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78 questions

A:  It came as a surprise to us that there have been a number of studies of teeth grinding/bruxism. One example of this is

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15108607

and another

http://www.researchgate.net/publication/235768598_Acupuncture_as_therapeutic_resourcein_patient_with_bruxism

although it has to be said that this is an unusual approach, not drawing on traditional acupuncture but on auricular acupuncture which is a much more modern development.

The problem of bruxism is usually described as multifactorial, arising from a combination of causes and very often having a mental and emotional causes as well as arising as a consequence of conditions like sleep apnoea and from some forms of medication. Some of these causes are very commonly treated by acupuncture, as our factsheet on anxiety, for example, shows

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/anxiety.html

The only way to get a clear answer, though, would be to visit a BAcC member local to you for a brief informal assessment of what treatment may be able to offer. The main purpose of seeing you face to face would be to check whether this was a stand-alone symptom, or whether there were other factors involved. In Chinese medicine diagnosis it is rare to find a single free-standing symptom. Most symptoms are evidence of a functional disorder within the system as a whole, and the Organs of the body (capitalised to distinguish what this means from the western concept of an organ) have a range of functions which means that a single one out of kilter might generate several symptoms manifesting on different levels. The skill of the practitioner lies in getting information from patients about their overall functioning and making sense of the various ways in which these depart from their normal range.

If the practitioner can see immediate connections which point to straightforward treatments, they will be able to give you a good idea of how successful treatment may be. Even if there are no obvious connections it does not mean that treatment may not work; the most ancient systems were asymptomatic, driven by the simple belief that a symptom in balance did not generate symptoms and that these would lessen and go. Versions of this style of treatment are still very popular and successful today.

You can find a list of practitioners close to where you live by using the postcode search function on our home page.  

Q:  BAcC registered acupuncturists' patients are prevented from giving blood. What does the BAcC intend to do about this parlous state of affairs?

A:  The current situation has moved on a little since our last press release in July last year:

The BAcC continues to receive calls and emails about the NHBTS policy that any patient who has had acupuncture treatment delivered by a practitioner who is not statutorily regulated has to wait four months before they can donate blood. This change to the NHSBT's donor criteria came into effect in late 2009,and with the statutory
regulation of acupuncturists now unlikely in the foreseeable future, this could mean that someone having regular treatment with a BAcC member would never
qualify to donate blood.

The BAcC has exemplary safety standards and campaigned vigorously to challenge this decision. We have since done our best to make sure that all of our members let their patients know that they must wait four months to donate blood or bone marrow products.

The official notification and rationale for the decision is available on

http://www.transfusionguidelines.org/docs/pdfs/dl_change_note_2009_32.pdf

and

http://www.transfusionguidelines.org/docs/pdfs/dl_change_note_2009_33.pdf

but some enquirers have found this difficult to locate on official sites.

The BAcC is fully committed to reversing this decision for the benefit of the patients of its members. The recent accreditation of the BAcC under the Professional Standards Authority Assured Voluntary Register scheme has given us hope that this new flagship scheme will provide the recognition of exemplary standards the BAcC needs for its members to be granted exemption from the deferral period for donation.

Since then, we have met senior officials in the NHBTS, and discussed with them how we might help to re-instate the donation of blood by non-statutorily regulated healthcare profesisonals, there having been no reported instances of blood borne virus transmission by acupuncture practitioners in the last decade. In order to change policy, however, there has to be evidence, and the NHBTS is proposing to conduct an analysis of previous screened donors to establish the level of risk. This study will take place later this year or early this year.

The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, and until that time anyone who has had acupuncture treatment from a BAcC member will have to wait four months until they are allowed to give blood.

The study mentioned in the press release has now progressed a great deal further, and the information which has been gathered will be given the full statistical analysis by August, we are told. It is also interesting to note that the Welsh Assembly has accepted the BAcC's accreditation with the Professional Standards Authority as a basis for exemption from its new licensing arrangements, and this opens up a potential second front if the statistical evidence is inconclusive.

The whole situation has been rather odd from the outset. Leaving aside all of the arguments about accountability and statutory recognition, the simple fact is that we all use single use disposable needles, and short of a practitioner with a blood borne virus inserting a needle in themselves and then into a patient, itself a criminal offence which even statutory regulation could not prevent, there is no possible risk of cross infection. However, by the time that this very simple fact became a part of the discussion the moment had long been lost. Indeed, there had been minimal consultation at the outset because the decision makers did not anticipate any adverse reaction to what they planned.

However, there's no point in re-hashing a poor process. We are where we are, and still working constructively to bring back into play the 10,000-15,000 donors we believe may have been lost as a consequence of this decision.

Q:  My acupuncturist told me there's some problem with my kidney (kidney deficiency) because of my symptoms - : pain around my kidney, muscle stiffness and tingling or pain around my hips. It radiates radiate down to my legs causing stiffness, cramp, tingling and weakness, as well weak erection. Does this sounds right? Also what supplements or vitamins are is good for the kidneys. For your informtion my acupuncturist has  30 years experience, running an acupuncture school and also a PhD degree..

A:This sounds the sort of thing that might happen when someone has a kidney deficiency. However, notice the capital letters. Rather misleadingly, the organs of conventional medicine and the organs of Chinese medicine bear the same name, but there are huge differences between how each is understood. In the West, the organ is very much viewed as a purely physical thing, with specific physiological structures and functions. The organ in Chinese medicine also describes various functions, but of a much more generic nature across the whole system, in the body, mind and spirit. This is what gives Chinese medicine its great strength and perspective - seemingly unrelated physical, mental and emotional symptoms can all point to disturbances in a single organ.

