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Q: I am seeking help to treat dry mouth (xerostomia). I know there is some research demonstrating that acupuncture is effective in cancer patients. My dry mouth has been investigated, no obvious cause, salivary glands normal. None of the practitioners websites I have looked at specify that they treat dry mouth. Should I be looking for someone with specialist knowledge in this area or would any acupunturist be able to treat it (the research report does specify the areas to insert needles into). 

A:  As you say there has been research into the use of acupuncture for xerostomia arising from cancer treatments, and we touched on this in an answer we gave some time ago

We were asked this question once in relation to xerostomia induced by radiotherapy, and our answer was, taken from our factsheet on palliative care and further supplemented:

Dry mouth (xerostomia)

A systematic review found possible benefits with acupuncture for radiotherapy-induced xerostomia (O’Sullivan 2010). Not all the inter-group differences were significant but this is typical in trials comparing acupuncture with sham acupuncture, for the latter is commonly viewed as being an active treatment itself, not a placebo, and hence may underestimate the effects of the therapy (Lundeberg 2011; Sherman 2009; Paterson 2005).The RCTs to date are few in number and small in size. Although they have produced encouraging results, and are supported by observational studies (for example, Meidell 2009), larger trials are required to achieve more robust evidence. Acupuncture may also help with xerostomia dysphagia (swallowing difficulty) in late-stage palliative care (Filshie 2003).

There is some evidence for the value of acupuncture treatment for dry mouth after radiotherapy, and the two studies below certainly seem very positive.
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23104718

 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22072272
 
Clearly there is a considerable difference between the kinds of functional disturbances caused by disruption of the balance of the body's energies through normal wear and tear and the kinds of damaged brought on by injury or accident. This does mean that it is more difficult to predict whether acupuncture treatment might be of benefit. Treatment of the kind used in the studies tends to be localised or precisely targeted, and this can mean that it does not really conform to the patterns of treatment which a Chinese medicine practitioner would employ. In broad terms, however, acupuncture treatment is aimed at putting the whole system back in balance with the underlying belief that a body in balance tends to deal with symptoms itsef, and on this basis it may well be worth talking to a BAcC member local to you to see if a combination of systemic and local treatment may, in their view, be of benefit. Most BAcC members are more than happy to give up a little time without charge to give a face to face assessment of whether treatment would help.
 

There is a chance, of course, that the xerostomia which you are asking about is not related to cancer treatment. From a Chinese medicine perspective this makes no difference. The understanding of the mechanics of the disruption of the physiology of salivation from within the Chinese medicine paradigm will be the same whatever the cause, although the cause, again seen from this perspective, may have a considerable impact on the treatment. By this we mean that radiotherapy might be seen as a cause of great heat and dryness within the system as a whole or locally, and this would almost certainly feed into the treatment strategy.
 
As we said above, speaking to a BAcC member local to you who can assess the problem face to face may well be the best option for you before committing to treatment.  

We have used bold highlighting for one paragraph because it emphasises the point that from a Chinese medicine perspective there is no single treatment for the problem, and it will be addressed as every other presenting symptom is within the overall context of the patient's health and balance. What this means, of course, is that there is unlikely to be an expert in treating the problem because there is no discrete body of knowledge about this condition alone. In Chinese medicine the relationship between generalist and specialist is the complete opposite of conventional medicine. In ancient times, specialists who only treated a few conditions were regarded as inferior!

The advice we gave before holds good. Our postcode search facility shows a number of members within easy reach, and most are willing to give up a few minutes without charge to assess whether your specific presentation would be likely to benefit from acupuncture treatment. All our members are equally well-trained and qualified, and the choice you finally make may well depend on the rapport you make with the ones you see. This can be quite a positive factor in treatment.

Q:  Do you know of doctors in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, who use acupuncture to treat severe tinnitus? Also has seizure-like events been known to accompany tinnitus or has been caused by it? My daughter, born with a profound hearing loss in 1969, has lived with chronic pain since 1999 and tinnitus since 2012 with little relief. Any information you can provide will be helpful and appreciated. We are at a loss as to how to help her.

