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If we took your question as face value as one about peripheral neuropathy then we might be tempted to use an answer we gave quite recently:

There is some evidence that acupuncture may be helpful in the treatment of neuropathy, as our factsheet
shows but this is not yet compelling enough for us make a firm recommendation. If you google for results from the US National Centre for Biotechnology Information, a very useful research resource, as 'ncbi acupuncture peripheral neuropathy' you will find references to a number of studies, some of which seem to show very positive results, others less so. Treating nerve damage with acupuncture, however, suffers from the same limitations as any other therapy. If the damage is already considerable there is less chance of reducing the pain and loss of sensation.

Chinese acupuncture is based on a theory of energy, called 'qi', and its flow and balance in the body. This can often mean that the needles used in conditions like peripheral neuropathy are often local to the problem and seen as a blockage in the flow of qi, but Chinese medicine has an elaborate understanding of the functional nature of the internal organs, understood entirely differently from in the West, and will often look at how the problem may also be a manifestation of a wider functional disturbance in the system. Then, of course, you have the underlying premise of the original Chinese medical systems which were largely asymptomatic, regarding the achievement of overall balance as the primary aim in the belief that this would deal with symptoms wherever they manifested.

The important element in treating peripheral neuropathy is understanding the physiological basis for its appearance in western terms and being realistic about what may be achieved. If this amounts to maintaining the status quo, or even as one very wise patient expressed it 'getting worse slower', then as long as this is the agreed basis for treatment, that is fine. Our members are trained to avoid raising unreal and unreasonable expectations in people with degenerative conditions or permanent physical damage. Talking to a BAcC member local to you face to face may be the best advice if you are considering treatment. They should be able to assess relatively quickly whether acupuncture was a worthwhile option for you.

This is quite a useful start because it sets out some basic principles and also emphasises that for conditions like diabetic neuropathy in the language of modern sales talk, 'once it's gone, it's gone.'

However, without any further elaboration of the health condition which may be the root cause of your symptoms we would be looking at them as they were in  themselves and trying to make sense of them within the framework of Chinese medicine. As our factsheet on vertigo shows

there is a growing body of evidence which suggests that acupuncture might be of benefit, but even here we would say that vertigo is simply a label for someone's experience, and that once it is put in the context of someone's overall balance it can be the result of any number of possible imbalances from a Chinese medicine perspective. That is why we invariably recommend that someone sees a BAcC member for an informal chat. Most are happy to give up a little time without charge to discuss based on a first hand view whether acupuncture treatment might the best option for you. We have confidence that if it isn't they will say so. There are alternatives if this seemed to be the case.

It does illustrate very well for us, though, how working backwards from symptoms to a disease label can make a huge difference to how one perceives a problem. The great strength of Chinese medicine is that it see symptoms in their wider context as manifestations of the disease, not necessarily the disease itself.

It is a little difficult to say what might have happened to you without a slightly more detailed description of where the needles were applied. It is possible that the insertion of needles has left a small bruise or bruises deep within the tissue. If these have consolidated then it will be rather like kneeling on a grain of rice or piece of grit. This can have a disproportionately large effect for the size of the irritant. However, for this to be the case the needles would have had to be inserted in an area where we would not normally expect a needle to be placed. As we said, without knowing more specifically where the needles were placed it is difficult to be sure.

What we cam be more certain about is the fact that acupuncture treatment very rarely causes permanent damage to body tissue, and even where there is bruising this usually resolves within a matter of days. If a needle has been inserted into an area where there is subsequent pressure from direct contact or from the flexing of muscles then this might cause some discomfort, but this will soon pass.

The other option which we have to bear in mind is that a small piece of needle has been broken off and lies within the tissue. This would be highly unusual, because most practitioners, certainly in the UK, use single-use disposable needles which are discarded after one insertion. The only reasons a needle can break are faulty manufacture or repeated re-use and sterilisation. This can make the steel brittle, and more likely to fracture. We haven't seen or heard of a case in the UK for well over twenty years, and even that was hotly disputed. If you are based elsewhere than the UK, though, this might be a relevant question to ask.

In any event, the best person to discuss this with is the practitioner who applied the needles. He or she will know exactly where they were placed, and this will give a much clearer indication of what might have happened. 

