Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Updated May 15, 2004





Pulse Readers' Questions and Answers
by Brian B. Carter, MS, LAc

The Evidence for Acupuncture for Neck and Upper Back Pain

I am told that the ACOEM (American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine) Guidelines conclude acupuncture treatment has no proven benefit for neck and upper back pain. Can you direct me to counter-studies and citations? Thank you.

Start with the World Health Organization's 2002 review of randomized controlled trials for acupuncture:

I don't recall if there are studies on that or not. Then search on PubMed:, not only for neck and upper back pain, but also look for citations on acupuncture's effects on muscles and spasms in general.

Let me know what you find.

All the best!

I find that the studies about the effectiveness of acupuncture on neck pain report that it shows comparative benefit in the short term but no definitive long term benefit.

Thank you for your reply!

Ok, just remember that no proven benefit doesn't mean no benefit in reality- many surgeries have never been studied against placebo, and some of those that have, e.g. arthroscopic knee surgery, haven't shown more than placebo effect. Though it doesn't rate nearly as high as an RCT, acupuncture's thousands of years of anecdotal evidence does count for something.

Also, researchers are accustomed to making statements about inconclusiveness- this happens for drugs, surgeries, and other therapies, too. Those not as familiar with research may read a more negative light into the conclusions (or lack thereof) than are actually there. For example, most people assume that all prescription drugs are proven effective- some are effective less than 50% of the time. And in the 1980's, the U.S. government found that 85% of Western medical procedures had never been studied or proven effective. Evidently, proven effectiveness is not the reason why we rely on most medical procedures!

All the best,

Yunnan Paiyao and Telangiectasia

I have hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia - in my family it shows up as nose bleeds. My acupuncturist has suggested taking Yunnan Paiyao. Is this a good idea? I take no other medications and have no other comorbidities. If you could give me insight, I would appreciate the information.

I don't hear anything there that would contraindicate yunnan paiyao- it does stop bleeding. It would only be a problem when there's a chance of overcoagulation, clots, stroke, etc., or if there's a possible drug-herb interaction. But make sure to work with your doctor and local herbalist.


Fibroids and Spotting

I'm a 39 year old woman and about 3 years ago I was having problems with my menstrual cycle. I was having my cycle for as long as 2 weeks then I'd be off for 2 then back on for 2 more. I went to a gynecologist who put me on different pills, I had ultrasound and a sonogram done. all they found was fibroid tumors and she said everything else looked real good so she suggested one of two options. I could opt for a partial hysterectomy or I could try an endometrial ablasia. I did the ablasia surgery. I did great until 2 months ago. I'm having my cycle now and its been almost 2 weeks on. Blood flow is light and spotty but I'm still on my cycle. after the surgery 3 days was the most I would be on. My tubes are tied and have been for years. Along with my cycle this time I am experiencing lower abdominal pain. It's not a pain that's real bad and it feels like cramping to a certain extent but pain relievers like tylenol and midol have no effect on the pain. it doesn't hurt allt he time but when it does start it's a nagging ache. What could be going on and what is your suggestion about things I might consider or do in this situation.

1. One possibility you could explore with an acupuncturist who's trained in Chinese herbal medicine would be blood stagnation, a common cause of fibroids and bleeding outside your period.
2. Another possibility is
a. Spleen deficiency >> Spleen not controlling blood >> bleeding, and
b. Spleen deficiency >> dampness, contributing to fibroid tumor formation
Understanding your patterns and how this all came about is the key for your herbalist to choose herbs that will reduce your excesses, boost your deficiencies, and not cause side effects. There are formulas that can change your symptoms, but you'll have to see a Chinese herbalist to be sure to get the right one.

Hyperthyroidism Drugs and Herbs

Can hyperthyroidism be successfully treated with herbs. I have been on thyroid-suppressing medication on and off for many years. I am currently taking a medication called Propylthiouricil, and have taken Tapazole.

My doctor says I will eventually have to have my thyroid surgically removed and take Synthroid or other Thyroid replacement.

Thanks, Linda Ward

Hyperthyroidism is usually autoimmune- in Chinese medicine this is often related to what we call "heat." - inflammation, etc. due to various underlying causes. If you see a well trained herbalist, they'll go through all your symptoms, signs, history. From all this, they diagnose your patterns of imbalance, then get you the herbs that balance your patterns. That plus acupuncture could normalize or at least balance to some degree your immune system, which could prevent or slow down the thyroid failure your doctor is referring to.


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All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.

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