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Can acupuncture help senile pruritus?

Q:  My husband has been diagnosed with senile pruritus ( he is 75) - nothing he has tried in the way of creams and lotions gives him any relief. Otherwise he is fit and healthy but this is really affecting his quality of life. Is acupuncture likely to give help him?


A: A great deal depends on the health background from a Chinese medicine perspective against which the condition sits. Pruritus is often associated with dry skin, and within the diagnostic systems of Chinese medicine there area number of ways in which dryness of the skin can be explained and understood. A symptom seen in isolation is rarely the basis for effective treatment; the practitioner will want to see how the symptom fits into the wider patterns of a patient's health in order to tailor the treatment to their needs. The same symptom could be a feature of a dozen different diagnostic patterns, and the skill of the practitioner lies in ensuring that the most appropriate treatment is used. Otherwise, the treatment may give short term benefits which are not sustained.
In broader terms the kind of secondary problems which drive the condition along, such as the agitated state and the fixed focus on the problem, also fall within the work of the skilled practitioner. A key word in Chinese medicine is 'appropriate', and there is a sense in which any pattern that persists beyond its reasonable limit is a sign that the system is not as balanced as it could be. While this is much easier to recognise in the kinds of long term worry and anxiety with which practitioners routinely deal, it is nonetheless a component of physical complaints which start to dominate a life. Since part of the treatment involves breaking the 'itch-scratch-itch' cycle, there may be a benefit from treatment on this level too. There are one or two acupuncture points which are cited as 'first aid' points for itching, but these are very much short term treatments to buy some peace and quiet, not a proper solution.  
Our best advice to you is to see if your husband can visit a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment of whether acupuncture treatment may be of benefit to him. In the case of some skin problems we often recommend that someone sees a member who is also trained as a Chinese herbal medicine practitioner, anf there is no doubt that many people with skin problems find herbal medicine very effective because of the daily treatment which it offers at a systemic level. However, we have heard several anecdotal accounts of acupuncture alone being of benefit, and if the member you see says that he or she thinks it may be worthwhle, this would be the first option to follow, with herbal medicine in reserve if it acupuncture did not provide sufficient sustainable gains.






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