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Ask an expert - general

157 questions

Q:  I am a PhD student in the field of Raynaud's disease and have recently been made aware of the potential benefit of acupuncture as an alternative Raynaud's treatment. My background is chiropractic and I have a Master of Chiropractic degree from the Welsh Institute of Chiropractic. My question is how would I begin to study acupuncture, and what courses are available? My brother is a Chiropractor and has done accredited weekend courses, but I am unsure if they are accredited with the BAAB as the duration seems too short. Any advice would be helpful.

A:  An interesting question! As you are probably already aware, the BAAB accredits courses which confer automatic elegibility for entry to the BAcC and a list of these can be found here:
These courses are all three year degree equivalent, and are designed to underpin a career as a practitioner in independent practice. For someone who has already completed the western sciences modules which are integral to the courses and up to a third of their overall content it is possible in some cases to get exemptions from these aspects of training. Timetabling usually means, however, that the course duration remains unchanged.
There are a number of courses for statutorily regulated healthcare professionals, notably those associated with entry to the two main special interest groups, the British Medical Acupuncture Society and the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists. These are intended to provide a background in Western medical acupuncture, and offer the possibility of using acupuncture as a technique within the scope of practice already applied, as long as their is an evidence base for the intervention.
This is something of a hot potato at the moment, though. These are not the only courses in town, and an increasing number of less credible courses are becoming available which are much shorter in duration and also stary into areas which are not within the normal scope of practice of the SR professionals who use them. Not surprisingly this proves extremely irritating to BAcC members who see this as illegitimate encroachment on their patch. Our broader concern is that applying limited knowledge outside a well-defined paradigm is likely to provide sub-optimal treatment, and this in turn leads people to conclude that 'acupuncture doesn't work for me' when in fact it may well do in the hands of a professional.
A great deal depends on the extent to which you want to practise as an acupuncturist. We are always more than happy to  see more people train as full-time traditional acupuncturists, but this is a major commitment. Our best advice is to visit any college open days of courses near to you and get a sense of whether this is a realistic and desirable option for you.  

Q:  I would like  to find an acupuncturist for stopping smoking.   I have had the procedure done twice . Once in 1983 and 1992, both successful.
 One pin in the ear for two weeks, can touch it when needing a cigarette and the need goes away.   Please can you tell me if there are any practitioners who use that technique?

A:  The technique for stopping smoking by using needles in the ear is obviously not a traditional one in the strict sense. However, the use of auricular acupuncture for helping to deal with addictions of all sorts has become very popular, and as you have found before, it can work well.
As far as BAcC members are concerned, we do not keep a record of those who have added this technique to their repertoire. The only thing we can advise is that you might use our practitioner search function on the BAcC home page and ask a BAcC practitioner who works locally to you for their advice, i.e. whether they do this particular treatment or whether they know someone they trust locally who does. Our members are usually a very helpful resource in terms of finding out who is good at what in a locality.
Failing that, there is a group of practitioners who practise limited forms of acupuncture, called microsystems acupuncture, who are grouped together in the Microsystems Acupuncture Regulatory Working Group. It is highly likely that one of these may be doing exactly what you need. They can be located at
Failing that you have the two big detox assocations, SMART-UK and NADA-UK whose websites are easy to find and whose members use very limited techniques such as the five-point protocol to good effect.
Whoever you manage to find, it is important to reassure yourself that they are properly regulated and insured.
As a coda, you may also do well to investigate what additional support is now available through your local NHS outlets. The materials and secondary support have become a great deal more sophisticated in recent years as the Government has ploughed money into helping people to break the addiction to cigarettes.  


Q:  I am enquiring which is the best acupuncture training course in London.  I already possess a Bsc Hons in Complementary Therapies and looking to do a post graduate course.

A:  We are afraid that we are not in a position to say which is the best acupuncture course in London. Clearly we believe that the courses accredited by the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board


which offer automatic eligibility for entry to the BAcC are all of a comparable high standard, but there are others on whose standards we are not able to pass comment.


The problem may well be to what extent you can have your current BSc taken into account in seeking an exemption from parts of the training. The degree level training which all accredited courses offer does contain at least two thirds of the full time training in the study of acupuncture. It is possible that you may be able to gain an exemption from the western medical component if your training already covered this, but whether some of the skills in your existing degree are generic and could be offset against the requirements of the teaching institution for the training is not clear.


