Ask an expert - body - head - mouth

12 questions

A:  We had a very strong temptation to say 'no', but a quick piece of internet research revealed a number of case studies such as this one
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20569038
 
which may give some hope.
 
Our reasons for thinking that 'no' would be the best answer are rooted in our clinical experience that many people come to us having had polyps removed several times, and after each removal there is a short period of grace after which the polyps reform. To us this seems rather like harvesting an unwanted crop which will simply keep on growing.
 
From a Chinese medicine perspective polyps are seen either as a result of local blockages in the flow of energy, or 'qi' as it is called, or as one of a number of symptoms pointing to a systemic problem with specific Organs (capitalised to distinguish the concept of Organ in Chinese medicine from the slightly more limited understanding of organs in western medicine). In either case there is a possibility that treating the local blockage or tonifying the whole system may clear the accumulated fluids and make then less likely to recur. However, our clinical experience has not been that great, and we have often wondered how much the peristent attempts to deal with things by surgery has piled complication upon complication in trying to deal with the problem.
 
You could certainly not do any harm by visiting a BAcC member local to you and getting a more accurate face to face assessment of what might be possible than we can give here, but if you did decide to have treatment as a consequence, we would recommend clearly defined outcomes and frequent review periods to ensure that you do not get locked into a long sequence of treatment with little or no change being visible.  

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 dhe nechanics 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.  

Q:  This may seem like a daft question but anyway  I had 7 teeth removed from my lower jaw and had a bone graft and dental implants on a bridge of 10 teeth. The thing is that I'm having great difficulty getting used to them and my tongue doesn't know where to go. Could acupuncture help in any way?

A: This is one of the more interesting questions we have been asked, if not intriguing!
 
We could, I suppose, make a case that acupuncture treatment is always seen as restoring natural balances, and that as such it might help the tongue to find its 'proper place', but ancient Chinese medicine was not familiar with bone grafts and dental implants, so this might be a bit of a stretch. There are certainly points on the body which were traditionally said to promote the healing of bone, and there is also good evidence for the use of acupuncture treatment to reduce inflammation. However, nothing we can find in the research literature suggests that it might be the answer to your problem.
 
The one thing which does occur to us, however, comes from our use of tongue diagnosis. The system depends on an understanding of changes in the colour, shape, size and coating of the tongue which reflect the changes in the internal Organs. There are a number of relatively common syndromes where the tongue can become quite swollen, many of which reflect a weakening of the Yang energy of the body which people might experience as tiredness or lethargy. It is just possible that your tongue is not so much confused by the additional hardware in your mouth but reflects the fact that you are a bit run down from the surgery. The feeling of a swollen tongue is one that people often experience whenthey are exhausted and can't quite seem to enunciate properly.
 
There would be no harm in asking a BAcC member local to you if they can see anything in your overall energy patterns which might be contributing to this feeling, but we suspect that it will settle down of its own accord eventually, irritating and uncomfortable as it must seem now.  
 

Q:  I have a weak tongue, clicking jaw and slurred speech.  I have had numerous tests and scans but no cause has been found.

A:  Based on the very brief details you have given us it is not very easy to offer a very informed view. The fact that you have had a number of tests and scans which have shown nothing is very encouraging - this rules out serious underlying pathologies. However, a great depends on how the problem originated, and a description of this might give more clues about how treatable it is with acupuncture.
 
The weak tongue and the slurring of speech superficially point to some kind of neurological involvement, but the factor that interests us as professionals is the clicking jaw. The tempero-mandibular joint by the ear is a notoriously unstable joint, and is quite often dislocated or dislodged by crunching the teeth on something very hard or by things like long dentistry sessions. Although many BAcC members use local acupuncture points to help restore the flow in the area, many would refer someone on to a cranial osteopath, for whom this kind of manipulation and correction is a part of their normal scope of practice.
 
This does not man that it is not worth visiting a BAcC member local to you for advice. There may be aspects of your overall balance which, from a Chinese medicine perspective, make sense of your symptoms, and they may be able to offer you an informed view, based on a brief face to face assessment, that acupuncture treatment may be of benefit. If they think that some form of manipulation may be the answer there is every chance that they can give you a referral to a known and trusted professional. 
 

 

Q:  I have been suffering from mouth ulcers for many years. I have been referred to the hospital but they just sent me away saying there was nothing they could do. The ulcers are not always in the same place in my mouth, and I very rarely have a time where there isn't at least one active. Most of them I can live with however the occasional few in an awkward place really bring me down. I read somewhere that acupuncture may help, is this true? 

 

A:  Mouth ulcers are, like all problems on the head, very difficult to put out of one's mind.
 
There is some evidence from small studies in China such as
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16541857
 
and
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16318148
 
that acupuncture may be of benefit. Indeed the first of these two studies is very much within the framework of Chinese medicine, specifying as it does a particular energetic disturbance as the cause of the mouth ulcers. Overall, however, there simply haven't been enough studies for anyone to draw conclusions about how successful acupuncture treatment might be.
 
This is one of the conditions, in fact, where most practitioners will probably fall back on the underlying premise of the older systems of Chinese medicine, that a system in balance did not generate symptoms, and work on the basis of re-establishing balance to eradicate symptoms. If this is what they choose to do, then it is very important to set clear outcome measures and review periods in place. Many people enjoy the encounter with their acupuncturist and can sometimes forget that they have been for ten sessions without any discernible change.  That said, there are one of two specific energetic disturbances where it is possible that acupuncture treatment mght have a direct effect, and it would be well worthwhile visiting a BAcC member local to you for face to face advice.
 
  

 

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