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Ask an expert - muscles and bones - neck

29 questions

I have a collapsed 3/4 vertabrea ,which has been laminated ,but causes me dreadfull pain due to nerve damage .do you think acupunture or an of your oother procedures can cut down this nerve pain?

 

A: Although acupuncture treatment can be extremely helpful for dealing with some kinds of chronic pain and neuropathic pain, as our factsheets show:
 
http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/neuropathic-pain.html
 
http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/chronic-pain.html
 
there are limits to what one can achieve where there has been physical damage to bone or nerve. If the pain does arise from a damaged nerve, then the best that one might hope for is a reduction in the pain, and the equation to play with then is the extent to which treatment gives relief from the pain and how long relief from pain can be sustained. If regular treatment over a extended period is possible, it is known to relieve pain sufficiently and enable a productive life.  However, each case is different and it’s advisable to contact a fully qualified practitioner who can give a honest assessment of what can be achieved.

 

 
That said, the advantages of using traditional medicines such as acupuncture is that they have a very different basis for understanding the workings of the body, is drug free and with limited side effects, there is always a possibility, however remote, that something diagnosable and treatable within the paradigm of Chinese medicine might offer substantial relief. However, to be able to establish this you would need to see a BAcC member face to face to get a proper assessment of whether he or she thinks they could do something to help you.
 
  
 

Q:  My son had an accident 9 years ago he is 22 now he had a fusion on his c2 and a plate fitted. As a result of this he has limited movement with his neck and pain and headaches.  He works in the ambulance call centre were he sits using a keyboard a lot. Would acupuncture help and if so whom would be the best in South Wales?

A: 

A great deal depends on the extent to which the pain and headaches are a direct consequence of the fusion and plate, and the extent to which the fusion and plate are causing a disruption of the flow of energy into the neck and head. If it is the former, then the very best that someone may be able to provide is some temporary relief. Acupuncture is used for pain relief by both traditional and western medical practitioners, and many Pain Clinics now feature this as a standard treatment option.

The only question mark in using acupuncture in this way is the extent to which the treatment relieves the pain and how sustainable the improvement is. This is often quite a difficult call for the practitioner to make. It can easily become a very expensive routine if treatment only buys limited relief and for a limited amount of time. Clearly many patients are quite happy to get any relief, but most responsible practitioners will ensure that if someone does choose to spend their money not so much on getting better but on not getting worse, they do so with a very clear understanding that this is what is going on.

 

 

 

However, as you can see from the information on the website and also from some of the other answers in this section, Chinese acupuncture theory is premised on a flow of energy called 'qi' whose balance, flow and quantity is largely responsible for the good functioning of the body mind and emotions. Any injury which blocks or damages this flow in what are called channels or meridians can create symptoms such as those your son suffers from, and acupuncture treatment can be used to restore flow and balance in the hope of reducing them. There may have been some disruption of the flow caused by the accident which treatment may be able to help. However, this assessment could only really be made face to face,and your best best is to see if a BAcC member local to you is happy to give up a small amount of time without charge, as most are, to see whether in their view acupuncture may be beneficial in this way.

 

 

 

We do not give individual recommendations for the simple reason that to join the BAcC practitioners have to meet exacting standards which means all are equally capable of dealing with whatever comes their way.

 

Q:  I have been suffering neck pain & vertigo for 5 weeks and want to know if acupuncture would be beneficial.

 

A:  A great deal depends on whether these problems are related or not. If they are, then a practitioner would be asking some detailed questions about what had been happening around that time or shortly before which may have brought both problems on.
 
As far as neck pain is concerned, a great deal will depend on what might be the precipitating cause. In a young or younger patient, pains of this type often have very clearly indentifiable causes, whereas in the older patient there can be many osteoarthritic problems and frequently spondylosis which cause slow but long-term degradation of the joints in the neck. Over time this may create local pain and also start to have an impact on the nerves which emerge at the level of the cervical spine, causing problems with balance and headaches. If it is the latter case, mainly wear and tear, acupuncture treatment may be able to benefit someone to a degree, but the reality of the situation is that there is likely to be a recurrence of symptoms at some stage. A practitioner would have to weigh up the benefits of treatment against the cost and frequency of sessions. If it means frequent visits at great expense simply to gain short term relief, the advice may be that it is not worth pursuing.
 
