Acupuncture, Acupuncture awareness week, BAcC, Stress

Burnt out Brits struggle with stress

We will always encounter stressful events in our lives, its unavoidable. Our response is, I suppose, an evolutionary thing, e.g when our ancestors were faced with a woolly mammoth, it was an advantage to have the body flooded with adrenaline, the heart & respiration rate increase to aid a quick getaway and ensure survival. In our modern lives too, a little bit of stress can drive us forward.

What we see all too often in our busy lives, are people who live constantly in this heightened stressful state. Stress has a way of taking root and it becomes the norm. In time unpleasant symptoms begin to manefest.

What I observe, is that most people have ‘their thing’, like a weak spot in their constitution that stress is able to get the better of. For some it’s IBS type symptoms, or skin rashes like excema or psoriasis. It could be muscle tension and pain or increased/reduced appetite, headaches, cystitis…and so on.

Stress often affects sleep. It may be that people experience vivid dreams, they’re tossing and turning all night, can’t get to sleep or find themselves wide awake at 3am. And so a downhill spiral begins. Feeling exhausted in the morning, we start turning to bad habits. An energy drink, a pack of cigarettes, sugary foods, lots of coffee to keep us going.

The mind isn’t so clear and we make poor decisions or struggle to make decisions at all. We make mistakes because our minds are foggy. People can also begin to experience an odd paranoia. We can become sensitive to others comments, then ruminate for days over it, further exhausting ourselves. Many people experience uncontrolled outbursts of emotion, often anger…and disproportionately so. And so, stress has us by the throat, stifling any joy or sense of fulfillment in our lives. We feel stuck, with no way out and its a miserable place to be.

There’s no single magic acupuncture point for stress. A traditional acupuncture practitioner will question, observe the patient and formulate an appropriate point prescription based on the patient’s diagnosis. The goal being to bring the body back to balance or “to restore de facto standards” as a colleague of mine puts it.

Patients feel very different after that first treatment and often it brings home just how much their ongoing stress is affecting them. Whilst we as practitioners offer practical suggestions to manage stress better, patients will often start to make little changes themselves. It’s surprising just how much difference a calmer frame of mind and a simple good nights sleep can make.

It’s a good idea for people to recognise the signs of stress early on and do something to tackle it. Prolonged stress will have detrimental effects on our health, sometimes irreversible ones. Acupuncture is an effective, non pharmalogical treatment option.

Life is for living, it is all too short to be stuck in the living hell which is extreme stress. Acupuncture can enable you to find your ‘flow’ and cope with life’s irritations with ease and grace.

Acupuncture, Acupuncture awareness week, BAcC, Chinese Medicine

Why choose a British Acupuncture Council registered acupuncturist?

BAcC_member_pos_largeBAcC…..a leading self-regulatory body for the practice of traditional acupuncture in the UK

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) is the UK’s largest professional body for traditional acupuncturists. Acupuncturists who are members will display this logo and/or use the letters MBAcC. When seeking out an acupuncturist, it is important to consider the level of training the practitioner has received and whether that practitioner adheres to strict standards of hygiene, safety and ethical practice.

Codes of conduct and safe practice

Committed to ensuring all patients receive the highest standard professional care

Acupuncturists who are registered with the BAcC  are bound to a code of professional conduct and safe practice. Members are required to do  first aid certification on a regular basis. During our training it is drummed into us, to needle safely, dispose of needles safely. Patients are treated with respect and are given full autonomy towards their treatment.

link to BAcC codes of conduct and safe practice

Register of members

3,600 hours of high standard training

Traditional acupuncturists registered with the BAcC undergo three years of initial training to BSc standard. This involves a foundation in Western medicine, anatomy and physiology, pathology and pharmacology. We study the Classics of Traditional Chinese medicine in it’s historical context but also how this can be applied to our modern understanding of the human body and modern disease.

There are over 300 acupuncture points. What I remember from my own training was that we underwent an extensive, (very stressful) point location exam which entailed us to give both anatomical descriptions of acupuncture points and to locate exactly the point to an examiner. In order for students to progress to the next stage of training (i.e clinical practice) we were required to achieve a pass score of 80%.

We began our clinical training as observers, then assistants, then we were allowed to progress to ‘actually treating real patients!’ Cases were discussed, treatment plans formulated and we performed our treatment under the watchful eye of our clinic supervisor.

Ongoing CPD (Continuing professional development)

A good practitioner never stops learning. BAcC registered acupuncturists are required to complete ongoing CPD.

Acupuncture is an extremely safe treatment however it is possible to make a patient feel very unwell by administering the incorrect treatment without first a proper diagnosis. At best, the treatment might simply be ineffective but in some circumstances could potentially be dangerous. There are also treatment techniques, particularly in muscular-skeletal treatment, that require experience. Some of the techniques I use now, I have worked up to over time as my experience has grown.

