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Q:  Is  there  any truth in the micro acupuncture treatment for stargardt eye disease? We found many mentions of it and  the success after treatment.  Is this true?  is there anyone in the uk who  provides this treatment and  would you know roughly  the cost?

A:  The treatment of Stargardt's Syndrome with acupuncture, along with a number of similar conditions like retinitis pigmentosa, is a cause of some concern to us. There is very little research into the use of acupuncture for treating these problems, and it would be difficult to give a recommendation for treatment on the basis of what there is. At the same time there are a number of clinics using acupuncture, both in North America and in India, which claim some fairly remarkable results. We are as a consequence cautious, because although conventional medicine can often be dismissive of anecdotal evidence, it is often anecdotal evidence which points the way for more formal studies.

In the case of microsystems work you are fortunate insofar as there is a separate regulatory association for many of the microsystems, and their secretary is a BAcC member with a very sound understanding of the subtleties involved in these questions. He can be contacted through the website, and perhaps direct you to any of his constituent associations who treat this condition.

In general, we tend to take the view that with genetic conditions in which progressive deterioration is the usual outcome, one has to be realistic about what cna be achieved. 'Getting worse slower' may not sound like a very positive outcome, but as we have found when treating people with Parkinson's disease or MS, any slowing down of the disease is welcomed. There will be no research to validate claims of this kind because no-one has a clue about how fast an untreated disease may have progressed, but many patient's express a certainty that their conditions have stabilised with treatment.

Our best advice is that you proceed with caution and be rightly suspicious of any claims that sound too good to be true, because in our experience they usually are. Genetic conditions do not suddenly reverse of their own accord. If you do find someone who claims to treat this as a condition, set a very finite number of sessions with some very clear outcomes if you do go ahead. The average first session/subsequent session fee range for our members is £75/£50 in London, and £60/£40 outside London, if this helps to get a sense of proportion.

We have to say that targeting a condition as a unique problem is not the way that traditional acupuncture is practised. The underlying wisdom of the Chinese medicine system is that symptoms, of whatever kind, are simply an expression of a lack of balance in the whole system, and that in order to effect lasting and permanent change one has to work on the system as a whole. However, there are a number of conditions for which slightly more western orientated strategies have developed, especially in the microsystems acupuncture world, and their continued use suggests that there may be something which this approach can offer for a number of problems where someone's health is otherwise fine except for the unique presenting problem.

A:As you can imagine we have been asked this before, and the increasingly long answer, sweeping up all previous ones, which we most recently posted says:

A:We publish a fact sheet

which summarises the current research into the use of acupuncture in this area, but it has to be said that the amount of research is not adequate for us to give an unqualified endorsement of the use of acupuncture for Hashimoto's.

We were asked a similar question last year and we answered as follows:

Q: Can acupuncture be used to treat hypothyroidism ?

A: There isn't a great deal of research to underpin a straight recommendation for the use of acupuncture in the treatment of hypothyroidism.

What there is suggests that acupuncture may be of benefit, but this is a condition for which some form of maintenance medication is often essential and this makes testing it in trial conditions somewhat more difficult.

For the same reason our members are always told to be cautious in treating conditions where someone is on essential medication. Recommending that someone stops their medication is out of the question - only a doctor should be making this decision in the case of essential meds - and there is always an issue about adjustment. If the treatment has the effect of improving someone's thyroid function it may then mean that the dose of medication which they take may no longer be suitable. Since it often takes a long time to achieve a stable balance with the medication in the first place, it is important to avoid as much as possible the kind of yo-yo adjustments which people often experience when they are first prescribed their medication.

That said, the important point to make is that the Chinese would have recognised the symptoms of hypothyroidism two thousand years ago but have no idea about the relationship they had to a thyroid malfunction. The symptoms would have been analysed within the diagnostic systems of Chinese medicine, and a treatment plan devised to help correct them. The Chinese understanding of human physiology was entirely different, and rested on a concept of energy, called 'qi', and its various functions and inter-relationships. The kinds of symptoms which someone experiences with hypothyroidism would be linked to a failure of organic function as understood by the Chinese, and even where there was no explicit correspondence, the underlying premise, that where there is balance symptoms disappear, would nonetheless apply.

If you are thinking of having treatment it would be good to see if you can discuss your specific presentation first with one of our members, and see if they feel that this is something which they feel would be of benefit to you.

We would not really want to say anything more than this. There is certainly anecdotal evidence of which we are aware that patients have benefited from acupuncture treatment, but equally there is evidence of treatment having little or no effect. Since the essence of Chinese medicine treatment is that it is individualised, in the absence of more research we tend to be more circumspect and recommend that someone gets a face to face assessment of what may be possible.

We think that this remains sound advice, and believe that it is better to obtain advice on a case by case basis. The fact that you are in the very early stages of the condition does lend itself to greater hope that forms of treatment like acupuncture, which aim to restore homeostasis in the system as a whole, may be a very useful intervention, but a great deal will depend on the exact analysis of the condition which you have and of the possible predisposing factors which might have a bearing on what might be achieved.

