Acupuncture & Moxibustion

After surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma my initial challenge was to overcome my resultant loss of balance.

Once home I also became aware of my appearance as I shaved every morning. Initially I even found that hard with a lack of sensation on one side. As my eye did not blink I began to dislike looking in the mirror as my left eye stared back at me.

I tried the electronic stimulator and wired myself up as I was keen to try to improve things. Looking at the facial chart of the stimulation points it reminded me of acupuncture......

My neighbour is a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, trained in China, though he is originally from Yorkshire. I took the chart to him, to see what he thought of it, and he suggested, I could try some Chinese techniques to assist my recovery.

After a protracted question and answer session to develop a holistic picture of me, he suggested we try two particular techniques, Acupuncture and moxibustion.

I agreed, though I did not fancy needles being stuck in my face. I shut my eyes and waited apprehensively. I could not understand why he kept tapping my face. After a while he stopped, I asked when he was going to get on with it, and he replied that the needles were in! The ‘tapping’ I felt was him inserting the needles through little insertion tubes, which make for a virtually painless insertion.

The other treatment I enjoyed was the moxibustion. This uses a substance called 'moxa', which is the dried, ground-up leaf of Chinese mugwort (Artemisia argyi). It can be used as little cones placed directly on the skin which are ignited and lifted off before they burn too low. However, my neighbour used it in the form of a moxa stick, which he says he finds to be more readily controlled. He waved the glowing point of the moxa stick over various acupuncture points, without touching the skin. It felt as though my face was being soothed and caressed. He explained that, in Chinese medicine, my palsy was caused because of inadequate Qi and Blood getting to my facial muscles, so that they hung limp; the needles and moxa helped to restore the flow of Qi and Blood into my face, so that the muscles could have energy to work again. It is as though the fuel lines to my face had become blocked, and the Chinese medical treatment opened them up again.

Over the proceeding weeks, I became more aware of the needles as he stimulated them. I also began to get a feeling of numbness rather than feeling nothing at all. From a medical point of view, ‘anaesthesia’ means

no feeling, whereas ‘dysaesthesia’ means abnormal feeling. So I had progressed from nothing to something.

During the two treatments I felt sensations running across my face. Describing them to the practitioner, the paths I described corresponded to some of the ‘meridians’ in Chinese medical thinking.

For myself, I devised blinking exercises for my eyes, and patting or slapping exercises for my face, particularly when in a traffic jam [frequent in Edinburgh]. I cannot say if they benefit neurologically, but they gave me a sense of trying, I was not just sitting back and accepting my lot. My daughters laughed when they pointed at a bus load of passengers who were watching in amazement at me performing.

My perception of my recovery is that I have made a successful one. However I do not accept that it has plateaued out. It is like hill walking - there is always another summit when you get to the top, you just have to aim for a target and try and get there. Improvements still occur it is just that you have to look harder to identify the benefits.

To be honest, smiling still is lopsided, but I have wrinkles, and I think I am still on route.

I consulted with my neighbour who helped with the spelling of some of the Chinese terms, and the technical aspects. I sometimes find the inclusion of Chinese terms like Qi and meridians, and the explanations of their meanings, can put off people like me, they sound so alien to our way of thinking. However I always remember the Chinese have been practising medecine for thousands of years and have a vast wealth of knowledge and experience, though it appears not a lot of statistics.

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