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Can acupuncture help with lichen planopilaris (scaring alopecia)?

As you might expect there is very little published research on the treatment of lichen planopilaris (LPP) with acupuncture. We are sure that there are many reasons for this, not least of which is that it is quite a rare condition and collecting enough cases for a study may prove difficult. There isn't even a great deal of published research on the commoner varieties of alopecia.

From a conventional medicine perspective treatment, usually heavily steroid led, is aimed at reducing or slowing down the spread of the condition by reducing the inflammatory responses which characterise its spread. We suspect that insofar as we use acupuncture to treat many forms of inflammation there may be some possibility of replicating or augmenting the effect of conventional treatment.

However, we are always keen to point out that the Chinese medicine perspective is a very different one from what most people think of as medicine. The idea of named conditions is not really at the heart of the system, and each patient is seen as a unique combination of energies whose patterns, rhythm and flow are the basis for understanding why symptoms appear. The blockages and changes of flow which create symptoms are sometimes local and directly related to the problem as it appears, but more often than not there are systemic problems which need to be addressed for local problems to have any chance of being properly removed.

The language of Chinese medicine is often quite literal, and will talk of Heat, Cold and Damp as factors within the system, so someone with an inflammatory response would be seen as manifesting Dry Heat or Damp Heat, and the treatment would be aimed at expelling this, and at the same time treating the system to ensure that it does not flare up again. This may all sound a little airy fairy but with 2500 years of history behind it Chinese medicine is a very sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tool.

We often find that with skin problems Chinese Herbal Medicine can be used to great effect, and BAcC members who are also members of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine may be the ones to approach for advice. Most RCHM members belong to the BAcC, so using their practitioner search function will almost certainly generate a hit near you. We always advise people to visit a practitioner for an informal chat because as is obvious from what we have said about individual treatment there really is no substitute for having a direct look at a problem. Most members are happy to give up a little time to prospective patients without charge to assess what the best treatment options may be.

We think, though, that you might have to accept that where hair has been lost the chances of regrowth are slim, and that the best treatment might be able to achieve would be a slowing down of the disease progress together with a lessening of some of the discomforts associated with it. 

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