If there has been some sort of clearly defined damage, however, like a sudden twist of the neck or a fall, then it is possible that acupuncture treatment may help with the recovery by encouraging the muscle to 'release' and go out of spasm.
 
Vertigo itself has a problem for which acupuncture has been used and been the subject of many trials over the years. As our factsheet shows please click here
 
 
acupuncture has generated some encouraging results in trials, but there have been nowhere near enough and robustly enough designed ones which would enable us to give an unequivocal recommendation.
 
In cases such as yours, which suggest a more complex pathology, there is no substitute for seeking a face to face view of whether acupuncture can help. Most of our members are usually willing to give up a little time without charge to discuss problems with prospective patients and ascertain whether acupuncture really is the best option for them. In some cases there may be alternatives such as cranial osteopathy or chiropractic which offer a more direct and potentially more successful route, although we have to say that the anecdotal evidence for using acupuncture for necks and vertigo is consistently positive. 

Q:  Is it ok for a patient to receive acupuncture for an musculoskeletal neck/arm problem if he/she has had a heart attack and coronary stent and must be on dual antiplatelet therapy for 1 year. (Aspirin aand Clopidogrel)

 

 

A:  There is no reason of which we are aware why someone should not have acupuncture treatment for a musculo-skeletal problem against this general health background. The heart condition and stent are not a contra-indication in themselves, and BAcC members are trained very carefully in how to manage patients taking any form of anticoagulant medicines. If there is a reaction to needling, a responsible practitioner will either modify the technique to reduce the possibility of bleeding or bruising, or suggest alternative forms of treatment.
 
The data gathered from safety studies does not suggest that acupuncture treatment, if properly performed, is a high risk activity in this area, and we are not aware of many direct reports to us or to our professional insurers from people on anti-coagulant medication who have suffered any detriment.
 

 

 

Q:  Can acupuncture be used for a trapped nerve in the neck and what would the treatment involve?

A: We gave this reply some time ago to the first part of your question:
 

 

The term 'trapped nerve' usually describes what is more technically called a nerve impingement or nerve compression. A common cause is a bulge in one of the vertebral discs which compresses the nerve root, but there are a number of other fairly frequent causes which do not necessarily involve a structural change in the upper spine.

 

 

 

If the problem is structural there may be some value in having some form of manipulation alongside or instead of acupuncture treatment. Osteopaths and chiropractors often treat this problem as one of their 'stock' items for referral. However, a great many problems of this nature are caused either by spasms of the muscles which in turn impinge the nerves or by inflammation of the surrounding tissues. In both cases acupuncture, both in the traditional Chinese form used by BAcC members and in the western medical form used by doctors and physios, is frequently used to good effect, and there is considerable evidence for the successful treatment of inflammation and muscle spasm with acupuncture. Most studies are done on chronic, rather than acute, neck pain, but the results of a very large German study condcted five years ago

 

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16781068

 

 

 

are typical of the kinds of outcomes reported, although Ernst and White were not quite so positive in their review

 

 

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10342627

 

 

 

However, there are significant problems with 'sham' acupuncture, so one has to take their conclusion with some reservations.

 

 

 

There is often a significant overlap between the acupuncture points and techniques used by both traditions, but we believe that an advantage of traditional acupuncture is that it looks at the whole system in determining what treatment to offer rather than simply treating the part which hurts. In most cases the treatment will focus on the problem but there are often occasions where the causes, from an Eastern perspective, of this one problem are not simply to do with the area affected, and the skill of Chinese medicine lies in making sure that the symptom does not come back, not simply that it goes away.

 

 

 

It may well be worth while contacting a BAcC member local to you to ask if they will give you an honest assessment of whether they can help your specific problem.

 

It may well be worth while contacting a BAcC member local to you to ask if they will give you an honest assessment of whether they can help your specific problem.

 
In answer to your question about what treatment involves, the best thing we can do is refer you to the section on our website

 

Please click here
 
which outlines succinctly what the first session of treatment involves

 

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