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Q. Can acupuncture help with snoring?



A. I'm afraid the evidence for using acupuncture to help with snoring is very thin on the ground. Occasionally a study on a related technique in which acupuncture is used as a test intervention shows that some specific points have an effect, as in
there are no trials of which we are aware which provide anything like the evidence which we would need to give a defintive answer. We hear of individual cases where someone's snoring has been reduced or stopped, but there may have been other factors at play. Let's face it, families will usually suggest the sufferer tries everything at the same time to give everyone a break.
The strength of Chinese medicine, however, is that it looks at each individual patient as someone with a unique pattern of energy, and the practitioner's understanding of this pattern may offer a different take on what is going on. The Chinese had a very simple belief that if everything was in balance symptoms would disappear, and there is always a chance that something specific, understood in Chinese terms, might be correctible and offer some relief.
As in all cases of slightly less well documented problems, it is important to establish with a reputable practitioner before starting treatment whether they think they can help, and if treatment does commence to set very clear outcomes and review dates.

Q. I am a 30 years old male that has never had any kind of epilepsy nor seizures, but I have suffered 7 nocturnal seizures since August 2010.

At first I thought that smoking cannabis could have been the reason for those seizures and I stopped, but after over 6 months I had an other few in the last three months (and I haven't been smoking since January 2011).

The only link I manage to find so far is physical exercise: I tend to get an episode the night after I have been running or going to the gym. My doctor suggested it might be linked to endorphin.

I was given a therapy (400mg of Tegretol) to be taken daily, but I don't want to start it as the side effects can be rather nasty.

I read on a few websites that acupuncture could help in cases like mine.

Could it?

and should I contact a specific kind of acupuncturist?


A. There is some evidence from Chinese research, which is not generally accepted in the West, that acupuncture alongside standard treatment may be beneficial for this problem, but the trials are mostly methodologically poor and inconclusive. This does not mean that it may not be helped by treatment, only that the evidence on which to base any predictive claims is not adequate. However, if someone has been prescribed medication, we would regard the most responsible course of action to be for the practitioner, with the patient's consent, to talk to the GP or hospital consultant who drew up the prescription about using acupuncture alongside, or instead of, the medication.

This is one of a number of situations where patients might want to come off, or not take, prescribed medications, but the duty of care which BAcC members have means that they cannot recommend or endorse this. There are also ethical issues about agreeing to treat someone who might be putting themselves at risk by doing so. While nocturnal seizures are not usually life threatening in themselves, it is highly likely that your medical practitioner will have a definite treatment plan in mind, and the BAcC would have some reservations about any member who compromised it. It is not clear from the question whether the seizures have been investigated and the diagnosis confirmed by EEG or scans. This may have a bearing on your doctor's reasoning.

There are no specific types of acupuncturist; all BAcC members are trained to the same high standards and capable of offering the same standard of treatment.


Q. Does acupuncture help with weight problems? Going through the menopause and the weight piling on.


A. The research evidence for acupuncture and weight loss is not good, but that is at least in part because weight gain can occur for a wide variety of reasons, and standardising treatment to test its value will almost certainly be a very hit and miss affair. Most people trying to lose weight are also not only doing several things besides seeking help from acupuncturists or other therapists, but told categorically by weight watching organisations that progress is likely to be slow and hard fought. Deciding what effects are down to treatment, to diet, to exercise or just luck is difficult.
There are a number of explanations within Chinese medicine which are offered for weight gain, and being menopausal may or may not be implicated in what is going on. Although we repeat all the time that Chinese medicine treats the person, not simply the condition, this is exactly one of those cases where the unique balance and constitution of the individual is the key to understanding whether acupuncture can indeed help. The most effective way to establish this is to seek a short consultation with a BAcC member to see whether acupuncture might be appropriate.


Q. How can I verify that someone is fully qualified and registered with the British Acupuncture Council?


A. To be absolutely sure, you would need to contact the office in London. The database is updated every week, but not everyone chooses to be on the 'practitioner search' section of the BAcC website, so it is possible that you might insert a specific name in the 'advanced search' section and find no results.
Printed materials go out of date, and it is possible that someone might have been a member when a leaflet or register was printed but have lapsed in the following months.


Q. Can acupuncture help with male infertility and where would the needles go?


A. Although there is no conclusive evidence that male infertility can be helped by acupuncture a number of studies, such as this one undertaken in 2002, suggest that there may be measurable changes in important aspects of sperm motility and quality. Traditional Chinese medicine clearly did not have access to such sophisticated methods of analysis but infertility was recognised as just as much a problem in both sexes over a thousand years ago, and its diagnosis was understood in terms of the patterns of energy with which infertile couples presented for treatment.
As we say frequently on the website, chinese medicine primarily treats the person, not simply the condition, and most treatments use points on the limbs below the elbow and knee, and powerful points on the trunk and back. As we constantly remind patients, though, they are in charge of the treatment. If any needling is suggested for areas outside their comfort zones, they can and should say 'no.' A well-trained practitioner will always be able to find suitable alternative ways to achieve the same results.

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