Find a local acupuncturist
To search by other criteria - name, town - click here
Latest posts are at the bottom of this page.
Use the filter buttons above to help find answers - click on the boxes
Q: i had my first acupuncture session and the therapist put the needles through my clothes is this the proper practice? The needles went into my buttock and leg.
A: The short answer is 'no'.
This question was raised a very long time ago when a member queried whether it was acceptable to needle through by thin fabric when treating patients whose religious or ciltural sensitivities made it impossible for them to uncover areas of the body which the practitioner felt needed to be needled. The categorical advice was not to do this. Either the practitioner must find other ways of treating the problems through the use of available points, which can often be done, or the patient must be referred on to a practitioner in front of whom the removal of some clothing is acceptable.
The possibilities for infection or the accidental contamination of the puncture site with foreign bodies are so obvious that the prohibition is self-evident, i.e. one would never expect to have to gather evidence to support it.
If your practitioner has done this with you it is fair to assume that this is a standard practice, and it is important that they cease and desist immediately. If he or she belongs to a professional association, it would be a good idea to approach them with this information. Even if you chose not to make a formal complaint we are confident that they would instruct the member not to do this again on pain of removal from the Register if they failed to comply. If this person is a BAcC member, you need to contact our Ethics Secretary on 0208 735 1205 for further advice. If the practitioner does not appear to belong to a professional body then a word with the Local Authority Environmental Health Department is merited.
We should reassure you by saying that the chances of an infection are remote, but even though they are remote, the treatment is nowhere near as safe as that undertaken with proper preparation and precautions.
Q: I've suffered from an accident a couple of months ago. I broke a couple of ribs, they've all healed except one. I'm in a lot of pain and unable to sleep properly and sit still for long. Can acupuncture help? What does it involve?
A: Two months is certainly a long time to be suffering the after effects of a broken rib. As we are sure you know already, the management of broken ribs is very conservative, mainly involving a routine of pain relief and avoidance of binding or exercising, and the fractures heal within two to four weeks. If the pain continues, you will almost certainly be prescribed, or advised to use, more painkillers in the expectation that the pain will eventually resolve.
From a Chinese medicine point of view, the use of acupuncture for pain relief is well-documented and probably the first major use which people started to investigate as acupuncture treatment became more prevalent in the 1970s. Theories like the 'Pain Gate' Theory, where it was assumed that the needles over-rode pain signals in the brain, were very popular, and even westerm medicine took on board the fact that endorphin and enkephalin levels (the body's own painkillers) appeared to rise after treatment. However, from our perspective we are looking more at the flow of energy, called 'qi' in Chinese thought, which is disturbed by injury and can sometimes remain disturbed after the physical injury appears to have healed.
Re-instating the flow can often involve needles applied locally to the problem in conjunction with needles some distance away, and the practitioner will always be looking at the overall picture to see if there is any underlying reason why the energy has not successfully been restored in the affected area. If someone is quite depleted, for example, a small blockage may persist because the system is too weak to cope with proper recovery.
Naturally, when treatment is administered on the thorax near the ribs, the needles are inserted to a very superficial depth and always obliquely to avoid going anywhere near the lungs. Pneumothoraxes are rare, and a well-trained and qualified practitioner will always make sure that they take no risks. Needles are usually left in for a short time and often manipulated gently to encourage the flow to re-commence.
The best advice we can give is to visit a BAcC member local to you for a face to face assessment of whether they think that acupuncture treatment may be of benefit. We are also aware that many osteopaths who use cranial osteopathy have a basis for understanding the same phenomenon, the continuation of pain after the physica injury has healed, and this may be another option to consider. There are a number of other therapies - cranio-sacral therapy, zero balancing - which also have ways of dealing with post-traumatic pain, but we aren;t really in a position to recommend anything specific because the evidence base is not that well-established.
For acupuncture treatment, however, there is a very considerable evidence base in both eastern and western versions of acupuncture that acupuncture treatment can offer pain relief, and the major issue is how much relief and how sustainable. Clearly if something offers only a day or so of relief on each occasion and then the condition reverts, it may be worth drawing a line in the sand and trying something different. Change should be sustainable and incremental, unless the pain is so severe that any relief is welcome. The only issue here is a financial one, and we have known patients with large resources to continue to have treatment with short-lived benefits because the financial element is not an issue. For most of us, though, it is, and that has to be taken into account.
Hopefully, however, the treatment you choose to have will accelerate your recovery and sidestep some of these concerns.
