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Q: I am 70 years male living in Manchester.  I am suffering lungs diseases - emphysema and bronchitis for  five years.  It is mild not severe. Please let me know whether  it can be treated with acupuncture.

A: We always choose our words very carefully when we answer questions like yours. The reason lies in the nature of traditional acupuncture and the fact that it treats the person, not the condition. From our perspective our work is aimed at getting the whole system to work as well as it can in the belief that when the underlying balance of the body's energies is as good as it can be this will help to remove or reduce the symptoms which people are experiencing.

 We always tread carefully, though, because when we are asked ' do we treat something?', when we say yes we mean that we treat the person with the something. However, people tend to hear the word 'cure' when someone says 'I treat X', and this can give false expectations about what may be possible.

 In your case, the emphysema and bronchiectasis are unlikely to be reversible, and treatment would be aimed at getting the system to work as well as it can do within these restrictions. We have treated many people over the years with similar levels of impairment, and it has always seemed to help to a degree, even if the change wasn't so much in the actual physical limitations but in the attitude which people had to their problems. It is not unusual for people with lung damage to feel anxious and a little negative, and changing this alone can make a difference.

We would always advise someone to visit a local BAcC member for a brief face to face consultation to see what might be possible. This is always more useful than advice given at a distance, and most of our colleagues would be happy to offer someone a short amount of time without charge to establish whether treatment was a good option.

We also wonder whether some form of limited exercise like tai chi or qi gong might be a useful addition to treatment. These are both exercise routines within Chinese medicine which help to improve the flow of energy, and we have known people to use them to very good effect to supplement the help they get from acupuncture treatment.


A:  There is no reason why someone should not have both styles of treatment at the same time. Many practitioners would argue, in fact, that many of the treatments used in fertility treatment can become a little formulaic, and would aim to supplement them or adapt them for purpose. This is an argument often deployed within the TCM fraternity with treatments like the Paulus Protocol used at the time of embryo transfer in IVF. While it is suitable as it is for the greater majority of people, there are some for whom further refinement would make it far more effective.

As far as Five Element and TCM are concerned, these can often be dovetailed to great effect, and indeed, one of the major teaching institutions, the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine, was founded on the basis of integrating these styles for the benefit of the patient. The received wisdom is that it can be compared to treating different levels within the body, and many 5-E practitioners see the use of the more generic treatments as a great way of supporting the patient as a whole while the more targeted work is done and of anchoring the results gained by using TCM. 

 The reality is that it is all one system of medicine in which styles have been identified which draw on common roots. Hence there are people who integrate 5-E, TCM, Japanese Meridian Therapy, Stems and Branches and many other variations, and all to great effect. 

A:  The answer is probably yes, but depends a great deal on what they are trying to achieve.

We shall assume for the moment that they are not using traditional acupuncture. There is a style of traditional treatment where needles are inserted and removed almost immediately, but this is because the system is based on an understanding and use of subtle energies. It is unlikely that a chiropractor would be doing this.

It is much more likely that they are using one of the western medical systems, either trigger point acupuncture, segmental acupuncture or straightforward neurophysiological techniques. The former is more likely and is based on an idea that knots form in muscular tissue which can impair the body's freedom of movement. Using needles into these trigger points can release the muscle, and this is often done by osteopaths and chiropractors to enable them to encourage changes in structure. 

We are always slightly ambivalent about other healthcare professionals using a small amount of acupuncture. In principle we accept that it will happen, but we have tried for years to ensure that practitioners who take on even small elements of the system are fully aware of all of the health and safety implications and also of proper hygienic practice and clinical waste disposal requirements. These are the same whether someone uses one needle or a million needles every year.

It is always worthwhile asking your practitioner what they are doing. All responsible practitioners are only too happy to explain to people what they are hoping to achieve.

 A: This is a very difficult question to answer. Although twenty people might present with exactly the same symptoms in traditional acupuncture the emphasis is on the unique nature of the balance of someone's energies, and that might mean twenty different treatments. If someone is in great shape and there is a mechanical reason why the sciatica has developed, such as an injury, then it would be a great deal easier to shift than a sciatica which was set against a backdrop of general poor health.

 The old received wisdom used to be that a condition took as many months to treat as the years that it had been a problem, but we have never found this to be the vase with sciatica. The crucial issue is that the practitioner draws a line in the sand if nothing is changing and stops treating. If after, say, five or six treatments there has been no improvement, even for a short time, then it might be worth looking at other options like osteopathy or chiropractic or other form of manipulation. While traditional acupuncture can and does sort our structural problems there are times when it is easier to go to a manipulative therapy first and then use acupuncture to consolidate the gains.

The best way to proceed is always to seek the advice of a practitioner based on a face to face consultation. This can give you a much clearer idea than we can at a distance.


Q: Can I have acupuncture treatments two days in a row? Is it harmful in any way? I am in a time crunch before vacation so hoping it’s ok!

A: There is no safety reason to stop you having treatment on consecutive days. Indeed, in China it is not unusual for someone to have a course of treatment daily for up to two weeks.

However, this is usually reserved for acute conditions of chronic conditions which are proving stubborn to shift. For most of the regular constitutional work it wouldn't be necessary, and might even be a waste of money. One of our old teachers used to say that if you were clearing mud from the bottom of a garden pond you would stir the water up and wouldn't be able to see how effective you had been until a couple of days later when the remaining mud sank. He always believed that it was impossible to judge whether what you had done was the best possible treatment until you had given the body time to react.

Our advice, then, would depend on the kind of condition which took you to acupuncture treatment. If it is a long term hard to shift problem or a short term acute one then consecutive treatments might be advisable. If it is a more subtle problem there is probably nothing to be gained by having more treatments. Your practitioner is best placed to advise you. They will be able to make a professional judgement about what is best for your unique circumstances.

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