Frequently Asked Questions for Health Professionals

What is modern medical acupuncture (Western medical acupuncture)?
Modern medical acupuncture (a.k.a Western medical acupuncture—WMA) is needle therapy based on the modern understanding of how the body works. Traditional Chinese acupuncture used a complicated system of ancient ideas that are not easy for modern health practitioners to understand or accept today. But many of us find that acupuncture can be understood in scientific terms. This makes it easier to use in a modern setting, and it allows researchers to investigate acupuncture in terms that make sense in a modern scientific context. Modern medical acupuncture either ignores the traditional ideas of channels ('meridians') and acupuncture 'points' completely or interprets them in a different way.

What's this dry needling business?
'Dry needling' is a term used by some health professionals. It means inserting a needle without injecting anything (injection treatment would be 'wet needling'). 'Dry needling' is simply another name for modern medical acupuncture. It was coined by people who wanted to distinguish their form of treatment from traditional Chinese acupuncture but it probably generates more confusion than clarity.

Isn't the traditional version more authentic/better?
Traditionalists claim that modern medical acupuncture can treat 'simple' problems but that the traditional version is needed for more complicated situations. There is no good evidence to support these claims. Practitioners of the modern version treat a wide range of conditions successfully. Contrary to what is often believed, acupuncture in China today is mostly done in the modern way. The journal Acupuncture in Medicine, a BMJ publication that only publishes papers on modern acupuncture, has many scientific papers on acupuncture by Chinese authors.

How can you learn acupuncture in a short course like yours?
The modern version of acupuncture is easy to learn for health professionals because it is an extension of what they already know. It makes use of the training they already have and applies it in a different way. Many of those who participate in lengthy courses have no previous training as health professionals so they have to learn everything from scratch (anatomy, physiology, pathology, etc.). Also, they are studying the traditional Chinese ideas, which are unfamiliar to Westerners and take a considerable time to begin to understand. There is no good evidence that this gives better results.

What are your qualifications for teaching acupuncture?
I have practised acupuncture since 1977. I am a member of the British Medical Acupuncture Society and hold the Diploma in Medical Acupuncture (DipMedAc) awarded by the Society. I served on the Council of the Society for many years and am a past vice-president of it. I have published three acupuncture textbooks as well as many papers on acupuncture in peer-reviewed journals. I have contributed two chapters to Medical Acupuncture: A Western Scientific Approach (2nd edition): Elsevier 2016 and another to the Oxford Textbook of Musculoskeletal Medicine (2nd edition): OUP 2015. I have been holding acupuncture training courses since 1981; over 6000 health professionals have attended these courses.

Shall I get hands-on experience on the course?
Most definitely. Practical experience is a central part of the course. Participants have the opportunity to practise the techniques on one another under supervision.

Shall I be able to practise acupuncture after the course?
Yes, that's the purpose of the course. You need to practise the techniques as much as possible in order to acquire the necessary skill and experience.

Who is your course recognised by?
Acupuncture is not regulated in Britain at present so this does not arise; there is no body charged with the recognition of acupuncture training. However, the course is recognised by the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) as covering the required curriculum for the Certificate of Basic Competence (COBC—see below).

What qualification does the course provide?
As acupuncture is not regulate in Britain no official acupuncture 'qualification' is available. All course participants receive a Certificate of Attendance which indicates that they have demonstrated safe needling skills. If they choose to become members of the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) they may apply for the Certificate of Basic Competence offered by the Society to its members (see next 2 questions)

Can I join the British Medical Acupuncture Society after the course?
The British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) is open to all statutorily regulated health professionals. There is no requirement to have attended a course before becoming a member, so membership does not, in itself, constitute any kind of qualification (but see the next question). It merely indicates that the practitioner concerned is interested in acupuncture. Members who practise acupuncture, as most do, are expected to adhere to specified ethical standards.

What Certificates does the BMAS offer its members?
The BMAS offers a Certificate of Basic Competence to its members. They are expected to submit a number of cases for approval and to have given evidence of awareness of the safety aspects of acupuncture. The COBC indicates that the member concerned has achieved a certain level of training and experience. Members who have obtained this Certificate may opt later to apply for the Diploma in Medical Acupuncture, which is based on the demonstration of more extensive experience of acupuncture.

Who is eligible to join this course?
The course is open to most types of health professionals who are statutorily regulated, such as doctors, nurses, podiatrists, osteopaths, chiropractors, and physiotherapists. The course is also suitable for health practitioners whose regulatory body is overseen by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), provided their professional body accepts that acupuncture falls within the scope of practice of their profession. At present this would include members of the British Association of Sports and Rehabilitation Therapists and members of the British Acupuncture Council.

How does your course differ from other courses in modern medical acupuncture?
This course uses very few classic 'points', and regards the points terminology as simply a shorthand to record where the needle has been inserted. On the other hand, a lot of attention is given to needling technique and judging the right amount of stimulus to apply. In many cases this is more important than the exact site of needling. In my view the best way to practise acupuncture is to grasp the underlying principles, which are based on neurophysiology, and apply them intelligently. This is much better than learning a lot of rules or prescriptions. See
Where to place the needles and for how long? for further details.

What reading should I do before the course?
It is not essential to read anything before coming on the course but some suggestions for reading are available. It is a good idea to refresh your knowledge of anatomy if this has become a little rusty!

How should I go on learning after the course?
The best way to do this is to join the BMAS, which provides its members with many ways of enhancing their knowledge.

Do you offer training in advanced acupuncture?
There are two answers to this, short and long. The short answer is that there is no 'advanced acupuncture'! Modern medical acupuncture is really an extension of your existing skills and there is no large body of esoteric knowledge that has to be acquired. The longer answer is that this course is 'advanced' in at least two ways. First, you are expected to think about what you are doing and to adapt your treatment according to the nature of the underlying problem, so it doesn't depend on rote learning or rigid prescriptions. Second, it teaches periosteal (bone) acupuncture, which is a valuable technique that often doesn't figure in courses for newcomers.

What should I do about insurance to practise acupuncture?
Acupuncture is normally covered by your existing professional insurance. You should inform your defence society that you are using acupuncture and let them have a photocopy of your certificate of attendance.

What is the evidence base for acupuncture?
The evidence is of two kinds. Research has provided plausible scientific evidence for the effects of needling. There is also evidence for the clinical effectiveness of acupuncture in a number of conditions, although, owing to the difficulty of devising suitable control procedures for acupuncture, 'blinding' in clinical trials is hard to achieve.

How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture works at a number of different levels. Neurotransmitters such as CGRP and substance P are released in the tissues. Changes occur in the pain pathways in the spinal cord, both segmentally and extra-segmentally. There are changes in various brain areas, including the brain stem, limbic system, and cortex.

I'm pregnant. Can I attend the course?
Acupuncture appears to be safe in pregnancy so there is no reason why you should not attend the course if you are pregnant. You should let us know you are pregnant if you choose to attend.

How can I contact you?
Please use the inquiry form.