What is traditional acupuncture?
Traditional acupuncture is a healthcare system based on ancient principles which go back nearly two thousand years. It has a very positive model of good health and function, and looks at pain and illness as signs that the body is out of balance. The overall aim of acupuncture treatment, then, is to restore the body’s equilibrium.
What makes this system so uniquely suited to modern life is that physical, emotional and mental are seen as interdependent, and reflect what many people perceive as the connection between the different aspects their lives.
Based on traditional belief, acupuncturists are trained to use subtle diagnostic techniques that have been developed and refined for centuries. The focus is on the individual, not their illness, and all the symptoms are seen in relation to each other. Each patient is unique; two people with the same western diagnosis may well receive different acupuncture treatments.
Traditional acupuncturists believe that the underlying principle of treatment is that illness and pain occur when the body’s qi, or vital energy, cannot flow freely. There can be many reasons for this; emotional and physical stress, poor nutrition, infection or injury are among the most common. By inserting ultra-fine sterile needles into specific acupuncture points, a traditional acupuncturist seeks to re-establish the free flow of qi to restore balance and trigger the body’s natural healing response.
Until the 1940s, when the Chinese government commissioned the development of a uniform system of diagnosis and treatment, somewhat misleadingly referred to as TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), nearly all training had been apprentice-style with masters and within families. The same applied when acupuncture travelled overseas to Japan and South East Asia.
As a consequence of this there are many different styles of acupuncture which share a common root but are distinct and different in their emphasis. You may read of TCM, Five Elements, Stems and Branches, Japanese Meridian Therapy, and many others, all of which have their passionate devotees. The BAcC, though, has long embraced this plurality under the heading “unity in diversity” and sees the variety of approaches as the mark of a healthy profession.
Traditional acupuncture has a long history of adapting to new cultures in which it is practised. Its growing popularity and acceptance in the West may well promote yet more new and exciting variations on the ancient themes.
A growing body of evidence-based clinical research shows that traditional acupuncture safely treats a wide range of common health problems.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is one of the safest medical treatments, both conventional and complementary, on offer in the UK.
Two surveys conducted independently of each other and published in the British Medical Journal in 2001 concluded that the risk of a serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000. This is far less than many orthodox medical treatments.
One survey was of traditional acupuncturists and the other of doctors who practise acupuncture. A total of 66,000 treatments were reviewed altogether, with only a handful of minor and transient side effects recorded.
A 2003 survey of 6,000 patients of acupuncture produced almost identical figures.
There are very few side effects from acupuncture when practised by a fully qualified practitioner of traditional acupuncture. Any minor side effects that do occur, such as dizziness or bruising around needle points, are mild and self-correcting.
When you receive treatment from a BAcC registered acupuncturist you can be confident that your wellbeing and safety is at the heart of everything your practitioner does. The following assurances are BAcC standard:
BAcC members have completed a first-degree-level training or equivalent in traditional acupuncture including substantial elements of western anatomy, physiology and pathology
your BAcC acupuncturist will record all relevant details of your health condition and your medical history before treatment commences. Occasionally, based on this information, he or she may refer you to your GP for further investigation or medical treatment
your BAcC acupuncturist uses only pre-sterilised single-use needles which are safely disposed of after your treatment
all treatments are carried out in accordance with exemplary professional standards developed by the British Acupuncture Council and detailed in the BAcC Codes of Safe Practice and of Professional Conduct
the treatment room and all equipment must conform to standards laid out in the BAcC Code of Safe Practice and in nearly all cases have also been approved by local authority environmental health officers
BAcC members have full medical malpractice and public/product liability insurance cover.