Over the 2500 years of Chinese medicine history a number of syndromes have become second nature to practitioners where from simply looking at the tongue and taking the pulse they are able to say with some confidence the kinds of problem from which the patient may be suffering. This can sometimes be quite perturbing to patients, a bit like a magic show, but it also gives great confidence in the system that someone is able to use their diagnostic skills to spell out a number of problems which a person might have and which might not even count as symptoms to them.

Your practitioner has many years of experience and can almost certainly be relied on to be accurate in his assessment. If you are looking to add supplements to the treatment programme to enhance its effects, he is the best person to approach for advice. There is an almost infinite variety of possible supplements, but an experienced practitioner will know which ones are most likely to be appropriate for your specific needs. This is something which does need to be assessed carefully; the liver and kidney are understood in Chinese medicine to be the two Organs most involved in processing substances which are introduced into the body, from legal supplements and
prescription drugs through to recreational drugs. If someone takes large doses  of synthetic vitamins, for example, they can add to the burdens of an already
struggling organ.

 Q: I get very emotional (start crying) when I see or hear of anything happy going on.  My eyes just start to cry, even when I see or hear about sad things. It is  affecting my work as a supervisor. Can acupuncture help?

A: This is the sort of problem which is not that well-researched other than in the context of something which admits of 'real' definition. Thus, you will find reports  and studies of over-emotional reactions during pregnancy and over-emotional causes of sleep disturbance, but very few case reports for what you describe, simple 'over emotion'. We can imagine, though, that while in some Mediterranean cultures open displays of emotion are much more acceptable, in this country we tend to be a little uneasy when someone is easily affected in this way and this can cause them a number of problems.

To a Chinese medicine practitioner this would not seem at all unusual, however. In Chinese medicine theory, the correct balance of energies in the body and the interconnection between body mind and spirit lend themselves to a central idea that the body in balance responds appropriately to the circumstances in which it finds itself. On an emotional level, this would translate into being able to express the full range of human emotions congruently, i.e. the right emotion at the right time, and appropriately, at the correct 'volume level'. Someone still grieving excessively 20 years after the death of a loved one, or laughing hysterically at very little, or getting angrier than would seem OK for whatever appeared to be the cause would make us think that the balance of the system had been disturbed. The way in which the display of emotions came out, when it happened, what makes it better or worse, in short all of the questions which you might ask about a physical pain, all point a practitioner to an understanding of the patterns and then in turn to potential treatment.

That is not to say that you are guaranteed to get a good response. Even though someone may diagnose in Chinese medicine terms exactly what is going on, there can be an awful lot of what one might call 'habit energy' in the body - every time a particular event happens, we get the same reaction. This may not always be a comfortable reaction, but we are used to it and sometimes reluctant to let it go. This may sound silly, but many of us are resistant to change, even when it is beneficial. That is the reason why many practitioners are familiar with NLP, a technique for trying to 'unlock' these fixed patterns, and why they may consider referring you on to a hypnotherapist specialising in what is called Ericksonian hypnotherapy or just simply NLP to try to shift these problems.

We mention this only to alert you to the fact that there are a number of options, but we are pretty sure that traditional acupuncture itself may be able to offer you some benefit. The best advice we can offer, and usually do for cases where the personal circumstances of the individual may be integral to understanding what is happening, is to visit a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment of what may be possible and whether they believe that they are able to help you, and if not, what may be the best way of addressing this problem.

 

Q:  If I may I would like to ask also about the possible benefits of acupuncture on allergies. My poor wife,who is apparently suffering from candida (not yet formally diagnosed) is also allergic to a great number of more or less day-to-day foods,including dairy,wheat,shellfish,soya, celery etc-about 20 different items all told.

A:  There is a small amount of research on the use of acupuncture to treat allergies, but most of what we have been able to locate is about the sorts of allergies which can be easily tested, like an allergy to dust mites. The problem with food allergies from a research perspective is that there are so many confounding factors which make the selection of trial and control groups difficult that few researchers even try.

What we do find very commonly is that when the body is reacting strongly to one set of allergens, and we would class candida as something of this nature, the whole system tends to go on red alert, and people discover that they have become or are also allergic to a wide range of other things. We have often seen patients who have been tested with EAV machines, and they come back with immense lists of allergies and intolerances which leave them with only a couple of staples left to eat. We think that this is perhaps overstating the problem. Reducing the number of foods for which someone has intolerances will obviously reduce the burden on the immune system but finding the one(s) which is really the major factor will do a great deal more.

Not so simple as it sounds, though! We have come across two cases where patients were actually sensitive to electrical power circuits, and a rather strange case history published twenty years ago by a scientist reported that once his wife was effectively insulated from the house's power supply she sat down and ate a cheese and tomato sandwich which would in previous times have had an almost instant and debilitating effect.

However, when we are asked about allergies, our response from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective is that the over-reaction of the body's immune system is a sign that the overall balance has been disturbed. There are treatments which we can use which can affect the defensive energy (called 'wei qi') of the body directly, and we might use these if we felt that during an acute episode there was some kind of pathogen which we could remove or quell. The more common approach, though, would be to go back to basics and simply work hard to re-establish the overall balance. Chinese medicine was predicated on the simple basis that when a system was in balance, symptoms would resolve spontaneously, being themselves only indicators that the balance was out. When we have published PR stories on our website (which you can find if you go to our home page and under site search type allergies) most often this is the simple strategy which the practitioner has used.

Allergies and allergy testing belong to a field where desperate people are often relieved of large amounts of money for something which has no provenance or proposes strange solutions. In our view the tried and tested therapies with a long history of effective use - acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathy - in conjunction with some carefully controlled elimination diets can often bring things under sufficient control to make life more bearable and convenient.  

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