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Q:  I am regularly passing out without warning - about three times per week. It has been this regular since July this year, but has been happening for over a year (less frequently at first). I have had many hospital tests, all of which were normal results, and so it's thought in have an extreme form of vasovagal syncope - fainting. I'm told it's probably triggered by something and I am keeping a diary/cutting things out to find out what. Could acupuncture help? Particularly if it's something anxiety related, which I haven't yet explored. And what should I do as my next step?

A: We are sorry to hear of your problem. It may not be anxiety related but it must certainly be anxiety inducing.

As far as research is concerned there is not a great deal to offer. There are occasional case study reports like this one

but the majority of 'hits' you get from looking at 'acupuncture' and 'fainting' on google are because in some cases acupuncture can cause fainting, usually if someone has not eaten properly for several hours before treatment.

As the case study cited makes clear in language which may not mean much to the western ear, there are a number of ways in which the symptom of fainting was and is understood in Chinese medicine theory. Because the process of diagnosis looks at the overall functioning of body mind and emotions, it would be rare for an imbalance or disturbance to be generating a single symptom like this, and the skill and art of the practitioner lies in making sense of the whole pattern which the patient describes. If there is a clearly discernible pattern then there is some possibility that acupuncture treatment, in restoring normal function, may bring the symptom under control. Indeed, in the very early systems of Chinese medicine, symptoms were seen merely as alarm bells, and the practitioner would be guided more by signs and observations independent of the patient's description to determine what needed doing, in the simple belief that a system in balance would no longer generate symptoms.

Each person is unique in diagnostic terms, and for cases such as yours, where the symptom is not clear cut and has no identifiable pattern, it would be very important to be able to see what is going on face to face in order to be able to assess properly whether acupuncture couldbe of benefit. We suggest that you would do well to contact a BAcC member local to you and seek a professional view from them whether acupuncture treatment may be of benefit to you.

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