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Ask an expert - muscles and bones - neck - pain

9 questions

Q:  Can acupuncture get rid of pain that is caused by a bundle of nerve tissue protruding into the 4-5th vertebrae of the neck which is causing the pain.

A:  Acupuncture has a relatively good record as far as pain relief is concerned. As our factsheet shows
there is now a growing body of evidence that acupuncture treatment can play a useful part in the successfull management of chronic pain.
That said, the problem you have is largely a mechanical one, some tissues protruding where it should not be and being impinged. If this is as a consequence of inflammation there is a possibility that the acupuncture treatment may be able to assist in bringing the inflammation under control and breaking the spiral which keeps the pain running - inflammation causes impingement causes further inflammation, and so on. If, however, we are talking about a physical change of a nature which means that certain movements will always create pain, then pain management may be less effective.
The question really is not whether acupuncture will relieve pain, but only by how much and how sustainable any improvement is. In some cases this can lead to some rather difficult financial considerations; if someone gets two good days after a treatment it becomes a matter of whether they can afford that frequency of treatment or whether they can come to some continuing and cost effective arrangement with a practitioner.
However, without a great deal more detail than we have here about the way in which this has become  a problem, what medical and especially neurological opinion has been sought and given, and the nature of pain itself, we cannot be more specific. The best advice that we can give is that you contact a BAcC member local to you and seek a brief face to face assessment where you can explain in greater depth how this problem troubles you, and its history, and they can look at diagnostic information which will enable them to give an honest and informed opinion of whether they believe that acupuncture treatment would be of benefit to you.     

Q:  I am looking for acupuncture for neck pain but can't find a therapist who has a hole in their couch for me to put my face into when I'm lying on my tummy - my neck won't allow me to lie with my face to one side. I've been told the treatment can be done with me sat up but I want to be able to relax during the treatment - don't you agree?

A:  We always try to make our patient's comfort a central concern, but obviously there are going to be a few circumstances where the equipment needed to do this is not something which we could require all our members to have. The usual reason for having a couch with the hole is for massage therapy, and given that we insure a considerable number of members for massage alongside their acupuncture work, it should be possible to find someone who is suitably dual qualified. We are not able to give out the names of these practitioners because we can only make recommendations for acupuncturists, but a google search for 'massage' and 'acupuncture' in your area is likely to identify someone suitable.
Good as it is for the experience of treatment to be relaxing, we are bound to say that it is the treatment of the neck which matters most, so we would tend to take the view that the fact that someone couldn't drift off during a session was less important than getting the neck pain sorted. Although relaxation during the treatment is sometimes necessary, in most cases the treatment will be as effective if the patient is simply comfortable while being administered.
We hope, however, that you manage to find someone who can provide exactly what you are looking for.

Q:  I have been suffering neck pain & vertigo for 5 weeks and want to know if acupuncture would be beneficial.


A:  A great deal depends on whether these problems are related or not. If they are, then a practitioner would be asking some detailed questions about what had been happening around that time or shortly before which may have brought both problems on.
As far as neck pain is concerned, a great deal will depend on what might be the precipitating cause. In a young or younger patient, pains of this type often have very clearly indentifiable causes, whereas in the older patient there can be many osteoarthritic problems and frequently spondylosis which cause slow but long-term degradation of the joints in the neck. Over time this may create local pain and also start to have an impact on the nerves which emerge at the level of the cervical spine, causing problems with balance and headaches. If it is the latter case, mainly wear and tear, acupuncture treatment may be able to benefit someone to a degree, but the reality of the situation is that there is likely to be a recurrence of symptoms at some stage. A practitioner would have to weigh up the benefits of treatment against the cost and frequency of sessions. If it means frequent visits at great expense simply to gain short term relief, the advice may be that it is not worth pursuing.
If there has been some sort of clearly defined damage, however, like a sudden twist of the neck or a fall, then it is possible that acupuncture treatment may help with the recovery by encouraging the muscle to 'release' and go out of spasm.
Vertigo itself has a problem for which acupuncture has been used and been the subject of many trials over the years. As our factsheet shows please click here
acupuncture has generated some encouraging results in trials, but there have been nowhere near enough and robustly enough designed ones which would enable us to give an unequivocal recommendation.
In cases such as yours, which suggest a more complex pathology, there is no substitute for seeking a face to face view of whether acupuncture can help. Most of our members are usually willing to give up a little time without charge to discuss problems with prospective patients and ascertain whether acupuncture really is the best option for them. In some cases there may be alternatives such as cranial osteopathy or chiropractic which offer a more direct and potentially more successful route, although we have to say that the anecdotal evidence for using acupuncture for necks and vertigo is consistently positive. 

Q:  Is it ok for a patient to receive acupuncture for an musculoskeletal neck/arm problem if he/she has had a heart attack and coronary stent and must be on dual antiplatelet therapy for 1 year. (Aspirin aand Clopidogrel)



A:  There is no reason of which we are aware why someone should not have acupuncture treatment for a musculo-skeletal problem against this general health background. The heart condition and stent are not a contra-indication in themselves, and BAcC members are trained very carefully in how to manage patients taking any form of anticoagulant medicines. If there is a reaction to needling, a responsible practitioner will either modify the technique to reduce the possibility of bleeding or bruising, or suggest alternative forms of treatment.
The data gathered from safety studies does not suggest that acupuncture treatment, if properly performed, is a high risk activity in this area, and we are not aware of many direct reports to us or to our professional insurers from people on anti-coagulant medication who have suffered any detriment.



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