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Ask an expert - body - abdomen / gastro intestinal

38 questions

Q: My wife has severe rectal pain,she has had haemorroids removed,had mri scan been to see various specialists,but they cannot find cause,do you think acupuncture could help to ease the pain.


A: This is a very difficult question to answer. Acupuncture has a long history of being used for chronic pain and for post-operative pain, as our factsheets


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describe. However, in a case such as you wife's, with a very specific and acute pain in an area which is not available for direct needling, we have to be a little cautious in whay we can say.
There is no doubt that the diagnostic techniques of Chinese medicine might give an insight into what is happening within the system from an eastern perspective, and there are both systemic problems and local blockages which might cause an acute symptom such as this. There is also the general premise on which eastern medicine is based that when a system is fully in balance everything functions as it should and symptoms tend to resolve. When someone has had local and specialised surgery, however, there may also be local neurological damage which could cause a severe symptom which might not manifest symptomatically.
Our best advice is to see if you can arrange a visit to a BAcC member local to you so that they can assess whether there is anything which presents itself as an obvious intervention which might help. There may well be tender or sore reflex points, for example, which present treatment options. Treatment certainly wouldn't do any harm, but we would advise that if you do decide to go ahead you should be very clear about measurable outcomes and frequent reviews. If there is no sign of progress after three or four sessions it may be worth exploring with the practitioner what other treatment options there may be.

Q:  Could  accupuncture help my mum in her 70's who has a slow,lazy gullet and keeps coughing up a lot of phlem?


A: This is a difficult question to answer. A practitioner would want to do a significant amount of delving and gleaning to establish exactly what your mother meant by 'slow lazy gullet'. Does this mean difficulty swallowing, or a tendency to indigestion, or both? And what kind of phlegm is your mother producing, and does it happen more at some times of day more than others, or after eating certain types of food?
Just as the best western medical practitioners will ask as many questions as they need to establish exactly what is going on, a Chinese medicine practitioner will do exactly the same. Symptoms, which are the patient's own experience of disease in any system of medicine, only make sense across a theoretical background which takes in all aspects of a person's health and day to day routines. A BAcC member will routinely ask questions about people's main complaints, secondary complaints, medical history, and everything to do with their daily eating, sleeping and eliminatory patterns to establish how the whole system is functioning. By using specifically Chinese techniques of looking at the tongue and taking the pulse at the wrist they can then unravel the complex picture and set about treating the person to greatest effect.
It would be worthwhile to take your mother to a BAcC member to get face to face advice on whether acupuncture might be of benefit. By the time someone reaches the age of 70 there are usually a number of patterns in their lives which have existed for so long that they no longer think of them as unusual until a practitioner starts asking questions. What each of us regards as 'normal' can be quite strange and different!
We have every faith that one of our members will give you both impartial advice, recommending other potential routes to better health if they think these may be more likely to promote effective change.

Q:  I have been diagnosed with an irritable bladder. Can acupuncture alleviate my symptoms, which is an urgent need to urinate.


A: As our factsheet shows  there is some evidence to suggest that urgency of urination can be helped by acupuncture, although there is not yet anywhere near enough evidence to make substantive claims here. If you search the internet there are a number of studies such as this one  which offer some hope.
However, we have to remind ourselves sometimes that Chinese medicine has been dealing with problems like this for over 2000 years, and has a very sophisticated process for understanding patients' symptoms against a backdrop of an entirely different conceptual framework. The understanding of the body as a system of energy, 'qi', in flow and the concepts of yin and yang to describe its flow and inter-relationships is very alien to the western ear. However, the rather wider understanding of organs as functional units with effects on body mind and spitit, and the underlying premise that symptoms are alarm bells, not the problem itself, can sometimes offer possibilities for understanding a problem in a far wider context. This will often be corroborated by other problems which a patient suffers and by diagnostic signs which the practitioner sees, and can often lead to a situation where a practitioner can tell the patient about symptoms that they haven't yet mentioned. If the problem is a part of a recognised syndrome or pattern of symptoms a practitioner will be able to give a clear idea of prognosis. Even if it doesn't the attempt to re-establish balance in the system can also have an effect on individual symptoms.
We recommend that you talk to a BAcC member local to you an ask for their advice in a brief face to face consultation whether they think that they can help you. We trust that they will give you an honest assessment, and refer you on to other modalities of treatment if they felt that these offered a better prospect of success.

Q: Would acupuncture help me? I had a gynaecological operation on 19th April .everything was fine no pain etc wound healed. 14days after op I developed a pain in my right groin which when it's on leaves me screening in agony. To describe the pain is like a red hot poker being thrust into my groin. Have been back to hospital on 2 occasions have had MRI scan which showed nothing. Drs.thought it could be trapped nerve, but as they had no previous patients who developed this they were working blind. I was discharged with a cocktail of tablets to control the pain(sometime they do and sometimes not) I have been living with this now for 4weeks it's excruciating and I am getting suicidal with the constant pain. So would you be able to help me PLEASE.


A:  We are very sorry to hear of the pain and distress you are experiencing. There is quite a great deal of evidence of the use of acupuncture for pain relief because this was one of the first areas to which significant funding was provided for research. Our factsheet on post-operative pain please click here cites a number of papers which are of interest to both traditional and medical acupuncturists since they often focus on what the neurophysiological basis is for the way that acupuncture works.
However, the one factor which people have to take into account is the extent to which acupuncture treatment can reduce pain and how long lasting the relief is. If treatment only holds the pain at bay for an hour or two, and the extent and time frame never change, this does not mean that we would not recommend its prolonged use - for some patients any relief is good relief - but the basis on which treatment continues would have to be agreed and clearly understood.
On another tack, however, it is important to remember that the basis of acupuncture theory is the maintenance and balance of the flow of the body's energies, and surgery often involves some very serious cutting across the pathways of energy. From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective pain arises from excesses of energy, deficiencies of energy, or blockages, and surgical intervention, especially with the scar tissue which it invariably leaves in the short term, can create any or all of these problems. A skilled practitioner should be able to assess which channels might be affected and at very least try to re-establish a good local flow as well as attending to the overall balance which might affect the healing process.
This is very much the sort of problem where you need face to face advice from a practitioner, and we recommend visiting a BAcC member local to you to ask if they can spare a short while to give you advice on your specific problem.

As our fact sheet shows   please click here   there is some good evidence to suggest that acupuncture may be able to help with IBS. In fact, IBS networks report that acupuncture is one of the most commonly used alternative or complementary therapes to which patients turn when they do not find benefits from orthodox medicine and pursue another course of action.
Digestive disorders are as old as human beings, and the ancient Chinese treated them in the same way that they treated all imbalances and weaknesses, by trying to understand what functional disturbances there were in the patient's system. IBS is used to cover a wide range of problems, from changes, discomfort and irrgeularity in bowel habit to bloating and pain. Chinese physiology, which is based on an entirely different conceptual basis from western medicine, would point to specific functional disturbances in organs as understood by the ancient Chinese, and the practitioner will use other signs from the patient's overall presentation to understand more fully what is going on and to refine the diagnosis. In some of the more ancient systems of Chinese medicine the specific symptoms were and are less relevant than the overall balance, and the diagnostic process was aimed at established what help was needed where to encourage the whole system to work better. The underlying belief was that a system in balance removed any symptoms, all of which were only alarm bells which pointed to a need to correct the overall balance, and that treating symptoms alone was like turning off a fire alarm, not putting out the fire.
In any event, there is enough evidence to suggest that visiting a BAcC member local to you for advice may be the best course of action so that you can discuss with them exactly how the condition manifests and whether they think they may be able to offer some help.

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