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.Q:  Is it possible to have acupuncture for the help of getting my taste and smell back?

A:  This question comes up from time to time, and one of the answers we gave was:

Most of what people regard as 'taste' is in fact 'smell', and if someone has lost their sense of smell entirely the range of tastes which they can experience is very limited. There is a frequently cited case study from nearly a decade ago
which reports the successful treatment of one case, but in all honesty there are very few others, and no substantial evidence suggesting that this has been replicated by other practitioners. Most members have had patients for whom the loss of the sense of small. anosmia, has been a secondary complaint, but we have heard very few reports of great success.
It may be worth you while to visit a BAcC member local to you to ask their advice face to face. If you were to decide to have acupuncture treatment, or indeed any treatment from a complementary medicine practitioner, we would advise you to be very clear about outcomes and reviews of progress. Our experience is that people can rapidly run up considerable costs chasing solutions when there is nothing substantive to suggest the treatment is having any effect, and the responsible practitioner will always draw a clear line in the sand if they are not achieving changes which the patient can experience and which underpin continued treatment. 

Essentially we would not want to give you an unrealistic expectation about the outcome. We have not heard many reports of this condition being treated successfully, and there are very few case reports on the web which report success.

We have edited out some bits of the answer because the questioner had also problems with excessive mucus production, and we could not say without a face to face examination whether there may be some aspect of this which was the principal reason why the sense of smell had gone. It may well be that if you visit a BAcC member for advice they can see something in the energetic presentation and balance which similarly encourages them to believe that there may be a solution. There may also be something in the way in which your sense of smell and taste went which encourages then.

The bottom line, though, is that if you are fortunate enough to find that it works, you may be the exception rather than the rule.

Q:  I have had a cough for almost 18 years, following a bout of tonsilitis. It is a powerful, barking cough (I have suffered broken ribs on two occasions as a result of coughing).  I wondered whether acupuncture might be able to help?

We are sorry to hear about your experience; that is a very long time to be troubled by something for which no solution has been found and which has the capacity to do physical damage.

We are going to have to assume that you have had all the tests known to conventional medicine. There are a number of acute and then acute-on-chronic conditions which can produce a cough of lasting severity, but they all offer treatment options and you haven't mentioned being on any specific form of treatment. We're also going to assume that you still have your tonsils; it would not have come as a surprise to hear that this had been offered as a solution.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, the body, mind and emotions are all a manifestation of an energy called 'qi', pronounced 'chee', of which everything consists and whose orderly flow in defined channels maintains our health and well-being. The diagnostic systems of Chinese medicine are all geared to understanding where and how this flow has been disrupted. This is a subtle and skilled art; problems do not always lie where the symptoms appear, such is the inter-connectedness of the system, and treatment aimed at palliating a symptom without reference to the whole picture are less likely to be successful. After viral infections it is not uncommon for their to be long-term deficiencies, and in some cases straightforward blockages where the system can no longer cope and instead, for example, allows the accumulation of fluids in the lungs which trigger the coughing reflex. Sometimes the problem can be more subtle still; people have patterns of behaviour for such a long time the whole system adjusts around them.

It is very difficult to offer a diagnosis at this level of remove and we are not going to try. We do think, that it would be well worth your while visiting a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment of what might be going on. If the practitioner can see an obvious cause in Chinese medicine terms it may well be worth having a short course of treatment to see if there is any benefit. Even if there is no obvious cause it may still be worthwhile; the roots of Chinese medicine lay in keeping the patient well rather than getting them better, and treatment was aimed at balancing the system as a whole in the simple but effective belief that a system in balance does not generate symptoms.

There are a number of postural interventions, like cranial osteopathy, which might also offer some benefit, and we are sure that if you see an acupuncturist who thinks this may be a good option, then they will probably be able to make a good referral on.

Q: What are the entry requirements for BAcC membership? What are the requirements for accreditation/registration, and what are the requirements for being retained on the register?

A:  The majority of new registrants of the BAcC are graduates of three year degree level courses which have been accredited by the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board, an independent body part funded by the BAcC. The courses are split between university courses which are often validated by the university itself and lead to a BSc, and private teaching institutions. You
can read a great deal about the courses themselves on the BAAB website,

The BAcC also has what we call an 'external applicant route'. The admissions process is spelled out clearly on our website at this

Essentially the standard we are looking for would be equivalent to that achieved by an accredited course graduate, and there is a
very detailed process of application which looks at course transcripts, experience of practice and skills to assess applicants who achieve membership after a summative interview.

