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Can acupuncture help with Sjoegrens syndrome

Q: Can acupuncture help with Sjoegrens syndrome, immune disease affecting connective tissue, salivary glands, symptoms include dry mouth, reynauds tingling/burning hands and feet.

A: As you are probably fully aware Sjogrens can occur as either a primary or secondary condition whose origin is not entirely clear. Treatment is usually supportive and symptomatic rather than curative, and the wide array of potential symptoms which arise from the change in moisture producing cells means that research studies are not as common as would normally be the case.

 This is certainly the case with acupuncture trials and Sjogrens. We wouldn't want to quote specific studies because they tend to be small and methodologically 'under-powered' but if you use an open access database like NCBI by typing in 'ncbi acupuncture Sjogrens' you will find at least half a dozen studies which report significant changes from treatment, whether it be with acupuncture, auricular acupuncture, electroacupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine. What most conclude, however, is that the sample size is too small to make any firm recommendations other than that larger studies should be organised.

 Of course, from a Chinese medicine perspective the somewhat disparate nature of potential symptoms plays to one of its greatest strengths, the ability to make sense of what appear to be unconnected symptoms within a framework based on an entirely different conceptual structure. Chinese medicine is based on theories of energy, called 'qi', whose rhythm, flow and balance determine the overall health of the individual. Within this overarching picture are Organs which have specific functions within the flow. Organs are different from the western concept of an organ, being seen as functional units whose effects can be seen in several areas of the body. This can often mean that symptoms which would be treated separately in western medicine are treated as a part of one functional disturbance.

 This means that when a practitioner looks at each presentation within the Sjogrens pattern he or she will be analysing them across the range of functional disturbances which might show common roots, and this can often mean an individual treatment for the person as a unique presentation rather than a standard formula treatment.

 It is also fair to say that in many cases of connective tissue disorder the various symptoms are all assumed to be fruit of the same tree when in reality some of them may from a Chinese medicine perspective be consequences of weaknesses in the system caused by the Sjogrens. Some may well be amenable to constitutional treatment.

 The bottom line, therefore, is that acupuncture treatment may be able to offer some benefits, and will certainly do no harm. In order to say more, though, we would have to see your symptoms in their overall context, which online is not an option. The best advice that we can give is that you visit a BAcC member local to you and seek a brief face to face consultation to assess what might be going on. Most members are willing to give up some time without charge to give a better view of what may be possible, and this gives you a chance to meet them and see where they work.

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