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Q:  I have had pins and needles feeling in both hands since Tuesday and has got worse over the days. I now have numbness in my whole body in particular the chest area, pins and needles feeling my feet and hands and I also feel very weak and find it difficult to breathe as my chest feels ‘heavy’. I thought it might be to do with the wrists at first but it has since got worse. I have had blood tests done in A&E when my condition got worse which have come back normal. They have since discharged me back to my GP. Will acupuncture help get rid of this problem?

A:  Although we are sure that acupuncture may well be able to help with some of the problems which you are experiencing, we think that you should first establish what is going on in western medical terms by going back to your GP and seeking a further referral on to a specialist consultant if need be.
 
We are a little concerned by the collection of symptoms which are troubling you, some of which are what we call 'red flags', symptoms which need to be checked very carefully to establish exactly what is going on. Any acupuncturist in the BAcC will take the same view if you approach them. As soon as you have a reliable diagnosis for what is going on and have ruled out serious underlying pathologies we are sure that you may find acupuncture beneficial. One of the great strengths of Chinese medicine is its ability to make sense of a variety of symptoms across the body in a known pattern, and there are clearly relationships which we see between some of the symptoms which make sense from a Chinese medicine perspective.
 
However, chest pains and numbness in the fingers always need to be investigated thoroughly by orthodox medicine alongside any complementary treatment you might seek. In the case of acupuncture we always recommend to members that they do not start treating until the symptoms have been studied in great detail to avoid blurring the diagnosis. 

 

Q:  My daughter is suffering from a virus similar to glandular fever, causing tiredness, headaches and aches. Will acupuncture provide her with any benefit?

 

A:  The Chinese had no concept of virus or viral infection, but grouped the symptoms together and understood them as affects of the climate, because extremes of climate or rapid changes of climate induce symptoms similar to those we describe as colds or chills. The vocabulary which describes this, such as 'invasion of wind cold' or 'invasion of damp heat', is very much a part of colloquial Chinese vocabulary and accepted as an explanation for someone's illness.
 
As far as treatment is concerned there are protocols which have been used in China for over two thousand years. However, to our knowledge there has been little systematic research of their efficacy, partly because of the short term nature of the condition and also partly because most acupuncture research is western-medicine based, and there isn't a clear-cut enough named condition to meet the requirements of the randomised control trial.
 
As far as treatment for your daughter is concerned, acupuncture would certainly do no harm. Indeed, many children are treated with acupuncture and respond very well. There are two cautions, however. First, it is very important that acupuncture treatment is not substituted for any western medical or care your daughter is receiving unless it is with the knowledge and consent of her GP. Second, your daughter's age has a bearing on the treatment. A teenager will respond to treatment very much in the same way as an adult, and can be treated very much the same. Younger children tend to be more reactive, and also experience their illness in a slghtly different way. Although we do not yet recognise experts or specialisms in professional acupuncture a growing number of our members undertake postgraduate training in treating children, and it may be advisable to see someone who has had this training. That is not to say that any BAcC member cannot be effective, simply that it may be better if the person who treats your daughter has experience of treating children on a regular basis.
 
The best course of action is to ask a BAcC member local to you if someone has this experience and then seek their advice. We do not maintain a database of people specialising in treating specific groups, but our members are usually very aware of who locally provides this kind of service.    
 

 
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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