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Do acupuncturists specialise in specific problems such as sleep problems?

Q:  Do acupuncturists specialise in specific problems. I am looking for an acupuncturist who has experience of helping people with sleep problems in the London area.

A:  The question of specialisms is rather a vexed one inside the profession. Chinese medicine is by its very nature generalist, and in ancient times the specialist was looked upon as an inferior being because he or she could only treat one range of conditions. In essence, Chinese medicine treats the person, not the disease. This means that twenty people with the same named western condition might have twenty different treatments, each being tailored to their specific needs.

There are one or two areas, however, where we have invested a great deal of time in drawing up guidelines for what we would call expert practice. These are obstetrics, paediatrics and mental health issues. The issue is not that there is an untapped pool of Chinese medical knowledge which practitioners can tap into as much as the fact that working with a specific group of patients means that the practitioner can spend more time studying the conventional treatments of these problems and develop a skill set based on their experience. There are now several fertility and childbirth networks, and several members who run children's clinics, and we have almost reached the
point of setting standards which would enable them to advertise themselves as expert practitioners in these fields.

The treatment of insomnia, however, is not an area where we have seen a specific focus, and since nearly all of us treatment people with sleep problems on a regular basis within our generalist frameworks we can't foresee much chance that there will be an expert practitioner definition. The only likelihood of this would be if a BAcC member were attached to a sleep clinic, and this might create a basis for expert practice, but we have not heard of this yet.

You can be assured that all of our members are able to help address the problem. There is a small amount of good evidence that acupuncture treatment can help, as our factsheet shows  http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/insomnia.html but the causes of insomnia are so diverse that it really does take, in our view, an individual approach which looks at all aspects of a person's functioning to make sense of the problem and start to put it right. Chinese medicine has this focus, and is ideally suited to treating conditions which do not have a single specific cause.

The best advice that we can give is that you contact a number of BAcC members in your area and ask what experience they have had of treating insomnia. The best option would be to  see one or two in person; even a very brief face to face assessment will give them enough information to offer you an estimate of how much benefit
acupuncture treatment might offer.

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