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Ask an expert - general

235 questions

Q:  I suffer from excessive sweating when any exercise (walking short distances, playing golf and the gym (the worst)) takes place or when I feel under pressure or nervous.

It feels like the heat mostly comes from my feet and a general high body temprature which makes chest sweating and head sweating a regular occurrence
 

Does Acupuncture help reduce sweating?

 

A:  Hyperhidrosis can be a very difficult social problem, aside from the discomfort which it causes. There is often a vicious circularity about its occurrence, too; being worried that it might happen can easily create the conditions where it does.
 
There is not a great deal of research which we can quote, not because it doesn't exist but because most of it has been done in China and is not methodologically rigorous enough for us to quote. The Chinese researchers often begin from the premise that acupuncture works and want to find out what works best, whereas the focus in the West remains whether it works at all, which demands a much more complex and expensive set of rules.
 
However, Chinese medicine has a different way of looking at human physiology, underpinned as it is by theories about the flow of energy, called 'qi' in the body. A symptom such as excess sweating points to weaknesses in specific parts of the system, and offers some chance that correcting the imbalances in this area may have an effect on the symptom. Of course, nothing in life is that simple, and the reality is that the appearance of a symptom does not mean that there is a straightforward correspondence between the symptom and a part of the system directly responsible for it. The problem may well lie elsewhere in the system, and the skill of the practitioner lies in making sure not that the alarm bell gets turned off but that the reason it is ringing is attended to.
 
It would be very worthwhile to visit a BAcC member local to you to get face to face advice on whether they think acupuncture would be a good option for you. Some of the more obvious causes, viewed from a Chinese medicine perspective, might be immediately apparent and might enable them to give them to give you a good idea of how successful treatment might be. Even if the immediate cause is not apparent there may still be reason nto give acupuncture a go. There is certainly evidence that it can help in dealing with anxiety, and this may itself help to break the cycles which make the symptom persist.        
 

Q:  Do i need to let my current doctor know that I am atending acupuncture as well as my current physio sessions? Will there be any interference between the two types of therapy and will my physio not approve then what do I do?

 

A: We take the view that it is far better that someone tells all of their current health professionals what treatments they are having. This means that in some cases the treatment can be co-ordinated, and equally that the professionals involved can share information, if they wish, which can only be to the patient's benefit. It also means that there are fewer 'unexpected reactions' - if, for example, someone experiences a day or two of discomfort after a physio or acupuncture session, there is less chance that this is wrongly ascribed to a medical treatment.
 
One circumstance where this might make a material difference is if the physio is also offering acupuncture, as many now do. Some BAcC members are not too keen for a patient to be having acupuncture from two people at the same time, and may defer their treatments until after the course of physiotherapy has been completed. Others see the two modes of treatment as essentially different and working on two levels, so they are happy to treat at the same time. In either case it is important that the two professionals know.
 
If your doctor or physio has any concerns about the fact that you are having acupuncture you are then best advised to ask them if your acupuncture practitioner can speak to them directly to explain how the treatments are complementary to each other.
 

Q: I suffered with guillian barre syndrome, I have foot drop in my left foot and tight calves. Would acupuncture offer any relief?

 

A: Many of the symptoms which persist after an episode of Guillain Barre syndrome spontaneously remit within a year, so it is unusual and unfortunate to be troubled by residual effects.

 

There is not a great deal of research evidence of the treatment of Guillain Barre syndrome, although a group of Chinese researchers have posted a protocol for a review about to take place


http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007797/pdf

 

which might produce a better picture once they have searched the databases for information.

 

To answer your question really means to look at what traditional Chinese acupuncture attempts to do, and that is to reinstate and maintain the flow of energy, 'qi' as it is called, in the body to ensure that everything functions as it should. Conditions like Guillain Barre which interfere with the normal flow in the muscles and tendons are seen in Chinese medical thought to be causes of blockage and deficiency, and at a very simplistic level the treatment is aimed at reinstating a blocked or missing flow. Of course, in practice things are a little more sophisticated than that, because the practitioner will want to know what happened to the system as a whole to let these particular symptoms appear where they did, and to decide whether it is really a local problem or one which requires a more subtle and systemic approach. Any condition involving a change in muscle tone or function may be benefited by acupuncture, though, and even the western medical acupuncture tradition sees this as a worthwhile intervention.

