There is nothing more difficult than choosing a new health practitioner. You want someone that you can trust and will be competent enough to help you with your complaint. So when choosing an acupuncturist, a lot of people rely on word of mouth.
Whilst this is a good way to do a first ‘screaning’, there are a lot of other things to take into account.
First of all, it is worth remembering that, as acupuncture isn’t regulated in the UK, anyone can set up an acupuncture clinic and start seeing patients. The training that people have in this field varies greatly.
- Some people have had some extensive training in the UK. The basic training would now be a 3 year full time course at degree level (validated by a University such as the Middlesex University).
- Health professional such as doctors, or physiotherapists can choose to do a few weekends course on acupuncture. They usually use acupuncture as an adjunct to the therapy they already use. This is quite often the case with health professionals practising medical acupuncture.
- Some people have trained solely in China, sometimes extensively. This is often the case for Chinese practitioners who have emigrated to the UK.
Then there are different type of acupuncture. I am just listing a few below.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine and Five Element Acupuncture originate from China and are based on the same principles (Yin and Yang, Qi etc…). These practitioners have an emphasis on treating the whole person (whilst also treating the symptoms) and re-establishing balance in the body.
- Auricular Acupuncture consists in putting needles in the ear of the person. The ear is seen as a micro system where each part of the body is represented. So putting a needle in the shoulder area of the ear will help with shoulder pain. The most well known use of auricular acupuncture is the NADA protocol used in the treatment of addictions.
- Medical Acupuncture is a more westernized way of using needles. It came about when some practitioners realized they could bring pain relief to patients by using (injection) needles without injecting anything. This was also called dry needling. The emphasis is on muscles and trigger points, mainly to help with musculo-skeletal conditions.
Acupuncture is a very safe therapy but it can only be if you are treated by someone who is properly trained.
So when choosing your acupuncturist, it is very important that your practitioner is safe and competent. I would recommend that you ask:
- What sort of training they’ve had and the length of the training
- What sort of acupuncture they are practicing
- If they have an insurance including full medical malpractice and public/products liability insurance cover.
- If they are part of an organisation such as the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), which will ensure that the practitioner is following a Code of Safe Practice and a Code of Professional Conduct.
Finally, remember that it is important that you feel comfortable with that practitioner. If, for whatever reason, it doesn’t feel right, you can still try and find a more suitable practitioner for you.