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Can acupuncture help Ehlers-Danos Syndrome?

Q:  My daughter (age35) suffers with Ehlers-Danos vulnerability, anxiety and fibromyalgia. Could she be helped by acupuncture?

A:  Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is one of a number of genetic connective tissue disorders which manifest in a wide array of symptoms and as congenital degenerative conditions are not likely to change or improve. In these circumstances the best that one could hope to achieve with acupuncture would be to relieve some of the symptoms which are manifesting your particular case, and perhaps to slow down the progressive deterioration.

There have been attempts to use acupuncture as part of a package of measures to help people deal with the condition, but no research on the use of acupuncture with conventional treatment in contrast to conventional treatment alone which would allow us to make specific claims. From a Chinese medicine perspective, however, there are a number of ways in which treatment is pitched at systemic problems rather than unique symptoms themselves, and sometimes ways of making sense of a collection of disparate symptoms in a way which Western medicine might not recognise. There may well be some merit in asking the advice of a BAcC practitioner local to you about whether the way in which EDS presents in your particular case makes sense from a different medical perspective.

One caution for possible treatment, however, would be the tendency to bruise and the effect on wound healing. Acupuncture is a remarkably gentle treatment, with especially fine needles being used at relatively shallow levels, and only in severe cases of blood thinning through illness and medication is it contra-indicated. Any practitioner worth their salt will always treat conservatively in cases like yours to gauge how well the body responds to the physical process of treatment.

This seems a little more downbeat than we might be tempted to answer now, but we are always very careful not to generate false expectations about what might be possible. We have reviewed the research literature and found nothing which suggests that the situation has changed.

However, we have always found that when someone has a 'headline' condition, like MS, Parkinsons and similar, there is a tendency to see this as the root cause of all afflictions and to use this as the barometer for potential improvement. This particular 'expert' had, many years a ago, a patient who was believed to have MS but resisted definitive testing because her career would have been almost certainly affected by this, the glass ceiling which appears when someone has a chronic degenerative problem. Instead of talking about MS we simply addressed the issues as they presented and made a considerable difference to her health and well being without ever using the words MS as her definition of herself.

Acupuncture has an increasingly encouraging evidence base for treating anxiety, and fibromyalgia can be understood and treated within the conceptual framework of traditional Chinese medicine,

so we would say that there is certainly no reason not to try acupuncture treatment. It will not do any harm, and may well help to improve some of the problems which your daughter is experiencing.

Most BAcC members are very happy to give up a little time without charge to discuss with a prospective patient what might be possible, and this also gives the patient a chance to meet the practitioner and see where they work before committing to treatment, which is often a very valuable tool for reassurance.

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