 

However, one important factor to bear in mind is that in a small percentage of cases residual symptoms not only persist for a great deal longer, but are sometimes intractable to treatment. If you did decide to give treatment a go and contacted a BAcC member local to you, it would be very important to establish very clear outcomes in order to assess whether the treatment is having an impact and a very clear sense of how many sessions to have before reviewing whether there has been progress and whether it is sustainable. It is in everyone's interests to ensure that, in Dr Johnson's famous words, continued treatment is not the triumph of hope over experience. 
 
 

 

Q: I used to have cosmetic acupuncture, however the lady that did it has sold her business. I have looked online and there are a few practices in London that do it, but I don't know if they are reputable. Can you advise please. I would also like acupuncture to help with IBS and menopause.

 

A: The key thing to check is whether the practitioners whose websites you are checking belong to reputable professional bodies. A number of BAcC members work in this field, and membership of the BAcC is a guarantee that the person works to high standards of safety and is governed by Codes of Conduct and Safe Practice. There are a number of other professional associations whose members may also provide cosmetic treatment, and it is the membership of a professional association which is crucial to you as a safeguard.
 
There is some evidence to suggest that acupuncture may be beneficial in the treatment of IBS, as our factsheet demonstrates please click here to read more
 
and also some evidence that acupuncture may be beneficial in the treatment of menopausal symptoms

please click here to read more
 
However, each of these conditions can present in a number of different ways, and the way in which Chinese medicine is practised means that the exact problems which the patient experiences, together with the signs and observations which the practitioner makes, leads to a unqiue diagnosis on which treatment will be based. Nothing can beat the assessment made by a practitioner who can talk to you face to face for a while, and if you do find a BAcC member who provides the cosmetic treatment you aim to find we are sure that they will be happy to give you a view about whether they can help your other symptoms.
 
Indeed, many BAcC members who use acupuncture for cosmetic purposes often do so within a wider and systemic approach to treating the person. Many signs on the face which people would like to modify or reduce are directly related to systemic problems, and simply needling into the problem itself will not be as effectice as dealing with the system as a whole alongside the local work.

 
Q:  My husband has CFS/ME and would like to try accupunture to treat his symptoms. We are located near to Glasgow and I have found a list of practitioners using your search facility. I was hoping to find a practitioner who has experience of treating people with this illness but did not want to have to call each and every clinic to assess each practitioners' experience in this area. Is there any other way to establish this.

 

A: We do not hold lists of people who specialise in specific conditions or who have had more experience of treating named conditions. In the case of the former we are still in the process of agreeing what counts as 'an expert practitioner' and in the case of the latter it would involve an element of quality control - just because someone sees a great many patients with a single condition might imply that they are successful in treating them, which may not be the case.
 
Essentially, however, our position is that all of our members are trained to a sufficiently high standard in the use of Chinese medicine to be able to offer a safe, competent and professional treatment to any patient that comes to their practice. The disease labels of western medicine are not integral to the work of a Chinese medicine practitioner, and it is the patient's descriptions of their symptoms, the signs and observations which the practitioner makes within the field of Chinese medicine and the understanding of the unique balance and needs of the patient which are the strength of traditional acupuncture treatment.
 
The one aspect of treating Myalgic Encephalomylitis CFS/ME where the choice of practitioner may be important is in the management of the patient. As you are no doubt only too well aware, the CFS/ME patient can experience a great many temporary improvements and setbacks, and it helps if the practitioner is aware from experience about how best to manage what may well be a long-term course of treatment. The best way to determine this is often by looking at practitioners' individual websites. Most now have them, and most are usually very clear about how long they have been practising and what kind of experience they have had. The current advertising restrictions means that there is a limited amount they can say on their websites about treating named conditions, but most would be happy to have a chat with you.
 
Unfortunately we cannot use our database to identify for you people who have been around a long time. We make a commitment to members to maintain a level playing field as a mark of our confidence in all of them. 

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