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Can you recommend someone who specialises in the treatment of ulcerative colitis?

A: It may sound rather odd to someone brought up within western medicine but there are very few areas of specialism within traditional acupuncture where we would recognised specific skills which someone could learn as a postgraduate option enabling them to claim to be an expert. There are three areas where the specific patient group - children, women in pregnancy and with fertility issues, and people with mental health problems - where we are looking carefully at what defines expert practice. We may eventually decide that working with these groups as a primary focus of treatment does mean that our members can claim to be offering expert practice, but for all other conditions we would regard them as being within the range of skills of all of our members.

This is essentially because Chinese medicine treats the person, not the condition. This viewpoint is not unique to Chinese medicine; the great Canadian physicial William Osler once famously said 'The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.' Indeed, in ancient China the specialist physician was regarded as an inferior doctor because of his limitations, and the generalist was held in high esteem.  Times change! It does mean that seeing the problem in its overall context is the best form of treatment, not simply applying a formula treatment for the disease label. This is why twenty people with the same western named condition might be treated in twenty different ways, depending on how the condition sat within their overall health picture.

Only for a few serious conditions, such as terminal illnesses or serious degenerative conditions like MND, do we occasionally make recommendations that a prospective patient see someone with greater experience, but that is only because we recognise that it can be overwhelming for a newly qualified practitioner to be dealing with a case which is not going to have a truly positive outcome. Getting worse slower is not the greatest encouragement to the newly qualified.

As far as UC is concerned, if you google the medical databases by using 'ncbi acupuncture ulcerative colitis' you will see a number of studies, mainly from  China, which show encouraging results. However, these are often treated with caution in the West because there are often methodological issues. These are not necessarily defects; the Chinese do not have the western obsession with showing whether it works or not  but rather more focus on the question of what works better. This often undermines its value in western medical eyes. The Chinese have been treating UC and its variants for over 2000 years, though, and its patterns  as understood in Chinese thought are well defined and studied.

The best advice, which we tend to give to all enquirers, is to visit a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment. This will give a far better idea of what you may be able to expect by way of benefits. Most members  are happy to do this without charge.

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