Q: I am a 34 yr old female. I have experienced rectum pain for the past 3-4 yrs. It is sharp and feels like muscle spasms. Lately I seem to get it every day. Nurofen seems to be the only tablets that work effectively and quickly. My doctor has done some tests and can't see anything obvious. She has suggested sending me to a dietician though I am not convinced. Can acupuncture help?
A: It is extremely difficult to say whether acupuncture treatment would be of benefit in a case like yours. There is very little evidence that we can find, and such as there is is normally a feature of case histories of ulcerative colitis and very clearly diagnosable gastro-intestinal conditions which would be instantly recognisable to your GP. The fact that the tests have come back without any obvious signs does make recommendations more difficult. The referral to a dietician may be based on some aspects of the case of which we are not aware, such as the timing and nature of the food you eat, and if this is the case you may well find that the referral is a good one. Many people have diets which, though well intentioned and often recommended as natural or healthy, are not at all good for their systems.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, a practitioner would probably want to talk about the way the condition developed in the first place, the sort of general health background against which it developed, the longer term context of your overall health and family's health, and the speed with which it became a problem. Chinese medicine in this respect is no different from western medicine; the patient is like a puzzle which the practitioner detective-like tries to unravel. The entirely different conceptual and theoretical basis on which Chinese medicine works may offer solutions which would not be apparent to the western practitioner, and there may be aspects of your overall functioning which point to specific treatment possibilities.
Generally speaking, however, the best that one can do in these cases is to treat the person according to the principles of Chinese medicine and see whetherre-establishing balance overall helps the specific symptom to reduce or cease. This can sometimes lead to the odd situation where a symptom goes without anyone being clear about what caused it, but the patient is usually not too troubled by this.
If you did decide to try acupuncture we would advise that you set a very clear limit to how many sessions you try initially so that you can assess whether it is helping. We do not like to see situations develop wherer someone has ten or fifteen sessions without discernible change and feels cheated. If the process is agreed from the start, such as a review at five sessions, then the room for misunderstandings is reduced.