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Vulvodynia is a particularly painful and distressing condition. Unfortunately it has not been very well researched, and the two articles which are most frequently cited


are not enough to satisfy the requirements for making a positive recommendation. An article published by one of our members in an acupuncture journal mentions it in passing as a condition often associated with interstitial cystitis


Interestingly, however, when this was recently posted as a topic on one of our members' forums for discussion there was very little 'chatter', which probably indicates that it is not frequently being treated.


This does not mean that it may not in your case be treatable. The strength of Chinese medicine lies precisely in its ability to connect apparently unrelated symptoms and make sense of them according to treatment protocols which have been developed over thousands of years. Visiting a practitioner local to you for a brief consultation to see whether in your case acupuncture may help may be the best course of action.

Q. I have three "issues" (!) that I think acupuncture may help to overcome: addiction to micotine, generalised anxiey and also I am trying to become "more fertile", after a bad miscarriage 6 years' ago. Obviously, smoking isn't helping on either the pregnancy or anxiety front. Can you tell me whether acupucture is particulrly successful re. stopping smoking?


A. The evidence for acupuncture helping people to stop smoking, either traditional acupuncture or ear acupuncture, is not that great. This was certainly the case when the BMA researched conditions for which acupuncture was effective over a decade ago, and nothing new in the field of acupuncture research has been published since to change that view.



However, research for areas such as nicotine addiction or stress tends to employ a model of treatment which is rarely similar to the ways in which a traditional acupuncturist normally works. The use of formula points, the same ones applied time and time again, does not square with traditional treatment which is developmental and evolutionary - the results from a session help the practitioner to refine the diagnosis and inform amendments to how they treat the patient on the next visit. This is all premised on a system of Chinese medicine which aims to balance energies in the body in the simple belief that a system in balance tends to see a reduction in the symptoms which arise from underlying disharmony. Various forms of addiction, anxiety states and system failures are seen as the alarm bells of disease, and treatment is aimed at correcting the underlying patterns.


It is often worthwhile talking directly and in person to a practitioner to get a sense of whether your own individual case is something which they believe they might be able to help. Using our 'find a practitioner' search on the website or your local Yellow Pages should identify a number of BAcC members working in your area.

Although a number of studies, such as


have shown some interesting and positive results for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome, the more recent systematic review


is not that encouraging. In many cases it is the methodological flaws in the studies themselves which mean that they cannot be taken as solid evidence. Anecdotally the BAcC is aware that some patients benefit considerably from their treatment, but there are just as many for whom the treatment does not appear to work and for whom steroid injections and/or an operation are the only options which offer some help.


The best advice, since from a Chinese medicine perspective all cases are unique and different, is to see if you can arrange a short consultation with a practitioner local to you to get their view on whether your particular case may be amenable to treatment. If you did so and opted to go ahead with treatment we would recommend that the outcomes are very clear, as well as the interim review periods. Obstinate conditions, of which this is one, sometimes lend themselves to the development of 'habit treatment' where progress is minimal but hope gets the better of experience.

The BAcC home page section marked Research has a sub-heading 'fact sheets' in which you can find an assessment of the value of acupuncture for treating stress in general and anxiety as one of its most common manifestations.



Factsheet on stress is viewable here


Factsheet on anxiety is viewable here


Acupuncture used to be very widely regarded as no more than a technique for reducing stress and pain, but opinion was sharply divided between those who thought the benefits were largely non-specific - being given time and attention, being listened to, lying down relaxing for half an hour - as much as the needles themselves. This is still the case now, and the words 'placebo effect' are used somewhat disparagingly about apparent successes of acupuncture. As one of the senior medical acupuncturists in the UK said, however, if both acupuncture and the 'sham' acupuncture used in a major trial outperform conventional treatment, that has got to be worth investigating.

Stress is such a wide-ranging and inclusive term that it is very difficult to give a blanket answer. In most cases we advise people to seek advice locally and in person for their specific needs, except in those cases where we are sure that acupuncture will not help or may even be contra-indicated, but in this case that is the only answer we can give. How stress presents in your life and what the main presenting causes are can have a huge bearing on how well it can be treated. If someone is trapped in a job they hate with an unpleasant boss whom they have to put up with to pay a large mortgage, there is nothing that treatment can do to change the material circumstances and possibly the best it can manage is to reduce the impact of these day to day vexations. Where the causes are more internal it may be possible to achieve more. Speaking directly to one of our members is the best course of action.

Acupuncture should not be used as the primary treatment for cancers of any kind. Our advice to members is that if they treat people with cancers the treatment cannot be described as helping to treat the cancer, nor should they create any expectations in the patient that cure or remission are possible. We would be extremely concerned if anyone did not avail themselves of all the possible support available from conventional medicine because they had been led to believe that acupuncture could replace the normal treatment.



It is true, however, that many people choose to use acupuncture alongside the conventional treatment as a part of their strategy for dealing with the disease, and there are some symptoms arising from the cancers for which there is evidence that acupuncture is beneficial. One of the leading American acupuncturists and authors, Bob Flaws, has published a number of articles such as


which describe how a Chinese medicine practitioner may use herbal medicine alongside conventional treatment for lymphomas. He is something of a visionary and trailblazer, however, and the research which we quotes is as yet very limited. There is undoubted scientific interest in this kind of approach, with the Chinese in particular looking at the integrated use of traditional and conventional medicine.

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BAcC Factsheets

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

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