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We have to be very careful in answering questions about the prevention of conditions. If asked whether acupuncture is of any benefit for treating either cataract or glaucoma, we would have to say that the evidence is very thin, and that what there is of it suggests that acupuncture treatment may be a useful adjunct to conventional treatment. However, researching whether acupuncture prevented either of these conditions would require prospective studies on a scale which would be almost impossible to fund.
 
That said, the basic focus of Chinese medicine, certainly in its oldest forms and even underlying its modern ones, is not so much getting better but staying well. In ancient times the physicians were held to account if they failed to keep their charges well, and a patient seeking treatment after a problem had established itself was described as 'digging a well when he was already thirsty'. In this sense the skill of the traditional acupuncturist is to keep people well as much as it is to get them better. Keeping someone in balance was thought to stave off or hold back some of the more common deteriorations of increasing age, and while it could never be claimed that it would leave someone in completely perfect health until their eventual demise the aim would be to ensure that they did not suffer from chronic deterioration too early.
 
It is something of a leap of faith, and there is no point in providing anecdotal evidence of how long term patients seem to enjoy good health because there are so many confounding factors which make conclusions impossible to reach. However, treatment certainly won't do any harm, and may improve the overall balance in areas which people would not recognise to have been problems until they experience improvements.

It is interesting that you are able to achieve some reduction of the symptoms by complete relaxation of the upper body. This suggests either that relaxation itself is the key, for which there is considerable evidence that acupuncture may deliver short term benefts which may then extend to a more permanent solution, or that there is some structural misalignment or weakness which relaxation allows to 'reset' itself but which becomes an issue as soon as the muscles are normally loaded.
 
It is important to distinguish between those interventions which simply give a short term relief which can be reproduced but never extended, and those which can offer a permanent solution. If the cause of the problem is driven by the muscles themselves, and there are underlying mental and emotional components which allow the muscular tension to develop, there is good evidence that acupuncture can help to reduce the stress and anxiety which can often be the root cause. One frequent but unintended secondary benefit which many patients experience is feeling generally more relaxed even though this was not the problem for which they consulted a practitioner.
 
If the problem is more structural in origin, there is still a case for trying acupuncture, since there are many conditions for which there is evidence that functional treatment like acupuncture can effect structural changes. However, there would be no harm, and possibly considerable benefit, from having an 'MOT' with an osteopath or chiropractor as a first step to check the state of the upper back and neck and to assess whether a structural manipulation may not be an important part of rectifying the problem. Many patients combine treatments like acupuncture and osteopathy/chiropractic to great effect.


Q. My husband Simon was diagnosed with double vision due to restricted blood flow to the nerve that moves the eye muscle which is one of the six that control eye movement. Please would you let me know whether acupuncture could have a beneficial effect as there seem to be few other treatment options.

 

A. There is no research of which we are aware about this very specific condition; even for the 'headline' conditions we find it difficult to achieve sufficient funding to run reasonable studies.

 

 

However, Chinese medicine works from an entirely different conceptual basis, called a paradigm in science-speak, which describes the flow of energies in the body, called 'qi' in Chinese but similar to other East Asian concepts like 'prana' and 'ki', and tries to understand disease in terms of a loss of balance of energies or occasionally of blockages. The tools of the trade - needles, moxa, cupping - are used to restore balance and unblock blockages.

 

In this respect any description of blockage invites an immediate and superficial response that this might be within acupuncture's range. The reality is, though, that it might or might not be the kind of blockage which is amenable to treatment, or it may be that this is part of a wider pattern of imbalance and requires a more systemic approach. Indeed, the earliest systems of treatment were often asymptomatic and premised entirely on the belief that symptoms were indicative of an overall imbalance and working at this level alone would take care of them. The skill of the well-trained practitioner lies in determining at what level to intervene.

 

This is one of those cases where there is no substitute for a brief face to face chat with the practitioner to get a more thorough assessment of whether acupuncture might be a good treatment option, and indeed whether there are other options which you may not have considered but which the practitioner knows of. Most BAcC members are happy to provide a small amount of time without charge to enable patients to make informed choices, and using the practitioner search function on our home page will generate a map and list of practitioners in your area.

Intermittent earache is a very difficult condition to treat in any system of medicine. There is a wide variety of potential causes, and it's not unusual for people to find that it disappears at the very moment they have a medical appointment to look at it!

 

 

The strength of Chinese medicine is that it treats the person, not the illness, and so the signs and symptoms of disease are often seen in a much wider context which makes sense of their unique pattern within the overall theoretical system. On occasions like this it may mean that there are specific treatment protocols which a practitioner might use. Even without a clear pattern emerging there is still the underlying belief that symptoms are merely alarm bells for states of internal disharmony, and traditional treatment was often premised on reinstating balance on a more general basis in the expectation that a system in balance stopped generating symptoms.

 

The huge range of possible causes means that there is no accepted research that one can point to as evidence that acupuncture is proven for any specific types of earache, although there are many trials from China which are methodologically flawed which suugest that acupuncture may help. Our best advice is that you consult a BAcC member local to you and ask their advice face to face on whether there is something which can be done for your unique presentation. Our members are always happy to assess whether they think someone may benefit, and equally happy to make onward referrals to other forms of treatment if they believe that these are more likely to be effective.

Q. I have inner ear canal paresis of around 29% in my right ear and a preponderence ti the left of 27%. I have had some accupuncture treatment but was not sure my condition is treatable by accupuncture and the accupuncturist was rather young. Do you have an accuopuncturist in specializes in treating inner ear canal paresis? on your books?

 

A. The BAcC does not as yet recognise specialisms, although it is looking closely at how best to describe with groups practitioners who focus the majority of their work on one group, like children or pregnant women. Even where this is the case, the skills in Chinese medicine remain largely the same; it is often the additional conventional medical knowledge which defines expert practice. In theory any member of the BAcC is competent to treat people equally competently according to traditional chinese medicine principles. Clearly someone with many years of experience may have seen similar cases which could guide their thinking, but there are no practitioners of whom we are aware who focus on problems in the inner ear.

 

 

There is very little research evidence for the treatment of canal paresis with acupuncture. However, Chinese medicine operates in a way which it is difficult to put to the test in trials. Each patient is treated according to their unique and specific patterns, and the underlying premise, that if the energies of the body are in balance symptoms will resolve, means that in individual cases there can occasionally be profound changes to symptoms which have not responded to conventional treatment.

 

It would be fair to say, though, that even with the prevalence of people blogging their stories on the internet there are very few accounts of acupuncture having a great deal of effect on this problem, and we would hope that anyone offering treatment for this as a primary presentation is reviewing progress on a regular basis and not creating expectations which cannot be realised.

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