Once someone becomes a member, the only requirement over and above complying with the Codes of Professional Conduct and Safe Practice is to complete a mandatory renewal declaration each year which informs the BAcC of any significant or material changes in practice or health/criminal issues of which we would not otherwise be aware.. In the form is a statement of
compliance with our annual CPD requirement which is stated as roughly 30 hours per year but undertaken through the creation of a Personal Development Plan. This is now being actively monitored in the same way that the HCPC/GOsC./GCC
oversees the requirements for CPD.

It is fair to say that it is very difficult to be able to assemble a degree equivalent training in traditional acupuncture without having
undertaken a structured training course at an accredited college. The appearance of a number of pre-registration postgraduate courses for first degree holders of two years duration may make the time commitment slightly less onerous, but the argument advanced by the course providers heading down this path is that the same hours (3600) are now compressed into the two years by
dint of shorter vacation periods. These courses are still the subject of quite heated debate.

We have in the past considered applications from people who have travelled to China and taken intensive courses, and we have also very occasionally looked at apprentice-style training as is found in Japan. As the process has tightened up, however, and now requires a great deal more documentary proof the chances of being able to complete the external applicant route reduce.

We are assuming from your address that you are a chiropractor, and we are happy to tell you that we have been trying for many
years to encourage the osteopathy and chiropractic registers and professional bodies to establish special interest groups equivalent to the AACP within the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists. This is mainly because we are concerned at people not knowing their limits of competence - you can't know what you don't know - but the formation of a special interest group tends to encourage
graduated training which moves people further along a route which might qualify them for BAcC membership. So far, though, this request has not generated much interest.

 We suppose the short and truthful answer to your question is 'no' if by it you mean 'can acupuncture accelerate a natural process?'. The rate at which young people enter adolescence can vary dramatically, and 'late starters' often accelerate very rapidly to catch up with their peers and sometimes overtake them. One of the basic premises of traditional acupuncture is that it encourages best function in the body, mind and spirit, and to this extent works within the potential which each person has by making everything function as well as it can. If the body has its own game plan for an adolescent, acupuncture treatment cannot change that by speeding things up.

That said, there can come a point where someone's growth may start to attract clinical attention, and where clinicians in orthodox medicine will start to commission hormone tests to see what is happening. Once this is the case, and a pathological pattern has been identified, there may be some scope for using acupuncture to help to normalise matters. The research evidence for the treatment of hormonal problems is a little sketchy, but slow growth and development in later adolescence has been examined by Chinese physicians for over 2000 years, and there are a number of ways of understanding and making sense of this within the terminology and conceptual framework of Chinese medicine.

However, our advice to any twelve year old who presented at our clinic would be to have patience and wait for changes which in the vast majority of cases will occur within the 'normal' band for teenage development. Only when someone reaches the end of this range at about 15 or 16 would most medical practitioners start to consider that things may not be as they should.

However, we wouldn't want to deter someone from trying acupuncture before that! In ancient times, acupuncture treatment was primarily aimed at keeping people well, not getting them better after they had become ill. This, said the ancient Chinese, was like digging a well when you were already thirsty or forging a spear after the battle had started. In a world dominated by disease labels and getting rid of problems treatment for healthy living and encouraging better function often get set aside from the way we present what we do, and we believe that we could perhaps be doing more to get this message across.  


Q:   My uncle has just completed treatment for bowel cancer and he's suffering really badly with burning hot feet. I asked a family friend, who is an acupuncturist, if she thought treatment would help. She seemed to know the symptoms I'd described and called it 'something' syndrome (I can't remember what the name of it was and now I'm not able to get back in touch with her to clarify). Is this something that you are familiar with and could you offer any advice - including if there are any specialists in this area in the north west of England?

A:  While we admire our colleague's diagnostic prowess (!), we'd have to say that the symptom has to be seen in the wider context of the patient's overall patterns of energy. While there may be one or two syndromes where this symptom is central to the diagnosis, it is always possible that it is a secondary reaction to a deeper underlying pattern which could only really be identified by looking very carefully at all aspects of someone's functioning.

We don't know exactly what treatment your uncle has had, although very often it involves surgery and chemotherapy, and occasionally radiotherapy, but we do know that it usually has significant effects on the whole system, and that includes body, mind and emotions. It is really important to be able to assess first hand what effects it has had. This is why in Chinese medicine the same symptom can be treated in dozens of different ways. Even in conventional medicine the great Canadian physician William Osler famously said 'it is more important to find out what patient has the disease than what disease the patient has.'

The best course of action for your uncle is to visit a BAcC member local to him to see if they can give him a brief face to face assessment of whether in their view he would benefit from treatment. The great majority are willing to do this without charge in order to give the patient as much information as possible before they commit to treatment. There are no specialists in this field, but this is not because of the field but because of the nature of Chinese medicine which treats the person, not the named condition. In reality, though, so common is cancer and its treatment in modern times it would be unusual to find a practitioner who has not had experience of treating someone who is recovering after cancer treatment.

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