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We are very sorry to hear that you have lost your practitioner after so many years. Sadly as we become a more mature profession this has started to happen a little more frequently. We know just how much people value the fact that there is someone who has seen them through a great deal and with whom there is no need to go over ground that is already long familiar.

In these situations we always advise people to contact other local practitioners, and for want of a better word 'interview' them. You will find that nearly all will agree to talking to you for a long enough time to see if they and where they work are to your taste, and if they won't then to some extent you have already saved yourself the bother of someone who probably isn't going to be the one for you. From the practitioner's perspective this makes perfect sense. You have shown a commitment to long term treatment, and as such they would be 'inheriting' someone who is very likely to be coming to them for some time.

Although it should be possible for any new practitioner to get hold of the existing notes we find that most patients and practitioners in this situation like to make a fresh start. We all have slightly different ways of approaching our work, and although case history is important there are other factors which are likely to be more central to a new beginning.

You will probably find that if someone has been around for a very long time there are going to be colleagues who have been inspired by him and try to emulate the way he worked. This might well make your selection a great deal easier because it is very likely that you will be directed towards people with whom he was in close contact. 

There is occasionally some merit in having a trial session. We knew of one practitioner whose manner with patients was wonderful but whose needle technique might have been described as 'brusque'. It is, after all, acupuncture that you are signing up to, so if someone really doesn't suit you in that department it would be good to find out sooner rather than later.

We hope that this helps and that you find someone who will last at least another thirty years.

As far as we are aware, the BAcC retains all the materials relating to complaints about a practitioner's conduct or behaviour indefinitely. There are very few each year, so there is no logistical problem about keeping them. The logic behind retaining them indefinitely is that if a pattern emerges over time then even where a complaint is not pursued or no ruling is made. 

The only minor complication would arise if the complaint were not to be about the conduct or performance of a practitioner but about the consequences of a treatment, i.e. the basis for an insurance claim. Along with most other healthcare professions members of the BAcC are required to retain their treatment notes for a minimum of seven years (or seven years after the age of majority for a child under sixteen, so theoretically as much as twenty three years) for insurance purposes. The insurers rarely have claims arising after three years from point of treatment, and although the insurance cover lasts indefinitely if the member was insured at the time, there are a number of data protection issues about holding on to historical information about past patients.

This might mean that although the BAcC may have a record of a complaint eight years ago and all of the attendant statements from the time, the primary record may no longer exist. In most cases this is not so; unless we are pressed for storage space we tend to hold on to files for much longer because people do return after a decade for treatment. There does come a point, though, where it is unreasonable to be holding personal information taken a very long time ago, and where there can be no real justification for hanging on to material.

We hope this answers your question. If you wish to re-visit the matter then you can always contact our Ethics Secretary on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for specific advice.

Q: I finish law university but I want to become professional acupuncturist. I would like to know which schools offered the best knowledge which can be approved anywhere especially in Europe.  I would prefer to learn it in China or Japan but if there is any good school in Europe It can be my choice as well.

A: We can only really comment on the schools of which we are aware in the UK. The ones of which we have direct knowledge are those accredited by the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board, whose website https://baab.co.uk/ offers a wealth of useful information about training in traditional acupuncture in the UK. Graduates of accredited course have automatic eligibility to enter the BAcC, subject to acceptable health and criminal record checks.

The issue for you, though, is that while there is no statutory regulation of acupuncture in the UK, which means that people can practise with all sorts of level of qualification under what is called common law, this is not the case across Europe. Some countries, like France and Italy, still technically regard acupuncture practised bu non-doctors a criminal act, while others like Germany and Holland, have secondary requirements for anyone wanting to operate as a healthcare practitioner. As such there are no qualifications which guarantee that someone can move freely around Europe as an acupuncture practitioner. The same would apply even if you travelled to China or Japan to get your qualification. In the BAcC we have no reciprocal recognition of qualifications with other countries, and we interview every candidate for entry who is not a UK graduate. We believe the same applies elsewhere.

It may well be that you have to work back to front - decide where you might want to work and then investigate what the baseline qualification is for these countries, and also whether you would be able to get  away with practise as a non-doctor. In France, for example, we know of few prosecutions, even though many traditional practitioners work there, and when people are caught the fines they get are strangely equivalent to what the registration fees would have been had they been official.

We do belong to a European network, the ETCMA http://www.etcma.org/, and it may be possible to use the contact details from here to ask member colleagues what currently applies in their countries, and what the relationship is between training and registration.