We drew up a review paper some years ago
which summarises the use of acupuncture treatment for a number of substance abuse problems, and as you can see in the paper, the evidence for the use of acupuncture is relatively positive, although the trials undertaken are often methodologically flawed and rather small to be used as a basis for definitive statements. The most recent systematic review in 2009 reached this conclusion, and nothing significant has been published more recently to change this view.
However, although mainstream acupuncture treatment is used to deal with the problems of alcoholism, there are a great many projects which use a more limited form of acupuncture, ear acupuncture or auricular acupuncture as it is often known. There are two very large national groups, NADA-UK ( http://www.nadauk.com/) and SMART-UK (http://www.smart-uk.com/) whose members offer the five-point protocol and other formula treatments for helping people to deal with the problems of alcohol, and details of where practitioners can be found are on both websites. A great deal of their work is done in drop-in facilities, and some provide additional support and counselling as a part of the service.
There are also a substantial number of practitioners who belong to the Microsystems Acupuncture Regulatory Working Group which is registered with the PSA-accredited Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. This group includes a number of organisations whose members offer more sophisticated auricular treatment than simple protocols, and their details can be found here (http://www.macrwg.org/).
This does not mean that the ordinary BAcC member does not treat people with alcohol problems, and many do to great effect. Our experience, however, is that the group setting of the detox projects often adds considerable value to the treatment through the peer pressure and encouragement which abounds. It may still be worthwhile seeking the advice of a local BAcC member, however. There are huge variations in the experience of alcoholism, from falling down drunk to a simple realisation that the end of work day drink is becoming a necessity rather than a treat, and our members may well be able to provide exactly what someone needs.
Q: Please could you tell me what the qualification "MAcS" stands for and what standing it has in Britain?
A: As far as we are aware, the designatory letters 'MAcS' are used by only one UK acupuncture body, the Acupuncture Society. Details of the different varieties of membership of this body can be found here:
As far as standing is concerned, there is no statutory regulation of acupuncture in the UK, so all designatory letters serve only to identify that a practitioner belongs to a professional body to which they are accountable for their professional conduct and safe practice. These also generally offer a guarantee of professional indemnity insurance cover, either through the association or as a condition of continuing membership.
The only scheme which kitemarks standards for voluntary registers is the Professional Standards Authority's Assured Voluntary Register scheme. The BAcC was one of the first professional bodies to meet their exacting requirements and members of the BAcC are allowed to use the PSA's kitemark on their promotional material.
Q: I am writing with a query regarding my husband. He had a vasectomy in August and unfortunately, due to complications during the procedure, has suffered a trapped nerve on one side which is still painful at certain times. He has been referred to a consultant and been told there is no corrective procedure for this and he would just have to make use of long term pain relief, but he does not want to take long term medication. We are wondering if acupuncture would be able to relieve the pain from this trapped nerve and, if so, what would be involved?
Treatment would involve either needles and moxibustion, the use of a burning Chinese herb, and your husband can rest assured that needles do not have to ber applied locally to achieve an effect, or no-one would ever seek help with haemorrhoids ever again. The majority of points used in early sessions lie on the lower arm and lower leg, with a number of more powerful ones on the trunk and back.
shows. Indeed, much of the early research into acupuncture in the West was focused on this area after seeing some of the film of operations in the East performed under acupuncture and demonstrations of dramatic reductions in pain that people appeared to experience from a few needles. Of course, the main western preoccupation was to make sense of this in terms of neurotransmitter chemicals or natural painkillers like endorphins and enkephalins, rather than understanding it as a reinstatement of the proper flow of energy, or 'qi' in an area, but we were grateful anyway to see acupuncture being taken more seriously.
A great deal depends on how your husband's nerve is trapped. If there is impingement of the nerve a great deal depends on whether there is post-operative inflammation in the surrounding tissue which treatment may be able to help to reduce, thus breaking the cycle of pain, or whether the operation has simply caused the nerve to be jammed between physical structures where change is less likely. There is no doubt that acupuncture treatment may well be able to achieve some pain relief, and the main issue is usually how much and how sustainable that change is.
Usually there is no way of predicting how someone will respond in circumstances like this, and most practitioners will probably say that the best way is to have a couple of sessions to allow them to assess the viability of treatment, based both on feedback from the patient and from signs and symptoms which they themselves interpret. In any event there should be some reaction within three to four sessions, and a responsible practitioner will draw a line in the sand then if the patient is not making progress, however pleasant the actual experience of treatment may be.
The best advice we can give is that you visit a BAcC member local to you and seek a face to face assessment of whether they think acupuncture treatment may be beneficial. There are a number of ways in which they cam make this assessment and we are confident that they will give you an honest view.