Ask an expert - general - swelling

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Q: My left ankle and foot often swell up a lot.   This happens most often in times of hot weather, if I have had less than about 6 hrs of sleep at night, during or prior to my period and with alcohol consumption.   It is usually very uncomfortable - creating a feeling of pressure and 'dull ache' around my ankle and up my leg.   I was told by someone who suffers similar symptoms that this may be due to my lymphatic system not working or draining properly (this is what she was diagnosed with). I am a  29yr old female, and do light exercise.   I am wondering whether acupuncture could help. 

 

A: Although systems of medicine can be entirely different in their basic frameworks and understanding of how the body works, all start from the same point - the symptom with which a patient presents at the clinic and the observations and tests which the practitioner makes within the system they use. Your pattern of symptoms is certainly one which would immediately suggest three or four possibilities to a Chinese medicine practitioner, and their first thought would probably be to look at other aspects of your physical health and function to see what else was going on. It is rare for symptoms to stand alone; there is generally a pattern affecting the body in a number of ways. although a patient may not think this was so. The failure of the short term memory or a recent tendency to bruise quite easily might not seem particularly relevant, but were either of these to occur alongside what you are experiencing a practitioner might find them to be useful confirming evidence.

 

 

 

Even where there is not a direct connection to a specific malfunction in the system it is important to remember that the essence of traditional chinese medicine is to achieve balance in the whole system with the simple premise in mind that a system in balance does not generate symptoms. many practitioners work in this way equally as successfully as those whose training is more syndrome focussed.

 

 

 

Our best advice to you is to visit a BAcC member local to you and seek their advice. From what you describe very clearly, there are a number of factors which make your problem manifest which point to imbalances in the system, and we would expect one of our members to be able to give you a very clear idea of whether you could benefit from treatment.

 

 

 

Q:   Can an  armpit lump be treated by acupuncture sessions. On average how many sessions are requried for such kind of health conditions ?

 

A:  Our first response to this question would be to ask whether you have had this problem examined by your GP. Any unusual lump on the body needs to be examined carefully, and especially in the areas where there is a concentration of lymph glands. If you have not done so already we advise you to see your GP soon to have the lump examined. The majority of lumps are benign but if this indicates a problem the sooner it is dealt with the better.
 
From a Chinese medicine perspective there are a number of systemic reasons why lumps appear, and also local blockages. In either case a practitioner should be able to give you a rough indication of whether they think it can be treated with acupuncture and if so how likely it is to resolve. Most BAcC members are very careful not to commit patients to extended treatment unless the treatment is showing signs of really benefiting the problem, and most again would not go beyond four or five sessions if there was no real sign of change. They would at very least review the position with a patient at this point.
 
It would be impossible to say how many treatments would be needed, however. There is such a large variety of possible causes, some of which might be easier to treat than others. we advise you to seek the advice of a BAcC member local to you. They will be able to give you a much clearer idea in a brief face to face assessment. 
  
 
 

This sounds very distressing, and we're sorry to hear that your ability to get out and about has been so badly affected.

 

Because acupuncture is based on an entirely different set of theories and principles to western medicine, it is quite difficult to say 'acupuncture treats oedema' because from a Chinese perspective you'd want to know where the oedema is, what kind of oedema it is, what else is going on in the system, what medications you're taking, and so on. It is certainly true that the Chinese have for over two thouand years some very sophisticated ways of explaining in terms of body energies why fluids gather, and equally sophisticated ways of trying to help them disperse.

 

If the oedema has progressed as far as it has in your case, though, there are one or two concerns. First is that needling into an oedematous area itself carries an increased risk of infection. It is not uncommon that any needling, eastern or western, causes the visible loss of fluids, and the skin tends not to 'close' with the same elasticity when a needle is removed. The risk of cellulitis and other painful infections is increased.

 

Second is that, like weight loss, it is highly unlikely that acupuncture is the only treatment option being explored, and even with the best possible outcomes the loss of fluid will take weeks or possibly months. If several routes are being tried simultaneously it is often difficult to establish which is effective, or whether it is the combination of all of them. From the perspective of the patient in distress this is not usually a problem, but professionally we like our members to be able to be very clear that they believe there are good grounds for believing within our own diagnostic assessment processes that the acupuncture is having a measurable effect.

 

The one practical problem we foresee is that you might have difficulty getting to a practitioner, and may need home visits. For a variety of reasons many members do not offer this facility, and it may take a while to establish whether anyone can get to you. We don't routinely record who does and doesn't work in this way.

 

It might also be worth mentioning that a number of our members are also members of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine. Chinese Herbal Medicine is based on the same broad principles as acupuncture treatment, and you may find that aranging a visit with a herbalist who can prescribe herbal medicines which you can take daily may be a very satisfactory alternative.

 

Our advice is to contact a BAcC member local to you and ask theit advice on treatment, home visits and possibly dual-registered practitioners in your area. We are sure that they will do their very best to see that you can find some help for your problems.

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