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Q: My uncle has just completed treatment for bowel cancer and he's suffering really badly with burning hot feet. I asked a family friend, who is an acupuncturist, if she thought treatment would help. She seemed to know the symptoms I'd described and called it 'something' syndrome (I can't remember what the name of it was and now I'm not able to get back in touch with her to clarify). Is this something that you are familiar with and could you offer any advice - including if there are any specialists in this area in the north west of England?
A: While we admire our colleague's diagnostic prowess (!), we'd have to say that the symptom has to be seen in the wider context of the patient's overall patterns of energy. While there may be one or two syndromes where this symptom is central to the diagnosis, it is always possible that it is a secondary reaction to a deeper underlying pattern which could only really be identified by looking very carefully at all aspects of someone's functioning.
We don't know exactly what treatment your uncle has had, although very often it involves surgery and chemotherapy, and occasionally radiotherapy, but we do know that it usually has significant effects on the whole system, and that includes body, mind and emotions. It is really important to be able to assess first hand what effects it has had. This is why in Chinese medicine the same symptom can be treated in dozens of different ways. Even in conventional medicine the great Canadian physician William Osler famously said 'it is more important to find out what patient has the disease than what disease the patient has.'
The best course of action for your uncle is to visit a BAcC member local to him to see if they can give him a brief face to face assessment of whether in their view he would benefit from treatment. The great majority are willing to do this without charge in order to give the patient as much information as possible before they commit to treatment. There are no specialists in this field, but this is not because of the field but because of the nature of Chinese medicine which treats the person, not the named condition. In reality, though, so common is cancer and its treatment in modern times it would be unusual to find a practitioner who has not had experience of treating someone who is recovering after cancer treatment.
Q: I'm planning to study intensive acupuncture in Goa (India). I would like to know if I will be able to work in the UK after that and if I could be registered with the British Acupuncture Council.
A:There is regulation of acupuncture by the state in the UK, so in theory anyone is free to practise. However, local authorities operate local laws which govern all skin piercing activities which means that a practitioner has to be registered or licensed to practise. The grant of a licence or registration depends on the practitioner showing that they meet all the requirements for safe practice and that their premises are also sutable. Many local authorities now check the standard of someone's training, and undertake basic checks of being properly insured. The only exceptions are in London where belonging to a professional body on the list of exempt organisations means that a practitioner does not have togold a licence, although they are still required to let the authority know they are there. As far as intensive training courses are concerned, it is only fair to tell you that the BAcC had some quite difficult arguments with other UK acupuncture associations some years ago because of our insistence on a minimum of 3600 hours training over three years. We do not believe that you can train to be a sound and effective practitioner in less time than this, and we regard the clinical element of the training, where someone learns through supervised reflective practice as critical. It is perfectly possible to learn the basic theory in much less time than this, but in our view that is not in itself a good basis for practice. We only give automatic eligibility to graduates of accredited colleges. However, we do have an entry route for practitioners who trained elsewhere which uses the same criteria and we have known of cases where people have taken a shorter training and then succesfully applied to us after they have used their skills in clinical practice for several years, but as the professional standards are being raised year after year, we do not expect to see many people being admitted to the BAcC with less than a three year training. This is, after all, the World Health Organisation's recommendation for a non-medical practitioner in independent practice.
A: There are no specific points for raising body temperature. There are a number of reasons in Chinese medicine why the body as a whole might be cold or why specific parts of the body may be cold, but the nature of Chinese medicine is that the practitioner treats the person, not necessarily the symptom in itself. Although the practitioner might describe a patient as Yang Deficient, often manifesting in coldness, there are many different ways in which a Yang Deficiency can both manifest and be created. The choice of points would reflect the specific nature of the unique balance of the individual.
There are plentiful lists of 'cookbook' or formula acupuncture on the internet, and there are often generic points which might appear in many of the possible treatments for Yang Deficiency. We always have a concern, however, that used out of specific context these points may have no effect or no lasting effect, and although they are unlikely to cause any harm, our experience is that people tend to walk away from treatments which cause them transient adverse effects, and we believe that point recommendations without specific diagnosis are not to be trusted.
The best advice, if you are experiencing coldness, is to visit a BAcC member local to you and seek their advice from a brief face to face assessment. This will give you a much clearer idea of what may be possible than that which we can give you here.
A: >There are no specific points for raising body temperature. There are a number of reasons in Chinese medicine why the body as a whole might be cold or why specific parts of the body may be cold, but the nature of Chinese medicine is that the practitioner treats the person, not necessarily the symptom in itself. Although the practitioner might describe a patient as Yang Deficient, often manifesting in coldness, there are many different ways in which a Yang Deficiency can both manifest and be created. The choice of points would reflect the specific nature of the unique balance of the individual.
Q: Who are the people who access more acupuncture treatments? Educated or non-educated people?
A:We have no data on which we can base any comment.
It used to be something of a piece of 'received wisdom' that traditional acupuncture was a middle class preserve for financial reasons. Indeed some of the more innovative ways of providing acupuncture, such as community clinics and mutli-bed clinics, have their origins in the United States where a very forceful group argued that acupuncture would be beyond the means of working people without initiatives such as these.
However, in our view this may not be the case at all. Although the cost of treatment has risen over the years it is no longer beyond the means of an ordinary working person. Nor is there a direct correlation between class and educational background as there may have been thirty or forty years ago, leaving aside what 'educated' might mean.
Essentially, the message of traditional Chinese medicine is not one which requires a great deal of intellectual capacity or the ability to understand esoteric concepts. The very direct way in which it describes and addresses the sorts of problems which everyone has makes its message easily accessible, and it is always very reassuring when giving talks to audiences of all kinds to see the recognition which greets some of the descriptions of the ways in which disharmony and imbalance can affect the body, mind and spirit.
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