Acupuncture: introduction & regulation

Acupuncture is a branch of traditional medicine that has been practised in China and the far east for thousands of years. It has been developed, tested, researched and refined over this time into a treatment option accessed by increasing numbers of patients in the West.

A growing body of evidence-based clinical research helps us understand the science behind what practitioners and patients have known for centuries –  how the body responds to acupuncture and its benefits for a wide range of common health conditions.

Many people have acupuncture to relieve specific aches and pains such as osteoarthritis of the knee. Other people choose acupuncture when they can feel their bodily functions are out of balance, but have no obvious western medical diagnostic ‘label’ leading to western medical  treatment.  Many also have regular treatments simply because they find it beneficial and relaxing.

The focus  for a traditional acupuncturist is on the patient as an individual and not just their specific illness, and all symptoms are seen as part of an interconnected pattern. The translation between the patterns of Chinese medicine and western named conditions is a fascinating one. For nearly every named condition – for example, nausea, insomnia, anxiety migraine or osteoarthritis –  there is a complex weave of different syndromes and patterns your practitioner will consider as part of your Chinese medicine diagnosis. All your symptoms, even apparently unrelated aches and pains, are important. They are a bridge between what you experience and how the practitioner, be they eastern or western, makes sense of what you bring to them. Every symptom has meaning within the eastern tradition.

Treatment involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points which are said to affect the flow of your body’s qi, or vital energy, although there is ongoing research and study that suggests what many practitioners already know: that inserting needles into the channels (or meridians) affects change within the human body in several different ways, and the term ‘moving or stimulating energy’ is rather simplistic.

Find out more about my professional governing body, The British Acupuncture Council.

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has a membership of around 3,000 professionally qualified acupuncturists. It is the UK’s largest professional/ self-regulatory body for the practice of traditional acupuncture.

Independent accreditation

Since February 2013, patients and the public have been able to choose an acupuncturist belonging to a register vetted and approved by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care. This means that the BAcC’s register of practitioners has been accredited by an independent body which is accountable to Parliament.