A:  We are sorry to say that we are not really aware of who works in Las Vegas, our reach being somewhat limited, and we certainly have not heard of any dramatic breakthroughs in the treatment of tinnitus. We are absolutely sure that had there been a serious development in the treatment of this chronic debilitating condition news would have travelled very quickly. When some acupuncture practitioners claimed to have a treatment for macular degeneration it sparked a whole host of questions across the globe.

We tend to be very conservative in the advice we give about tinnitus. One recent response said:

We used to be a great deal more downbeat about the treatment of tinnitus than we are now because our experience in practice was that it could prove intractable to treatment. However, as our factsheet shows

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/tinnitus.html

and as some recent personal experience in clinic has shown too, there may be some hope. 

The problem with measuring the success of treatment for tinnitus is that its appearance and disappearance can be entirely random. If you read the tinnitus association's magazine you will see stories along the lines of 'I tried everything and then x worked' and an equal number of stories which say 'I had tinnitus for five years and then one day it just went.'  Research trials tend to be quite reliable - it would be a remarkable coincidence if half the trial participants experienced a spontaneous improvement - but one-off cases could be a coincidence, with acupuncture just happening to be the therapy of choice when the change happened.

The available evidence, however, suggests that it might be worth a try with the proviso that progress is reviewed at regular intervals, and some kind of objective measure can be found, i.e. how much it interferes with a radio set at a particular level. It might also repay investigation of what makes it worse and what makes it better. A long n-1 case study this expert conducted had very little impact on the condition but did increase the sufferer's ability to deal with it.

The best advice is to visit a BAcC member local to you and your wife for an informal face to face assessment of what may be possible. There are one or two clearly recognisable syndromes within Chinese medicine which might offer considerable confidence that muting the problem may be possible, but even a general balancing of the system may bear fruit.

As for links between epileptic seizures and tinnitus there are a number of scientific studies which speak of a patho-physiological similarity in the two problems, and there is well document evidence of epilepsy affecting the vestibular apparatus which may well have an impact on the auditory ability of the body. We are acupuncturists first and foremost, though, not medical practitioners in the conventional sense, so we would have to say that we are not the best placed to answer your questions on this.

There is no doubt, though, that acupuncture has a long history of being used for pain relief, much of which was provoked by interest after Nixon's visit to China in the 1970s. That acupuncture treatment can have an effect on the release of the body's natural painkillers like endorphins and enkephalins is not in doubt. The main concern is how much pain relief and how sustainable it is. This can often be a delicate balance between outcome and cost, but it is always worth trying.

That's about the best that we can say. Our members tend to offer people brief face to face assessments which enable them to give a slightly better insight into what might be possible, and this seems to us the best way forward. Looking at things through the perspective of Chinese medicine can sometimes open up new lines of treatment which can in some cases provide unexpected relief.

Q:  Over the past 18months I have experienced difficulty looking into the distance, watching TV and latterly even walking around outside. My left eye closes regularly. My sight is OK.  Recently I have also noticed my lefthand side of my face is slightly distorted. I have had several eye tests all confirming that. I have received Botox for bletherspasm which has helped with the left eye closing but nothing else. I have had an MRI scan which all came back normal. I wondered if acupuncture could be something that could help?

A:  We are very sorry to hear of your experience. It must be rather unnerving to have had all the relevant tests and still have neither a formal diagnosis nor an effective treatment for your problem.

On the assumption that the MRI and other tests rules out any neurological problems, we do have to say that what is happening to you is suggestive of some form of energetic blockage on one side of your face not dissimilar to Bell's Palsy, which as our fact sheet shows we do treat with some cautious claims for success

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/bellas-palsy.html

The reason for mentioning this is not because it is Bell's Palsy, but because in Chinese medicine the understanding and treatment of the problem readily lends itself to other problems which manifest as one-sided disturbances. As you have probably read on our website, traditional acupuncture is based on theories of a flow of energy called 'qi' and its rhythms, flow and balance. When this is disrupted in any way it can give rise to symptoms. Sometimes this disruption can be very superficial, where a problem is generated, as for example in the Chinese understanding of Bell's Palsy, by exposure to a climate condition. BP is much more common in China where people work outdoors, and a strong wind blowing on one side of the face is sometimes seen as the cause. 'Wind' is seen to disrupt and block the flow. We see occasional cases, less so now that aircon is so common, where people have driven for long distances with a car window open to their right side.Of course, the superficial flow of energy also connects to deeper flows which connect in turn to Organs, functional units which are similar to their western counterparts but have wider meaning. Some of the functions governed by the Organs can have effects on areas of the body, especially one-sided effects. The skill and art of the practitioner lies in gathering all of the information and making sense of what is stopping the flow and how it can be corrected as economically and elegantly as possible.

