is the same in any system of medicine, and in the words of the sales slogan, 'once it's gone, it's gone'. For chronic degererative conditions the best hope is that things get worse slower or stay at the stage they have reached, so this is very important to bear in mind if you choose to seek treatment from a BAcC member.

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BAcC Factsheets

Research based factsheets have been prepared for over 60 conditions especially for this website

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