Q: In February 2014 I had a bad cold/flu/fever which lasted a few months. Later my white cell count was low for almost nine months then corrected. Since February 2014, I have been unable to cough up phlegm from my lungs. Before I was able to cough up phlegm easily. Now when I lie down I can hear phlegm in my lungs and it sounds as though I'm on 60 cigarettes a day (I don't smoke). Could acupuncture help me to expectorate the phlegm sitting in my lungs?
A: Your problem sounds quite unusual and we imagine a little unpleasant for you. If we were looking at a problem such as yours in clinic we would say that as far as Chinese medicine was concerned there are a couple of well-known syndromes involving the accumulation of Phlegm in the Lungs which would offer some hope of successful treatment, as well as a number of specific points whose action is said to 'resolve' Phlegm, i.e. render it less adhesive and easier for the body to disperse or remove.
However, finding out how to describe in Chinese medicine terms what is going on with a symptom is not the same as defining the underlying condition, and our concern would be to find out what was causing this to come about. Phlegm accumulates because an excess if fluids is either subject to heat or cold and thickens, and from a Chinese medicine perspective we would want to know how this first happened and why you in particular had this unpleasant symptom developing. Each person is unique and different, and so a set of circumstances which would generate a symptom in one person would have no effect on someone else. Treating the underlying constitution, the backdrop against which the problem arose, is as important as treating the symptom, because if this is not done, the symptom may well return.
We would also be interested in finding out more about the cold/flu you had last year. A low white cell count is unusual, and suggests that this was not a simple virus. This may not affect our diagnosis in Chinese medicine terms but may take advantage of our knowledge of western medicine to get a sense of how feasible it would be to offer hope of a rapid recovery. Some diseases floor the system for years, and when we treat people with post-viral syndrome we sometimes have to be ready for the long haul. Given that this may mean a considerable investment in time and money we want to gather as much information as we can to make our estimate of progress as sound as possible.
In your particular case there is no substitute for visiting a BAcC practitioner local to you for a brief face to face assessment of what is going on and an educated opinion about what acupuncture treatment may be able to offer. It might also be advisable to look at the register of colleagues who use Chinese herbal medicine, the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine( http://www.rchm.co.uk/), most of whose members also belong to the BAcC. The combination of acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine can often be extremely effective in treating problems like this where the daily regimen of herbs can often maintain the momentum in helping the Phlegm to resolve.