Clearly not all problems of this type are going to be treatable, but for those cases where there is some reasonable chance of change and improvement, there will often be clear diagnostic information which will guide a practitioner. There is no substitute for popping along to visit a BAcC member local to you who can give you a brief and informal assessment, hopefully without charge, of what he or she believes may be possible with acupuncture treatment.

 

Q:  My wife has a ringing in her ears which is said to be tinnitus, I recently read of a lady who after many years of suffering this affliction was cured by acupuncture. Could this be true ? 

A:  We used to be a great deal more downbeat about the treatment of tinnitus than we are now because our experience in practice was that it could prove intractable to treatment. However, as our factsheet shows

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/tinnitus.html

and as some recent personal experience in clinic has shown too, there may be some hope. 

The problem with measuring the success of treatment for tinnitus is that its appearance and disappearance can be entirely random. If you read the tinnitus association's magazine you will see stories along the lines of 'I tried everything and then x worked' and an equal number of stories which say 'I had tinnitus for five years and then one day it just went.'  Research trials tend to be quite reliable - it would be a remarkable coincidence if half the trial participants experienced a spontaneous improvement - but one-off cases could be a coincidence, with acupuncture just happening to be the therapy of choice when the change happened.

The available evidence, however, suggests that it might be worth a try with the proviso that progress is reviewed at regular intervals, and some kind of objective measure can be found, i.e. how much it interferes with a radio set at a particular level. It might also repay investigation of what makes it worse and what makes it better. A long n-1 case study this expert conducted had very little impact on the condition but did increase the sufferer's ability to deal with it.

The best advice is to visit a BAcC member local to you and your wife for an informal face to face assessment of what may be possible. There are one or two clearly recognisable syndromes within Chinese medicine which might offer considerable confidence that muting the problem may be possible, but even a general balancing of the system may bear fruit.


Q  Can an earring on the acupuncture point in the ear lobe help symptoms of travel sickness and mild vertigo. As in labrynthitis of the ear. 

Strange to say, but ear acupuncture is not really within our scope of practice. Although some of our colleagues do use it ear acupuncture is really a more modern European invention, drawing on ancient Chinese traditions but using them in a very 20th century way. The idea of using specific points for specific disorders is not normally how we practise acupuncture, where the same named condition can be treated in dozens of ways as the practitioner aims to treat the person, not the disease or symptom. Many practitioners, however, can and do use specific points for detox acupuncture, helping people to stop cigarettes, drink or drugs, or for general calming.

Ear acupuncture is what we call microsystem acupuncture, where the whole body is treated through one part. As well as ear acupuncture you will also find hand acupuncture, su dok, a Korean development, and there are a number of other systems too. For more information, you can contact the organisation which regulates many of these bodies, the CNHC at http://www.cnhc.org.uk/index.cfm?page_ID=103&disciplineID=13&d=microsystems-acupuncture.

We are bound to say that treating any of these disorders - vertigo, labyrinthitis or travel sickness - is in our view better when done within the context of treating the whole person. We have a number of factsheets on conditions like these

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/vertigo.html

although the research, for a number of reasons, is not sufficient for us to lay claim to efficacy. Having said that we all have treated many cases of these and related conditions, and in the main have enjoyed quite a deal of success, whether full remission or a better management of the problem.

In summary, though, if you are looking for a symptomatic relief for specific situations where these conditions are a problem, but where they are not a problem for most of your time, than a microsystems practitioner might well be a good option. If, however, you are looking to deal with the problem on a more permanent basis, then  it may well be worth trying traditional acupuncture. The best thing to do would be to contact a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment, hopefully without charge, to assess whether traditional acupuncture would be a suitable treatment.


 

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