Can acupuncture help with tendonitis?

Q:  Can acupuncture help severe pain and swelling due to inflamed and torn posterior tibialis tendon? This resulted after an operation to remove navicular accessory bone 5 years ago. i have always had some chronic pain but now severe swelling and pain means I cannot work.  My GP suggested normal pain killers / rest / physio / orthotics none of which gives me relief.


A:  This is quite a difficult question to answer without sight of the specific problem. Generally speaking tendonitis is quite often treated by both traditional and western medical acupuncturists, and to good effect. Research of good quality is not that easy to come by because it is often individuated to specific kinds of tendon problems, such as rotator cuff injuries and specific sports injuries, and the studies are often small and methodologically flawed, as our factsheet on sports injuries demonstrates please click here 
You can find occasional single case studies through google, such as this one
which seem to show that acupuncture has a role to play in tendonitis, but our difficulty lies in being able to determine exactly what is going on in your case. We can't tell from your description whether the problem arose as a direct consequence of something done during the operation, or whether the operation as a whole then put additional strain on the tendon, causing the rupture and swelling.
However, one of the great strengths of Chinese medicine is that successful treatment does not depend on establishing exactly what the pattern of causation is, but in correctly identifying how the flow of the body's energies have been affected and whether this is a local problem or one which is a manfestation of a more systemic pattern. In cases of swelling and inflammation treatment often involves both the local insertion of needles and also systemic treatment to help the whole body to support the healing process.
The best advice that we can give you, as we do with many problems, is to visit a BAcC member local to you and seek their advice. Our main concern, given that we believe that treatment will have an effect, would be to establish how much change was effected and how sustainable it was. Many forms of treatment have an effect, often partly explained by the placebo effect of trying something new and different, but if this is always short-lived it raises questions about whether it is appropriate to carry in with treatment. We are aware that for people in extreme pain even a day's relief is a boon, but if this is so, the practitioner has to be very clear what his or her objectives are and maintain a regular review and dialogue with the patient to ensure that they carry on the work with the patient's full and informed consent.

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