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Q:  Is there any evidence that acupuncture can help with peripheral neuropathy and if so is there a distinction between chinese and western acupuncture?


A:  There is some evidence that acupuncture may be helpful in the treatment of neuropathy, as our factsheet shows here
 but this is not yet compelling enough for us make a firm recommendation. If you google for results from the US National Centre for Biotechnology Information, a very useful research resource, as 'ncbi acupuncture peripheral neuropathy' you will find references to a number of studies, some of which seem to show very positive results, others less so. Treating nerve damage with acupuncture, however, suffers from the same limitations as any other therapy. If the damage is already considerable there is less chance of reducing the pain and loss of sensation.


Western and Chinese acupuncture operate from entirely different conceptual bases, although in practice many of the acupuncture points they use will be in the same places. Most western acupuncture is based on a neurophysiological understanding of acupuncture, that its effects are caused by stimulation of local and distal nerves. There are other variations on this theme, but in essence the practitioner works with a western medical diagnosis and very often uses needles in and around the affected area. Chinese acupuncture is based on a theory of energy, called 'qi', and its flow and balance in the body. This can often mean that the needles used in conditions like peripheral neuropathy are often local to the problem and seen as a blockage in the flow of qi, but Chinese medicine has an elaborate understanding of the functional nature of the internal organs, understood entirely differently from in the West, and will often look at how the problem may also be a manifestation of a wider functional disturbance in the system. Then, of course, you have the underlying premise of the original Chinese medical systems which were largely asymptomatic, regarding the achevement of overall balance as the primary aim in the belief that this would deal with symptoms wherever they manifested.


The important element in treating peripheral neuropathy is understanding the physiological basis for its appearance in western terms and being realistic about what may be achieved. If this amounts to maintaining the status quo, or even as one very wise patient expressed it 'getting worse slower', then as long as this is the agreed basis for treatment, that is fine. Our members are trained to avoid raising unreal and unreasonable expectations in people with degenerative conditions or permanent physical damage. Talking to a BAcC member local to you face to face may be the best advice if you are considering treatment. They should be able to assess relatively quickly whether acupuncture was a worthwhile option for you.

Q:  Do you know of accupuncture being used to treat/ help with the pain of Peyronie's disease. (pain/lumps/curve of penis). As a person I know in SA says it has helped him


A: Your question is very specific, i.e. can acupuncture help with the pain caused by Peyronie's disease? Although pain relief is one of the most frequent uses of acupuncture in conventional medicine as well as traditional chinese medicine we have never come across any references to the use of acupuncture for pain relief in Peyronie's. It is no doubt possible that some individuals will find that acupuncture is beneficial, but a great deal will depend on the degree of fibrosis in the penile material and whether the condition is in an acute or chronic phase. There is no doubt that acupuncture cannot do any harm, but if you did decide to see whether this would be of benefit here it would be sensible to have a small and finite number of treatments to determine the extent to which acupuncture relieved the pain and how sustainable the change was.
As far as treatment of the condition itself is concerned there is no evidence that acupuncture has been used successfully in more than the odd case to bring about improvements. The major treatments are surgical, and there have been more recent attempts to use ultrasound to break up the plaque. There are also a number of drug treatments in use, and some anecdotal evidence for high doses of vitamin E and some herbal preparations. The evidence remains poor, however.
There is a small possibility that needling directly into areas such as this might effect some change, in the same way that acupuncture is occasionally used to help deal with serious scar tissue, but to needle the genitalia would immediately breach the codes of conduct of all professional bodies in the UK of which we are aware. If anyone offers this treatment to you, you would be well advised to exercise considerable caution. 


A great deal depends on the relationship between the various symptoms you have and the Arnold-Chiari Malformation Type I which you have. If the symptoms are arising directly from the malformation it is highly likely that acupuncture might have minimal effect other than perhaps to reduce their severity. As you will see from the factsheets of evidence here for vertigo and headaches, there is a gathering body of evidence that acupuncture may be of value.



Tinnitus is a different matter. Although the factsheet here offers a small hope the reality is that tinnitus can be one of the most intractable problems to address, with many people investing huge amounts of time and money to no avail and then experiencing a total loss of symptom for no apparent reason.

Given the specific nature of the malformation you have, however, if you did decide to have acupuncture treatment your practitioner would benefit greatly from talking to your consultant(s) to detemine how much of your symptom pattern derived directly from the physical fault, and how much might simply be contingent. This would enable them to give a much clearer answer to how much they think they might be able to help you.

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