What we can say with certainty is that there are very few postgraduate courses in traditional acupuncture which would enable someone with a health-related degree to become a BAcC member on completion. Most that exist are only provided for western medical acupuncture, which is seen as self-contained module and added to an existing scope of practice as another tool in the toolbox.


Your best bet is to establish contact with course leaders in the London area or easily commutable courses and discuss your individual case with them. We are aware, for example, that one of the university based courses in the capital did have an acupuncture programme running alongside a complementary therapy degree, and there were students who crossed from one course to another by virtue of the modular structure of the training. We understood that this has now ceased, but we may be wrong, and a direct approach to the courses may well be the best way forward.


In our view, the most likely outcome is that it may require another two years training to achieve the same entry level as the average degree entrant to the BAcC unless some of the components of your first degree are clearly replicating large chunks of the timetable for the dedicated acupuncture courses.  


Q:  I am considering having acupuncture re non surgical face lift, would you like to recommend a qualified person and what qualifications should they have?

A:  The advent of facial or cosmetic acupuncture is one of a number of areas where members undertake postgraduate training in a specific field to treat a particular group of patients. There are, however, as yet no agreed standards for each of these fields, of which cosmetic acupuncture is one.
All that we can say at this stage is that there are a number of courses which members and other practitioners offer in facial or cosmetic acupuncture which offer qualifications but none of these is as yet officially recognised. What we feel is that the use of these specific treatments is most effective if it is accompanied by treatment of the person according to traditional acupuncture principles. There aren'y different forms of acupuncture, and cosmetic acupuncture is not a separate field. The points uses are often in classical locations but there are a number of techniques which are not usually applied and for which people do have extra training.
As such there is no-one we can recommend as such, not any one qualification which we can vouchsafe. The best advice is to undertake a google search with the label 'facial acupuncture' or 'cosmetic acupuncture' and your area, and you will undoubtedly find one or two names. All that we can say is that you should ensure that anyone you go to belongs to a professional body and holds proper insurance. We have heard of beauty consultants undertaking weekend or day training, and we do not believe that this is adequate preparation for the safe and competent practice of acupuncture, nor that the techniques should be used without an underpinning of proper treatment.


Q:  Please do you have a list of acupuncturists who specialise in addictions therapy - especially in relation to gambling addictions?

A: Sadly we are not aware of anyone who specialises in the treatment of gambling addiction, nor are we entirely sure that acupuncture as a therapeutic intervention would be sufficient in itself to deal with this problem. There is usually, to use the jargon, a multifactorial approach, in which acupuncture is but one component.
There is very little by way of research in this field. If you google 'acupuncture' and 'gambling addiction' you will find a report commissioned in Ontario which concluded that acupuncture could at best be described as having a small but relatively unimportant effect and probably no effect at all. The study is well designed, although from a Chinese Medicine perspective the variety of treatments seems a little spartan. CM is predicated on individual treatments tailored to the unique needs of the patient, and delivering the same treatments to an entire group would not always be appropriate. However, the points used were some of the more powerful on the body and if there were to be an effect, they would surely generate it.
You may find that some of the groups contained within the acupuncture microsystems group registered with the CNHC might extend their work in auricular acupuncture to gambling. This database can be found at There are also two organisations, NADA UK and SMART UK which deal with alcohol and drug addiction, each having several thousand members using the five point protocol and similar techniques. You may also find that these have a number of people who have dealt with gambling addiction.


In general, we tend to believe that Chinese medicine, treating as it does the person as much as the condition they have, can achieve some fairly extraordinary changes in all manner of conditions. For problems such as addictions, however, we tend to be more cautious, especially since we are aware that it often requires a more experienced practitioner not to be outflanked by a patient who is often very skilled at avoidance and deception.


It is always worthwhile talking to a BAcC member local to you to see what advice they can offer directly, and they may be aware of local initiatives. There are also practitioners in various fields such as hypnotherapy who may be able to offer solutions, but these are notoriously difficult to sort out by virtue of qualification alone, and a personal recommendation would be extremely useful. This 'expert' rather likes the approach taken by people using Ericksonian hypnotherapy methods, but these are also used in business coaching and not everyone who claims to be using the technique will necessarily be able to deal with a problem like addiction.