In my opinion, Acupuncture should only be administered by a fully qualified practitioner. Certainly, if someone was sticking needles in me, better be properly trained to do so! I find it upsetting to hear people say “they have had acupuncture, but it didn’t work.” I’ve learned now to inquire, “who administered the treatment?” then I find out they had treatment with their GP. I’ve also encountered patients who have had bad experiences with their GP ‘doing a bit of acupuncture’. One lady told me, that it was very painful and left her with big bruises, quite a contrast to the the treatment she received from me. Unfortunately GP’s expect to stick one needle in their patients and get miracle results. Acupuncture just doesn’t work like that, there is so much more to it than that.

With a  BAcC registered practitioner, acupuncture is safe and it works. Accept no less.

Acupuncture, Acupuncture awareness week, Chinese Medicine, Drug and alcohol dependency

Acupuncture for addiction

auricular1One of the areas where acupuncture, specifically ear (auricular) acupuncture, has been used successfully for many years is in drug and alcohol services. Firstly I would say, it makes sense to find non-pharmocological ways of treating drug and alcohol dependency. For a lot of addicts and alcoholics, coming off drugs and alcohol is in many ways the straightforward part. The difficulty is staying clean, coming to terms with the feelings of guilt (towards friends and family that have been affected) and generally rebuilding their lives.

A recent study published in the Journal of Psychiatric And Mental Health Nursing found ear acupuncture within drug and alcohol services to be both effective and extremely cost-effective. In my experience, the sessions are run in a group setting. Five needles are placed in each ear (see photo) which is known as the NADA protocol. The clients are left to relax usually with some suitable relaxing music in the background.

One of the biggest problems for clients is establishing natural sleep patterns. To be able to use a natural therapy such as acupuncture is far preferable to sleeping pills particularly for someone who has addiction problems. Clients often find that after one or two sessions of acupuncture they are able to sleep at least for a few nights following the treatment. This enables clients to then find a normal routine and are in a much better place to make good decisions…i.e stay off drugs/alcohol and develop positive coping mechanisms.

Many of the clients I meet who’ve had addiction problems are often very driven people….they don’t know when to stop and demonstrate extreme behaviors. The acupuncture treatment allows clients to find balance…I call it a “positive zero”, not too manic/hyper but not too lethargic. In Chinese medicine we would simply say..”freeing the flow of qi”.

There is a lot of help out there for addicts and alcoholics. It affects people from all walks of life. If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction problem then GET HELP! Your GP can refer you to local services or there are many projects that will accept self-referral. There is no judgement….only help!

Acupuncture, Acupuncture awareness week, Chinese Medicine

What is acupuncture?

Needling Liver 3Today is the start of Acupuncture awareness week. The British acupuncture council are keen to get the message out to the public about what acupuncture is and what treatment can offer. Although most people have heard of acupuncture, for many it might seem an odd approach to health treatment. Some also may not relish the thought of someone sticking needles in them! Below are the four main questions that most people want answered before considering acupuncture.

What is it?

The longer I practice acupuncture, the harder I find it to answer this question but here goes. Acupuncturists use very fine needle to stimulate certain points around the body. We locate the points using physiological and anatomical landmarks. (There are around 360 different points!) When the points are stimulated (the acupuncturist gives the needle a little twiddle) the patient feels an achy feeling at the site of the needle. The acupuncturist decide which points to use following a (sometimes very complex) diagnosis based on the principles of traditional chinese medicine but also using our knowledge of western conventional medicine.

How does it work?

The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal chord and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system.

The traditional Chinese medicine texts use the language of qi and the meridian system. The concept of qi is vast and should be regarded as a metaphor or a physiological abstraction. If qi is flowing correctly in the channels then the body is in balance. It simply means that if body systems are functioning correctly then the person will be healthy. When the flow of qi is disrupted, the person will experience illness. The flow of qi is disrupted by either external factors such as environment, viruses (“external pathogenic factors”) or by internal imbalances in body systems that have become depleted i.e overeating leading to deficiencies in the Stomach and Spleen….I could go on for ever here! Chinese medicine is simple yet vastly complex.

Does it hurt?

Absolutely not and the additional benefit is that most patients will end up having a little doze whilst the needles are in situ. It’s a very pleasant feeling of relaxation (which in this day and age is difficult to achieve).

Is it safe?

Treatment from a properly qualified acupuncturist  registered with the BAcC is very safe. Occasional side effects include feeling a bit sleepy, emotional or getting a headache. Sometimes a small bruise occurs where the needle has been placed. A report on the safety of acupuncture can be found here.