Of course, we always have to bear in mind that a symptom may not be directly related to a treatment. With over 4 million treatments in the UK alone each year it is always possible that a problem, even in the same area, may not have been caused by the treatment. Our advice is always the same - if something persists for more than 48 hours it is worth getting a medical opinion rather than getting into discussions about what caused it.  The medical assessment usually reveals what happened and the patient can then get the appropriate help as soon as possible.

We hope that the problem resolves of its own accord and that it has not put you off having further treatment.

We are very sorry to hear that you have lost your practitioner after so many years. Sadly as we become a more mature profession this has started to happen a little more frequently. We know just how much people value the fact that there is someone who has seen them through a great deal and with whom there is no need to go over ground that is already long familiar.

In these situations we always advise people to contact other local practitioners, and for want of a better word 'interview' them. You will find that nearly all will agree to talking to you for a long enough time to see if they and where they work are to your taste, and if they won't then to some extent you have already saved yourself the bother of someone who probably isn't going to be the one for you. From the practitioner's perspective this makes perfect sense. You have shown a commitment to long term treatment, and as such they would be 'inheriting' someone who is very likely to be coming to them for some time.

Although it should be possible for any new practitioner to get hold of the existing notes we find that most patients and practitioners in this situation like to make a fresh start. We all have slightly different ways of approaching our work, and although case history is important there are other factors which are likely to be more central to a new beginning.

You will probably find that if someone has been around for a very long time there are going to be colleagues who have been inspired by him and try to emulate the way he worked. This might well make your selection a great deal easier because it is very likely that you will be directed towards people with whom he was in close contact. 

There is occasionally some merit in having a trial session. We knew of one practitioner whose manner with patients was wonderful but whose needle technique might have been described as 'brusque'. It is, after all, acupuncture that you are signing up to, so if someone really doesn't suit you in that department it would be good to find out sooner rather than later.

We hope that this helps and that you find someone who will last at least another thirty years.

As far as we are aware, the BAcC retains all the materials relating to complaints about a practitioner's conduct or behaviour indefinitely. There are very few each year, so there is no logistical problem about keeping them. The logic behind retaining them indefinitely is that if a pattern emerges over time then even where a complaint is not pursued or no ruling is made. 

The only minor complication would arise if the complaint were not to be about the conduct or performance of a practitioner but about the consequences of a treatment, i.e. the basis for an insurance claim. Along with most other healthcare professions members of the BAcC are required to retain their treatment notes for a minimum of seven years (or seven years after the age of majority for a child under sixteen, so theoretically as much as twenty three years) for insurance purposes. The insurers rarely have claims arising after three years from point of treatment, and although the insurance cover lasts indefinitely if the member was insured at the time, there are a number of data protection issues about holding on to historical information about past patients.

This might mean that although the BAcC may have a record of a complaint eight years ago and all of the attendant statements from the time, the primary record may no longer exist. In most cases this is not so; unless we are pressed for storage space we tend to hold on to files for much longer because people do return after a decade for treatment. There does come a point, though, where it is unreasonable to be holding personal information taken a very long time ago, and where there can be no real justification for hanging on to material.

We hope this answers your question. If you wish to re-visit the matter then you can always contact our Ethics Secretary on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for specific advice.

There is no reason not to have acupuncture when suffering from diabetes.  There are no absolute contraindications of which we are aware, and we have seen no case reports of adverse events where acupuncture treatment has affected someone's diabetic control.

We do, however, issue a couple of cautions to members. The first is that if you see a traditional acupuncturist you are very likely to have treatment for the constitution as well as local treatment for the elbow. There is a small but mentionworthy risk that the treatment may stimulate the residual pancreatic function and cause an increase in body insulin. If this happens and someone has a balanced intake of medications it can force a slight hypo. This is more of a risk with insulin, where the effect is more rapid and a hypo really can cause serious problems. On the meds which people usually have for Type 2 diabetes this is less likely to occur.

The second issue is that long term diabetes can begin to impact on circulation and wound healing, and if the practitioner make a  judgement that this is beginning to be the case he or she may well choose to swab all of the points they use to protect against infection from the needle insertion. This is pretty much only a theoretical risk at best - in the UK there are almost no reports of infections from needle insertion - but where a theoretical risk exists modern best practice is to address it by swabbing. Otherwise we follow generally accepted practice in the NHS for not swabbing unless there is an identifiable risk where a patient might be more vulnerable.

We hope that this reassures you and that the treatment of your elbow is successful.

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