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Ask an expert - general

161 questions

A:  We are not aware of any reason why someone with polycythaemia should not have acupuncture, and we have checked with our GP colleagues that this is also their understanding.
 
There is no evidence that we can find which suggests that acupuncture has been used to treat polycythaemia, although we are sure that there must have been many patients over the years with PV who have had treatment without harm. Chinese medicine obviously rests on an entirely different theoretical basis from conventional medicine, and blood disorders are recognised in a language that may sound strange to the west - blood stasis, blood deficiency, and so on - but we are unaware of any direct correlation between the symptoms of PV and Chinese medicine treatment.
 
We are confident, however, that there should be no problems arising from the use of acupuncture in someone whose PV is well-controlled by conventional means. 
 

A: As you can imagine this is a question we have been asked before. The answer we gave last year was:

The evidence for acupuncture helping people to stop smoking, either traditional acupuncture or ear acupuncture, is not that great. This was certainly the case when the BMA researched conditions for which acupuncture was effective over a decade ago, and nothing new in the field of acupuncture research has been published since to change that view.

 However, research for areas such as nicotine addiction or stress tends to employ a model of treatment which is rarely similar to the ways in which a traditional acupuncturist normally works. The use of formula points, the same ones applied time and time again, does not square with traditional treatment which is developmental and evolutionary - the results from a session help the practitioner to refine the diagnosis and inform amendments to how they treat the patient on the next visit. This is all premised on a system of Chinese medicine which aims to balance energies in the body in the simple belief that a system in balance tends to see a reduction in the symptoms which arise from underlying disharmony. Various forms of addiction, anxiety states and system failures are seen as the alarm bells of disease, and treatment is aimed at correcting the underlying patterns.

 It is often worthwhile talking directly and in person to a practitioner to get a sense of whether your own individual case is something which they believe they might be able to help. Using our 'find a practitioner' search on the website or your local Yellow Pages should identify a number of BAcC members working in your area.

This advice still holds good. We would like to say that the anecdotal evidence is good, but sadly it isn't. For some people, it appears that paying money to a health professional being told off or worse, being the object of disappointment, for smoking seems to work, but our sense is that the exact nature of the therapy is less important than the ritual involved. For many people, the attendance at a clinic is to meet someone else's need, and they light up as soon as they get outside.

 The last five years has seen a great deal of additional help available within the NHS, however, and if you haven't trawled through the information available and the various support mechanism in place, these are well worth a visit.  

Q: What protocols do all the acupuncturists follow also what legislation is most important to acupuncture?

A:  A slightly difficult question to answer!
 
Taking the easier half first, since there is no statutory regulation of acupuncture practice, the only laws which directly apply to the practice of acupuncture are those to do with the safety and hygiene of premises. For most of the UK the relevant legislation is Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1982 as amended by the Local Government Act 2003. This requires every practitioner to register with the local authority's environmental health department, and requires a one-off fee for every practitioner in every premise where they work. Some authorities conduct annual inspections, but the majority don't.
 
The only exceptions are Greater London and Scotland. In Greater London, nearly all boroughs have adopted the London Local Authorities Act 1991 which requires acupuncturists to be licensed annually unless they belong to an exempt body, of which the BAcC is one. Statutorily regulated practitioners are also exempt from licensing. Although BAcC members are exempt from licensing there is a set of model requirements which they have to meet, largely the same as the BAcC's, and they have to notify the EHOs that they are working in a borough - exempt does not mean off the radar.
 
In Scotland the adoption of the new licensing system for skin piercing of all kinds in 2006 means that all acupuncture practitioners except those who are regulated by statute already are required to have an annual licence.
 
As far as ptotocols are concerned, the general requirements for acupuncture practice by BAcC members can be found at the website of the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (http://baab.co.uk/downloads.html) where the Standards for the Practice of Acupuncture and the Standards for Education and Training in Acupuncture can be found. We must stress that these are BAcC standards; other acupuncture professionals can do pretty much what they want, although the majority aspire to similar levels of competence.
 
The word 'protocol' is also used in a much more specific context in Chinese medicine to describe treatment options and patterns which a practitioner might adopt for conditions as understood in Chinese medicine. Any of the textbooks by Giovannie Maciocia would be representative of this kind of approach. This is largely what is called 'TCM', a specific style of treatment. There are many others, and in a broad church like the BAcC there could not be a definitive list of protocols of this kind which was not exhaustive to the point of being useless. There are a number of majority styles in use, however, like TCM, Five Element and Stems and Branches, on which a google search will provide a wealth of detail. You will also find that there are conventional medical practitioners using acupuncture within three main styles - segmental, trigger point and neurophysiological. Again a google search will provide the background you need.
 

Q: Can acupuncture help with weight lose?

 

A:  This question comes up relatively frequently, and one answer we gave was as follows:
 

Q. I am interested to know if acu will help with weight loss.

A. Weight loss was the subject of some critical scrutiny a decade ago, and the conclusion drawn at the time was that acupuncture did not have any significant effect on weight loss. However, trying to test whether acupuncture can help someone to reduce their weight is likely to be a difficult matter; there are dozens of reasons in Chinese medicine why someone's weight may be increasing. Trying to group together a sufficiently large number of patients whose western problem and eastern diagnosis are the same is extremely difficult.

 

In one or two cases there is a very direct correlation between someone's weight and their underlying imbalances from a Chinese medicine perspective. Correcting these may have an immediate impact on, say, the amount of fluid someone is carrying, and that could create a 3-5kg loss very quickly.

 

However, all of the best dietary programmes say that after the initial and often quite dramatic week or two most good weight loss programmes at best will see someone lose only a pound or two every month, and in fact, there is discouragement from trying to do more in order for the body's system to keep pace with the change. Acupuncture may well have been used successfully alongside some fairly strict dietary rules, and from a patient's perspective it would be very difficult to say whether the acupuncture treatment added value to what someone was doing already.

 

The bottom line is that there are are no 'magic' points which reduce someone's weight without effort, and the effect of acupuncture may be no more than to give someone the support and commitment to keep trying with diet and exercise programmes. However, if someone remains motivated as a consequence of acupuncturre treatment that itself would be a very positive outcome.

 

There is nothing that we would add to this advice other than to beware of anyone making promises they cannot keep about what acupuncture treatment can deliver. Some of the less reputable high street shops still appear to be making claims of a fairly speculative nature without any evidence which supports what they claim.

 

 


Q:  I would like to find a qualified practitioner who uses massage to help clear sinus. The emphasis is on massage not acupuncture needles which I dislike.

 

A: This is rather difficult for us to answer - acupuncture is what we do!
 
That said, there are a number of our members who also use tui na, a form of Chinese massage based on the same fundamental principles as traditional acupuncture. This forms a part of the basic training of some of the teaching institutions, but not all, and we do not keep separate records of which aspects of acupuncture each individual member uses in their practice. In these cases we tend to rely on the fact that our members are often our best resource for providing someone with exactly what they need. There are five BAcC members listed for the Deal area, and if you contact any one of these and explain what it is that you need, we are confident that they will provide you with a suitable referral to a BAcC member in the area who uses tui na as you wish.
 
There are likely to be a number of other practitioners offering tui na in the area, and although we are sure that most belong to reputanle associations it is important to check that anyone you find is properly trained and fully insured. Even though tui na is non-invasive, like any healthcare practice there are always slight risks and one of the primary reasons why our members get so much business is that we provide the levels of professional protection for the public which reassures them about our service and our members.