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We are sorry to say that there are no acupuncture courses of which we are aware in Cornwall. The ones which we recognise for automatic eligibility to the BAcC are listed on the website of our sister body, the independent British Acupuncture Accreditation Board This website also has a great deal of what useful information about what we regard as the appropriate level of training to become a traditional acupuncturist.

There may be other courses provided by some of the smaller acupuncture associations, but we have never heard of any being held in Cornwall, the nearest being in Bristol some years ago. However, when we trained a long time ago many several people did travel from Cornwall to undertake the training, and there are some new developments now involving larger elements of distance learning which may make a course viable even when distant.

The problem for any course provider is that setting up a suitable infrastructure takes considerable time and money, and would probably only interest someone as a project if there were a patent demand for training in an area. The current training structure sees about 200 to 250 students enrol every year, so this may give you some idea of the market into which a new provider would be emerging. That is not to say the places would not be taken up immediately; demand for training is quite high. Capital, however, after four years of recession, isn't.

Q: I had fire cupping. what do the marks indicate? For example  the colouring? I have range from light pink, dark pink and some purple.

A:  The marks which appear after fire cupping are usually bruising, which is why you have such a large range of different colours. This is a very common outcome after cupping, and our members are all recommended to warn patients that this is a possibility after the treatment. The bruises tend to be slightly different from the ones you get after a bump or thump. They are caused by blood being drawn to the surface by the suction created by the partial vacuum, and small capillaries rupturing. the theory behind cupping is that it moves the blood and draws toxins to the surface to be expelled.

For the most part the minor bruising is not an issue, but there are occasions when it might make a difference. The actress Gwynneth Paltrow may have been happy to turn up to a major event with a backless evening dress showing the marks of cupping, but in our experience that is rare. Most people, if they are aware that this will happen, are happy to trade off a short period of bruising for the undoubted benefits which cupping can bring.

On very rare occasions the marks can be indicative of minor burns if the cups have been applied for a long time or have been heated beyond their normal range. This is very infrequent in the UK where the technique is applied very gently. However, in the Far East where cupping is used a great deal more and not always by practitioners with sufficient training serious burns do occur.

The best advice we can give you is that you keep an eye on the marks. If they are bruises, as we suspect, then they will begin to fade very quickly. If they start to show any signs of irritation or infection then you would be well advised to see your GP promptly, and not attempt to treat any of the affected areas with salves or lotions bought over the counter.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should mention this to your practitioner who can check what has been done and make any necessary adjustments to future treatment.

Q:  I'm considering acupuncture to compliment a round of IVF. I've never had acupuncture before. Do you have any advice when trying to choose where to go for this therapy? I'm due to start IVF injections in 2-3 weeks - have I left it too late to start acupuncture?

A:  It's never too late to start acupuncture treatment.  There are a number of ways in which acupuncture treatment can help a woman. Our fact sheet on fertility provides some fairly dry information about studies which show interesting results, but away from the more academic end of things there has been a very rapid growth in postgraduate training in acupuncture for obstetrics and fertility over the last decade. Two or three organisations have developed, all of which are set up by BAcC members and mostly with BAcC members on their 'books', whose members have all undertaken additional training in the way in which acupuncture can support someone in cycles of fertility treatment. This can extend from traditional acupuncture as it is undertaken anyway, treating the person rather than the condition, to syndrome acupuncture which finds energetic reasons why the course may not take and does its best to
maximise the chances through to measures like the Paulus Protocol which is a formula treatment applied at the time of the implantation which has had clinically  demonstrable successes.

We are confident that all of these approaches can help, which means that we would also be confident that any of our members should be able to provide you with help. However, if someone focuses their work on women undergoing IVF treatment the chances are that they will be more experienced in the western medical aspects of what is happening and have through training the wealth of accumulated wisdom of the teachers who have trained them.

We are not able to name the organisations - we are committed to maintaining a level playing field for all members until such time as we have agreed the appropriate standards for postgraduate claims for expertise - but typing acupuncture, fertility and your area into google will almost certainly guarantee a hit on someone who website will mention the organisations concerned.

The only reservation that we have is that we have seen some members becoming a part of clinics which specialise in this field but which also control the fee structure and often appear to charge considerably more for this kind of treatment than for 'normal' acupuncture treatment. In this expert's view, acupuncture is acupuncture, and the only reasons for charging up are for meeting the cost of overheads on expensive premises or for years of clinical expertise. There are no chargeable magic formulae for reatment that the average competent practitioner is not already aware of anyway. But that's a personal view!