A:  We only register individual members, not clinics, and we have checked our records and cannot find anyone who is working from a clinic of this name in Harley Street.
However, we did find this website
which we believe may be the clinic to which you are referring. If so, these are practitioners who were trained in Southern Ireland, and the principal belongs to one of the several acupuncture associations based in Ireland, the PRTCM
What level of jurisdiction they have over members living and working in the UK is a moot point. We have Overseas members in Southern Ireland, and we have on rare occasions been asked to take up matters by patients who have sought treatment with them, but to be honest we would be stretched in any complaint was sufficiently serious to warrant a full hearing. We make this clear in our statements to the public about the levels of jurisdiction which we have over Overseas members.
That said, all practitioners working in London are governed by local authority legislation, and need to be properly licensed unless they belong to an exempt body which meets the criteria of the London Local Authorities Act 1991. I doubt that the PRTCM has met this requirement, and this means that the practitioners will have been licensed and inspected by the relevant local authority.
We hope that this is sufficient information to be going on with.

Q:  I am looking to start a course at the OICCT, a college in Northampton which is a 3 year course in acupuncture but I am not sure if it is accredited and whether I would be able to join you as an acupuncturist and gain insurance through yourselves or the CThA. Have you heard of this course and is it safe to study with them?

A:  We have to be honest and tell you that until you brought this course to our attention we had no idea that it existed. It looks as though it is a relatively new venture set up by a group of committed individuals, which is precisely how the first acupuncture teaching institutions in this country were set up in the 60s and 70s. However, there isn't enough detail on the website for us to be able to make a judgement on what it offers.
What we can say is that we are not aware that it has contected the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board yet. The BAAB was set up over twenty years ago as an independent standard setting body by the Council for Acupuncture, the BAcC's precursor body. Accreditation is not simply about the details of the course but about the facilities and resources of the teaching institution itself. What it seeks to guarantee is that students are fully supported in their studies and that properly resourced reflective learning means that the end product is a practitioner capable of independent practice.
The standards which the Board sets can be found on its website, along with a list of the teaching institutions which have met and continue to meet its requirements ( Graduates of accredited courses are automatically eligible to join the BAcC, subject to decalarations about health and criminal records. All other applicants from courses outside the UK or no-accredited courses within the UK have to go through our external applicant route which uses the BAAB standards as its benchmark.
There remains no statutory regulation of acupuncture in the UK, and the only legal requirements for practice are registration with local authorities outside London, and licensing within Greater London unless you belong to an exempt registering body. More authorities are now checking the bona fides of someone's training but a three year course should pass muster. Insurance is never a problem. Although insurance is integral to the BAcC package, there are brokers who are well known inside the wider profession who insure many other individual practitioners.
The best that we can say is that a new course without provenance may need a careful look before committing. Its fees are a little lower than the private courses elsewhere, but that may be because there os more distance learning for some elements of the course. We simply don't know, and it would not be fair of us to make a judgement on so little information. What we always say to potential students is that it is always best to visit the courses within travelling distance to see what they offer and whether it is a good fit for what they want to achieve. Most offer regular open days, and if you are a long way from one most will offer you the chance to visit and discuss the course in more detail.  

Q:Can acupuncture help with insomnia.. Where can I find one in the Norwich, Norfolk area?

A: We were asked this question last year at the time of Acupuncture Awareness Week, and our response was:

Q: Can acupunture definitely help with sleep problems?

A: As our BAcC factsheet shows

there is some encouraging evidence which suggests that acupuncture has a role to play in helping people to deal with longstanding sleep problems. Indeed, the issue is a very topical one; we are just about to launch Acupuncture Awareness Week and Toyah Wilcox has lent her support to the venture because she found acupuncture to be a very effective solution to a sleep problem which she had had for many years. Her story can be found here:

From a Chinese medicine perspective there are a number of well established patterns which explain why the mind refuses to close down at night even though the person is physically exhausted. A skilled practitioner will want to know not simply about the sleeping patterns but about everything else to do with daily functioning, and it is highly probable that there will be other signs and symptoms which will show or confirm what is out of balance and needs to be corrected and harmonised.

Delightful as Toyah Wilcox's account is, though, her response to treatment was exceptional. One of the real problems with sleeplessness is that the body gets used to patterns or habits, and it can sometimes take a while for the system to realise that change is possible. We have found patients who couldn't sleep until 2.00am desperately hanging on till 2.00am even though they were now properly exhausted and ready for sleep 'because that's my bedtime'. Many people know this experience well from trying to go to bed at 9.00pm ready for a journey at 4.00am and finding it really hard to do. So, helping someone back to a good sleep routine can often be a challenge but there are success stories.

As we often remind people, though, Chinese medicine works from an entirely different paradigm. Insomnia doesn't have a single specified treatment, and each person who cannot sleep does so in a way that is unique to them. The best advice will always be that given after a brief face-to face assessment by a BAcC member local to you, who can have a quick look at the overall diagnostic picture and offer you a candid assessment of how acupuncture may be able to help you.

We think that this still remains the best advice we can give.

We don't give out individual recommendations; we take the view that all of our members are well enough trained and qualified to be able to handle the vast majority of cases which arrive at their doors. The important thing is to find someone near to where you live, and our practitioner search function on our home page

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