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Can acupuncture help/cure hip bursitis?

A:  As you might imagine there is little or no research into the use of acupuncture for bursitis in the hip. This is mainly to do with the fact that as a symptom it can be caused by any number of disturbances in and around the hip joint itself, and western research is predicated on reducing the variables to the minimum possible. Some of the causes are more intractable than others, and would make comparisons difficult.

The same applies to Chinese medicine, of course, but we live with a system of medicine that embraces multiple causes and dynamic balance, so it is less of a problem for us. Clearly, though, the same overall conditions apply; if the bursitis is caused by a systemic condition, like gout, then it is going to be more difficult to treat. However, the same general rules apply about rest until almost better apply.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, however, accumulations of fluid within a capsule are usually interpreted as a breakdown in the flow of fluids through blockage or through a change in the consistency of the fluid itself. Since this is usually indicative of a breakdown in the flow of energy, called 'qi', on which the system is based, there are a number of treatments, especially local ones, which can help to improve the flow and remove/relieve the swelling. The key issue, however, is that Chinese medicine will never look at a symptom in isolation, but always consider it within an understanding of the way that the whole body is functioning. Without this, in many cases the treatment will only have a short effect. It is a matter of not just treating the condition but treating the underlying causes of the condition. This will involve taking into account the conventional medical assessment of what is happening but focus more on the way that the whole body functions. Many people have secondary problems which they accept as normal but which greatly enrich a Chinese medicine understanding of what is going on. There is such a huge variation in presentations, though, that the best advice we can give you is to visit a BAcC member local to you for an informal assessment of what may be possible. Most of our colleagues are more than happy to offer a short amount of time to assess whether treatment would be effective, and if they believe not, to offer alternative recommendations for other treatments.

One final word: we never use the word 'cure', partly because it is not clear what 'cure' would mean i n this context but mainly because we believe that we are helping a system to restore its own flow and balance. We simply put needles in; it's the patient who does all the hard work afterwards!

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