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78 questions

Q:  I have had four sessions so far but my practitioner also prescrobes herbal medicine Jin ui Shen Qui Wan and another capsule which has no name on the packaging - when questioned about what they are for she simply said they are herbal and wont do me any harm. Is it normal to have to take tablets alongside acupuncture?

A:  Chinese medicine includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, tui na (a form of massage), moxibustion (burning a warming herb) and cupping, as well as dietary advice and exercise (tai chi and qi gong). It is quite possible, therefore, to have chinese herbal medicine alongside acupuncture, and the BAcC has about 300 members who are also members of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and use herbs regularly, as well as a further 250 trained to use ready made herbal formulae.
Where a herbal product comes in a ready made form it is required by law to list the contents. If the formula is made up by the practitioner, then there is no need to list the contents, and in most cases the patient would be none the wiser if they did - we certainly wouldn't! However, if we had a list, it would mean that we could check if we wanted to, and that is the important thing. In the days of the internet it is possible to find out just about anything, and the patient has a right to know what they are being given.
We are sure that there are good reasons why the practitioner has not told you what they are giving you, probably to do with the rather obscure names of the contents, but a responsible practitioner will certainly accede to your request for a list of the contents. If that is not forthcoming, then you would be entitled to take that up with the professional association the practitioner belonged to, especially if it comes in packaged form and does not list what it contains. Capsules can be made by the practitioners, so this does not count as packaging, but industrially produced boxes would seem to indicate ready-made herbs whose contents should be listed.

Q: My 9 year old daughter has transverse myelitis. I am looking for an acupuncturist who understands her condition and is qualified to treat a child. Can you advise me?

A: We do not have agreed special qualifications for treating children. However, for a number of conditions children are not simply small adults, and there have developed over the years a number of courses in the UK which train practitioners in the treatment of children. This extends to how best to handle small children and babies, and how to modify the standard treatments to ensure that they are not too powerful for a child. Because we have not yet reached agreement on the standards which would enable someone to advertise themselves as expert practitioners in this field, the best advice we can give is to use google to search 'acupuncture and the treatment of children'. This will generate a number of websites belonging to course providers who list postgraduate diploma holders who may well work in your area.
As far as understanding the condition itself is concerned, although most BAcC members have a thorough grounding in Western medicine, this may not extend to all of the technical details of specific conditions. What we imagine will happen, however, is that a practitioner would as a part of their normal duty of care for a patient find out more about the specifics if they treated someone with a problem such as this. Of course, Chinese medicine is based on an entirely different theoretical structure from conventional medicine, working with a concept of energy,or 'qi', and its flow and balance. That said, symptoms are the same whatever the system of medicine which describes them, and a practitioner's skill lies in understanding how the symptoms present from an eastern rather than western perspective. This can sometimes generate treatment options which are not available within conventional medicine.
However, there are conditions, and this is one of them, where the structural changes in the body are such that it would be over-optimistic to expect change. There are a small number of case studies, such as
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which describe encouraging successes, but these are too sporadic to be used as a basis for claiming efficacy, and with far too many potentially contributory factors involved in the changes.
If you can locate a BAcC member local to you who has undertaken postgraduate training in the treatment of children we are confident that they will be able to offer you a realistic and honest assessment of what they may be able to do for your daughter.  


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. 

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.


Q:  I'm hoping to start a course of acupuncture within the next 2 weeks. However I'm currently taking birth control pills. I understand this can cause problems? Im currently in my 7 pill free days. would you advise I don't restart taking the pill and start the acupuncture?


A:  We are aware that there are some practitioners who feel that the energetic effects of contraceptive pills are sufficiently powerful to create imbalances in someone's overall energy, and have been known to give advice to the patient that they should desist. A good example of this kind of logic can be found on one of the leading US acupuncture sites
where the author stops short of saying someone shouldn't use them at all but speaks about the complications they cause in trying to establish balance in the system.
Our view is that you have to weight up the disbenefits of using elective medications like the pill against the disadvantages of not using them, in this case pregnancy or a potential return to menstrual problems which the pill can quite often be prescribed to deal with. If someone started taking the pill simply for contraception and is quite happy with the alternative methods, then that probably removes one or two consequences of treatment which make the overall patten clearer. A qualified practitioner, though, will be well aware of the likely energetic effects of taking hormones and factor that into their diagnosis.
Let's face it, if not taking the pill means that there is significantly greater risk of falling pregnant that is a life-changing event, and that has to be set against the problems for which you are seeking treatment. Our usual position is that it is better to carry on with the pill and work with the practitioner to see exactly how much it is impacting on the system before taking a step that may have very significant consequences.


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