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Weight loss was the subject of some critical scrutiny a decade ago, and the conclusion drawn at the time was that acupuncture did not have any significant effect on weight loss. However, trying to test whether acupuncture can help someone to reduce their weight is likely to be a difficult matter; there are dozens of reasons in Chinese medicine why someone's weight may be increasing. Trying to group together a sufficiently large number of patients whose western problem and eastern diagnosis are the same is extremely difficult.



In one or two cases there is a very direct correlation between someone's weight and their underlying imbalances from a Chinese medicine perspective. Correcting these may have an immediate impact on, say, the amount of fluid someone is carrying, and that could create a 3-5kg loss very quickly.


However, all of the best dietary programmes say that after the initial and often quite dramatic week or two most good weight loss programmes at best will see someone lose only a pound or two every month, and in fact, there is discouragement from trying to do more in order for the body's system to keep pace with the change. Acupuncture may well have been used successfully alongside some fairly strict dietary rules, and from a patient's perspective it would be very difficult to say whether the acupuncture treatment added value to what someone was doing already.


The bottom line is that there are are no 'magic' points which reduce someone's weight without effort, and the effect of acupuncture may be no more than to give someone the support and commitment to keep trying with diet and exercise programmes. However, if someone remains motivated as a consequence of acupuncturre treatment that itself would be a very positive outcome.


There are a number of experience practitioners in Lincoln, and you can find them all by clicking on the search button. Any of then will be able to advise you whether acupuncture might be worth pursuing in your individual case.

The cost of treatment varies around the country. In the Greater London area costs for the initial diagnosis session can be in the range of £50-£70, with subsequent sessions costing £30 - £50, whereas in other areas the costs can be as much as £10-£20 cheaper, with the first session costing £40-£50 and subsequent sessions £25-£40.



Most BAcC members are willing to reduce fees if someone is in considerable financial hardship, but this is a matter for each individual practitioner, and not something which the BAcC would require of members.


Each person is unique and different, so it is very difficult to generalise about how much a course of treatment will cost. If the condition is chronic and has existed for several years, it may take longer to encourage a healthy pattern to re-establish itself, whereas short term acute problems can sometimes respond very quickly.


As a general rule of thumb we say to patients that they can expect to have at least four or five sessions, and for the practitioner to review with them at this stage whether the change they have achieved is sufficient and sufficiently sustainable to make further treatment advisable. If the patient at this stage is confident thta things are on the move they can choose whether or not to continue to invest their money in further treatment.

Q. Energy has been a problem for most of my 69 years. I read that acupuncture may help. My GP only uses acupuncture on muscles, & cannot help. My Question is: Does an acupuncturist attend extra training to learn about energy? Are you aware of those who qualify in this acupuncture speciality? Many thanks.


A. We have to be a little careful with our terms here. Traditional Chinese Medicine has a clear understanding of the body, mind and spirit as different forms of 'qi', a word which is very difficult to translate, but which if often described as 'energy', or 'vital life force'. This is seen as the base material of everything, and through its different forms and their inter-relationships, described by using terms such as yin and yang, a complex understanding of the person on all levels is derived. Similar terms such as 'prana' and 'ki' are found in Inidan and Japanese thought. Acupuncture treatment is aimed at improving the flow of qi, removing blockages and sorting out relatuve excesses and deficiencies.



However, this is not quite the same as the 'energy' which people talk about when they say that they 'have no energy'. It's very true that feeling an utter lack of energy can be understood as a a problem with the qi, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is something which a Chinese medicine practitioner can automatically sort out. What it does often mean, however, is that the paradigm of Chinese medicine is sometimes able to make sense of someone's symptoms and lifestyle in a way which is wholly unlike the way that western medicine views the person. The sense of feeling depleted and lacking the energy to do things is described in several of the syndromes and patterns recognised in Chinese medicine. Your best course of action is to seek out a BAcC member local to you and ask their advice on whether your specific and particular patterns are amenable to treatment.

Adverse events arising from acupuncture treatment are quite rare. Safety surveys published in the BMJ a few years ago showed a likelihood of less than 1 in 10,000 of an adverse reaction to treatment. However, that does not mean they never happen.



In the first instance you should go back to the practitioner whom you are seeing to let them take a look at the problem. If the practitioner is a BAcC member he or she will be sufficiently trained in western medicine to recognise whether this is a temporary transient reaction or one which requires referral to a doctor. It will be useful to establish whether the part of the body where the inflamed spots are was in contact with any soaps, creams or lotions which might have penetrated the skin barrier. Since all the needles used by BAcC members are pre-sterilised, used once and then disposed of, the only way that a puncture point could become infected or inflamed would be from the needle carrying something from the skin surface into the dermis, or the puncture points not 'sealing' immediately after the treatment and something on the skin surface passing the outer payer of defence.


As a general point inflammation does not necessarily mean infection, and there are a small percentage of patients whose skin can react to needles in this way. This reaction is more often than not transient.

Q. I have had an on going hip and leg problem since the summer. I am now seeing a local physiotherapist who on my last visit suggested acupuncture, as the needle first went in to my buttock my leg went numb for a second or so, I just wondered if this is a normal response or should I avoid acupuncture with him in the future?


A. People can experience a range of sensations when they are needled. People frequently describe a dull, aching numbness where the needle has been inserted, and in China this is seen as a necessary component of successful treatment. Other patients report a mild tingling sensation.



The sensation is most often local to where the needle was inserted. In some cases people can report that the sensation 'travels', and the pathway usually follows the channels or meridians which are described in Chinese medicine for the flow of energy. Some Chinese practitioners use a quite vigorous form of needling to create this effect in what they term 'propagated needle sensation', often used to treat a problem from a distance and often where someone wants to help an affected limb.


It is possible, therefore, that your physiotherapist has, consciously or not, achieved this sensation in using needles which, if they are being inserted in the buttock, are likely to be longer and more substantial than the needles that practitioners customarily use. The other possibility is that the needles have been used at a depth which has got close to the sciatic nerve, and the sensation arises from the proximity to the nerve. It won't have been a direct hit on the nerve, which you would have experienced as an electric shock.


The important point is that the reaction lasted only a second or two. Unusual as it is, this may still be worth putting up with if the improvements you get from the acupuncture outweigh this slight disbenefit. If, however, you find this disconcerting, you can simply ask the physio not to use needles again.

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