Friday, February 21, 2014

My Experience with Acupuncture Treatment

Recently I read couple of books on alternative medicine, see book titles below.

Both books basically said alternative medicine don’t offer any real benefit, any perceived benefit is purely a placebo effect.  I was especially interested in the section on acupuncture and herbal medicine because I had some personal experiences on both.  Following were three different conditions that I have treated with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine with mixed result.


My first experience I had with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) was in mid-1990.  I was taking couple of medication to control my high blood pressure.   While the medication worked fairly well but I really hated the side effects.   I happen to read an article about TCM and its effectiveness on high blood pressure.  Even though I was very skeptical about how the Chi, a.k.a life energy, would affect one's health, I gave TCM a try just in case it really works.

During the first session the TCM doctor took my pulse on the wrist, looked at my tongue and declared me I had kidney deficiency, which would affect my blood pressure.  .  The TCM doctor didn’t even check my blood pressure or ask what medication I was taking.  She prescribed acupuncture, cupping, and Chinese herbal medicine to treat my kidney deficiency.  When I ask her how soon would I see improvement, she just said everyone is different, and I might take many acupuncture sessions to see improvement. 

During the first session, I had about two dozens of needles placed all over my body front and back.  Couple of needles was connected to some sort of electronic device for electric stimulation.  I also had cupping done on the back of my body.  At the end of the session I was given a bottle of pills for kidney health.   I was told not to take my medication and the Chinese herbal pill at the same time. 

I went for three more acupuncture and cupping sessions.  I had a very accurate blood pressure monitor at home and I didn’t see much change in my reading between sessions.  When I question the result, she just said TCM treatment is very gentle and may take long time to work for some people and told me keep coming for the treatment.  She also said I have to have faith in acupuncture in order for it to work.  What the heck? Is TCM a religion?

I decided not to continue with TCM treatment after four sessions because I didn’t see any tangible result for my money.  Who know, TCM might work for me in few more sessions but it is getting too costly for me.  Beside my medication and exercise regiment seem to control my blood pressure fairly well at much lower cost.

Tinnitus and Vertigo

In early 2000, I began to have ringing in my ear, a condition known as tinnitus.  I also experienced fullness in the ear, which often time caused vertigo attack.  The vertigo attack could happen at anytime with little warning.  The severity of the vertigo attack could very mild, which only cause slight sense of losing balance to very severe, which I couldn’t even stand up. 

To make the story short, an ENT specialist treated me for the first few months without any success.  The vertigo was getting worst and I missed many work days.  Some thime I couldn’t even get out of bed because I had the sensation of everything spin around me.  I had a MRI on my head and ear and everything were normal.  I tried few medications and had no relief from the vertigo.  The ENT thought I might have meniere's disease but he need to do more tests to confirm it.  By then I was sick and tire of all the tests and medications.  I had the feeling the doctor had no clue on what’s wrong with my ear. 

Out of desperation,  I went to see a TCM doctor for help.  This is a different TCM doctor, he was a MD as well as TCM doctor.  After he checked my blood pressure, took my pulse, and looked at my tongue, he said I have kidney deficiency.  He said acupuncture and Chinese medicine should help my condition.  He also said I should see improvement in about 10 treatments.

I noticed some improvement with tinnitus after the first acupuncture treatment.   I had two treatments per week.  I had about dozen of needles in my body at each acupuncture session.  Couple of needles were attached to an electronics device.  After six treatments, my innitus was completely gone.  I haven’t had any major vertigo attack for years.  I still have very mild dizziness once in a long while.  So, if this is a placebo effect, I like it and money well spent.  However, I don't think my cure had anything to do with acupuncture, but rather  probably  coincident with unexplained remission, there still a lot we don't know about our body.  The doctor might be just lucky to hit a nerve to turn off my problems.  The next person who sought this treatment might not be that lucky.

    Over Active Bladder

Last year, I start having over active bladder issue.  After trying five different medications, I finally found one that was somewhat helpful but I don’t really like the side effects.  So I gave TCM another try.

The TCM doctor who treated my tinnitus and vertigo had moved to another city and I found another TCM doctor who said one of her specialty was treating bladder issue.  On my first visit, she took my pulse and looked at my tongue and declared me I had kidney deficiency,  what the heck?  BTW, as part of medical exam, my kidneys were checked by my urologist and they were normal.  I did some checking, it seem that kidney deficiency got blamed for  many ailments.

I had four acupuncture treatments with this doctor and had no improvement at all.  In all four acupuncture sessions, she placed couple needles at my lower abdominal area, my ankles, and wrists.  The needles at my abdominal were hooked up to electrodes.  I had strong contraction with my bladder when the electrodes were on and had very strong urge to pee.  I thought that was good sign because my bladder was reacting to the acupuncture but it didn’t really improve my situation after treatments.   The doctor urged me to try few more sessions but I decided to stop because I don’t think it would help. 

My bladder problem was later determined caused by enlarged prostate and was treated with GreenLight laser surgery.  I talk about the surgery in this later blog post.

Would I try acupuncture treatment on retinitis Pigmentosa?  Probably not but I keep the option open. The challenge is to find a local acupuncturist who know how to treat RP.   I had mentioned to the last two TCM doctors that I have RP, but they just gave me a questioning look.  Apparently they never heard of RP let alone knowing how to treat it.  Anyway, if the next TCM doctor I find say my RP is due to kidney deficiency, I probably just walk out.   

 Couple of small studies seem to suggest acupuncture might help RP.  See my blog post on RP treatment.


If you have access to BARD, you can download the following 2 books.  They are very informative about alternative medicine.

  • Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine.  By Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh.  Book Review
  • Do You Believe In Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine.  By Paul Offit, MD.      Book Review





  1. You definitely had a lot of experience with different treatments. Some are scared to try different things that sound new to them. But you went ahead and tried it. I think that was very brave of you. And in my opinion, it was a wise decision; because when it comes to our health, it’s really a must to take advantage of the different, yet effective treatment available on the market that is being prescribed by your specialist. Anyway, thanks for your tips.

    Anita Hines @ East West Healing Solutions

  2. So did you try acupuncture for RP?

  3. It's good to know that you're at least contemplating on whether or not you'll be consulting an acupuncturist to get your RP treated. It's true that alternative medicinal practices have varied reviews with regard to legitimacy but other people's views on the matter shouldn't keep anyone from personally experiencing it as well. In any case, I hope the results of your next visit to the acupuncturist will be more effective than the last. All the best to you!

    Hugh Mounsey @ US Health Works

  4. AND A LOT MORE... Acupuncturists Toronto is based on a comprehensive Medical system and can help with a wide range of health concerns including tinnitus, dizziness, vertigo, sleep apnea, jaw clenching, dry hair, dry skin, skin, rashes, skin problems and more.

  5. Traditional Chinese Medicine is often regarded as one of the best alternative in treating diseases. I’m surprised you were still putting your faith in TCM whenever modern medicine won’t even work for your illnesses. Some may even argue that feeling better through TCM may have just been caused by a placebo effect, but one cannot deny that TCM brings relaxation and calmness into a person being treated by it. Thanks for sharing your experience in TCM!

    Emmett Fletcher @ CK Physiotherapy