We hope that you manage to find someone suitable before you start your course of injections, and are confident that you will.

A:  It is tempting to trot out the usual information about how successful acupuncture is at treating back pain to the extent that it is one of the treatments recommended in the NICE guidelines. However, your brief e-mail hints at a very complex history, and any good practitioner would want to know a great deal more detail about the operations you have had, and also the injections, before offering a balanced view of what might be possible.

The usual operations in this sort of area, like laminectomies and fusions, always have an effect on the flow of energies in an area, and sometimes from a Chinese medicine perspective create long term blockages which are very difficult to correct. In these circumstances there is often something to be done to reduce the long term pains from which people suffer, and make them more manageable, but getting rid of the pain altogether may be a much longer shot.

That said, we have all seen patients with very long histories of back pain and often with a history of operations and all sorts of invasive treatment who have experienced great improvements. It is, though, impossible to predict which ones will benefit best, and that is why the good practitioner will be cautious and recommend that no more than four or five sessions are worth trying to see if the treatment has an effect. After that there is a second issue: the treatment may have an effect but how much and how
sustainable. This can often become a matter of cost; if a treatment gives a week's relief then unfortunately it is a matter of deciding whether the cost of achieving this much change is warranted by the opportunities it offers. If someone can remain in full time employment as a consequence the trade off is obvious. If, however, they are on a pension or reduced income, it may become more of an issue.

Treating to maintain an even keel with some pain is a legitimate way of operating. It is sometimes sensible to recognise the limits of what is possible and work within them rather than chase rainbows in the hope that a therapy will suddenly transform a long standing condition where everything else has failed.

The best advice we can give, and which we often give but which particularly in your case, is to visit a BAcC member local to you for an informal chat and brief face to face assessment of what they think they might be able to achieve. If they think that acupuncture treatment may offer some real benefits they will say so but we also trust that they will tell you if there are alternatives. like cranial osteopathy for example, which may work better or work allngside the acupuncture to give you the best shot at getting
some improvements.

Q:  My mother of 80 years has many problems.  She has chronic arthritis and osteoporosis her spine is crumbling and she suffers terrible back pain.  For the past 2 years she has developed tremors which are in her hands and legs now.  Doctors diagnosed her as having Parkinson's but they feel after no success with drugs to treat the tremor they think she has something different but don't know what . she has bowel problems nausea and no appetite and us tiredcall the time.  She has poor concentration now and can't follow a TV programme read a story or knit , as she can't follow the sequence.  Her memory is pretty good though and she will remember many things going on in my life when I call her on the phone.   I am wondering if there could be some blockage in her spine to her brain that is causing the latter problems and could acupuncture help ? She awaits a brain scan on.   She is pretty much at the end of her tether and seems to be barely coping with all that is going on for her .  I would appreciate your thoughts.

A:  This is such a complex presentation we would be very reluctant to give a definitive view of whether acupuncture treatment may be helpful. We do believe that we are treating the person, not simply the condition, and the diagnostic skills in which we are trained very carefully will identify the balances and blockages. These are not always identical to the symptoms which someone has, the view being that symptoms are mainly alarm bells which point to fundamental imbalances in the system. However, over the centuries specific symptoms, when view together, do point to areas of weakness, and the practitioner's skill and art lies in tracing how they have developed and
which ones are primary. 

This is all a very roundabout way of saying that an experienced practitioner will almost certainly be able to find something which can treated in Chinese medicine terms , but whether this will then reduce the symptoms from which your mother is suffering will only become clear after a number of sessions. She certainly won't be risking any more disturbances by having treatment. We tend to say to people that it may be worth having a short course of treatment, perhaps four or five sessions, and then assessing
carefully what improvements there may have been and how sustainable they are.

There are a number of BAcC members in Aberdeenshire, and we are absolutely sure that any of them will be more than happy to see your mother for a short assessment visit without charge to let her know whether they think acupuncture may be a good option for her. Some of the symptoms from which she is suffering are suggestive of a need for other types of treatment, possibly cranial osteopathy or dietary adjustments, and it is highly likely that an experienced practitioner will know other professionals with whom they cross refer on a regular basis to ensure that patients get what they need.

The one thing we would say, though, is that your mother's age is no reason to believe that acupuncture will not have a good effect. This expert has treated ninety year old patients, and been pleasantly surprised by how well they respond. If her spirit is strong, there is potentially much to be done. We hope that you and she manage to locate the help that she needs.

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