Q: I have tennis elbow in both arms the right arm is worse than the left.ive had 4 treatments now which lasts half an hour each time. After I have a 15 min massage the massage is so rough that the pain wants to make me cry. I was told I have bad circulation and that's why the massage is rough. So then I spend 4 days in pain after getting over the experience to go back 3 days later to have it all over again. The problem is the gentleman doesn't speak much English so I find it hard to ask him questions and get answers  I'm not seeing any progress at the moment  my question is is this normal for me to still have pain and should the massage be so vigorous?

A: We are sorry to hear of your experience.  It certainly does not help that the practitioner is not able to communicate very easily. However, we have to say that you need to be aware that you are in charge in the treatment room, and that the practitioner can only work with your consent. If you decide that the massage is too rough and ask him to stop it, then stop it he must or be guilty of common assault. It is then his problem/challenge to use his skills to circumvent the problem of not being able to get the qi moving by vigorous massage. There are always ways!

Should there be progress by now? That is a very difficult question to answer. It depends a great deal on the severity of the initial problem. Our factsheet has some reasonable evidence for the benefit of acupuncture treatment

https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/tennis-elbow.html

but there are widely different degrees of the problem, and in some cases it can take half a dozen sessions to get the energy moving and undo the stagnation of the energy.

However, that said, the treatment should not be causing pain four days later, and unless there are stunningly good clinical results to back up continuation it would seem entirely legitimate to question whether the course of treatment is really going anywhere. There has to come a point after about four or five sessions where one can say with some certainty whether it looks like the treatment will succeed, and if it doesn't then it is important to draw a line in the sand and stop.

It is not our job to talk one of our possible members out of a job, but you need to discuss this situation with him, and if the answer doesn't help you then perhaps you might need to re-consider whether he is the best practitioner for you. We have always been very insistent that a practitioner must have sufficiently good English to address a patient's concerns because we are all too well aware of the consequences of people feeling that they haven't been heard.

And the bottom line is that it's a buyer's market. If you aren't happy with the treatment there are probably a great many other practitioners close by to whom you can transfer.

Q: I have trapped nerves in my lower back. My pain radiates down my left leg into my foot. I have now had three sessions of acupuncture. Both of my legs feel a lot worse. They ache tingle and throb. Walking is more difficult for me and I walk a lot slower. I should be having another three sessions but I am reluctant to go back.

A: We are sorry to hear that you seem to have developed slightly worse or different symptoms after your treatment.

We would be very surprised to find that the acupuncture has actually made things worse in a directly causal way. Short of sticking a needle into a nerve there isn't a great deal a practitioner can do in the lower back which would generate the symptoms of which you speak. The only time we have come across this is when someone has a trapped nerves because of changes in physical structure, and the muscles have been guarding to hold the vertebrae apart. If treatment caused these to relax, then it is just possible that this has let bony structures change position and increase the level of impingement. We do know that physios offer this as a caution when treating lower back pains and nerve impingement, but they do tend to use more vigorous techniques than we do, and this can magnify the effects.

Another, and more likely possibility, is that the treatment has started to encourage the structure of the spine into a better shape. We do sometimes find that after long periods of operating out of shape the body's musculature can start to adapt, so when improved function starts to bring the structure back into alignment some muscles relax and others tighten to accommodate the new position, both of which can generate mildly unpleasant symptoms.

Of course, the third and less palatable possibility is that something has changed or deteriorated in the back alongside rather than because of treatment, and this has created new and unpleasant symptoms such as those you now have. This can sometimes happen, and we encourage our members not to get into pointless arguments about what caused the problem but to get the person seen by their GP as quickly as possible to establish exactly is going on. This almost invariably points to causation, but crucially it makes sure that someone gets the correct attention first.

We think your best first step is to discuss the matter with your practitioner. It may simply be a matter of adapting the treatment to suit you better, perhaps by working away from the problem area or reducing the strength of treatment. If they cannot see any reason why what they have done could have caused these problems, then they will probably refer you to your GP for further examination.

We would say 'don't panic', though - we have known of very few cases where acupuncture treatment has caused serious long term adverse effects, and the majority of these have been to do with actual physical damage caused by the needles, not reactions to treatment itself. We hope you feel confident enough to talk to your practitioner about what has happened, and remind you that you are in charge in the treatment room, so if you are not happy with proceeding, then you can just draw a line straight away and stop.

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