Can acupuncture help with a benign essential tremor?

Q:  My mother has benign essential tremor, it's moderate to severe, her GP said he had not seen one so bad. She has tried atenolol with no benefit noted at all.  Do you think accupuntute could help her?


A:  There are occasions when acupuncture can achieve surprising results, and if you undertake an internet search you will find  a case report written up by one the American medical acupunture practitioners
which outlines a very successful intervention. There is also a paper
which suggests that acupuncture alongside conventional treatment may be more effective in reducing symptoms. We have to say, however, that these are far from the norm, and benign essential tremor can prove very resistant to treatment.
The point which we also have to emphasise, however, is that Chinese medicine works on the basis of an entirely different conceptual structure from conventional medicine, premised as it is on the understanding of the body as a flow of energy, called 'qi', and what happens when that flow is disrupted or disturbed. This means that symptoms as they are described by a patient and signs observed by the practitioner are filtered and made sense of within this 'grid', and that can mean on occasion finding an explanation which would not be a part of western medicine thinking at all. Were this to be the case, there may be treatment options which a Chinese medicine practitioner would employ to address the problem as it was defined within this system, and with 2000 years of development and refinement there are going to be occasions where a solution is found which western medicine cannot match. This is still in the realms of 'unlikely', but it would be nonetheless be possible. There is a category in Chinese diagnostics called 'internal wind', for example, which can manfest as shaking and tremors in the limbs, and a fairly direct treatment used to address it.
We could not make this kind of determination remotely, however, and you would need to see a BAcC member local to you and your mother to seek advice on whether there were elements of her condition which lent confidence to a practitioner that there was something they could do. Most members are willing to give up some time without charge to advise prospective patients on the suitability of treatment, and we would recommend this as your best option to get a clearer picture for your mother.

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