Acupuncture-needling-footAcupuncture is a fascinating and highly rewarding subject however, many people know little about this ancient medicine and as a result, choosing acupuncture courses that are right for you can be a tricky business.

If you are considering studying acupuncture you may already have had treatment yourself and experienced its wonderful benefits.

Here are just 6 examples of the benefits of acupuncture.

Perhaps you have even done a little research of your own online or in books, or even had a chat with an acupuncturist to find out a little insider info.

Alternatively the path that has lead you here may have started with the martial arts where the experience has been more physical.

Whatever your situation, here are five things you will really need to know about acupuncture courses when choosing a college that is right for you.

1. Styles of acupuncture

As the vast majority of people have very little knowledge when it comes to acupuncture in the first instance, it goes without saying that there are several different styles of acupuncture that a practitioner can specialise in. Similar to choosing a martial art or a style of yoga, considering what kind of acupuncture you want to practice is an important choice.

So what are the different styles of acupuncture?

Classical Acupuncture

This is the oldest known style of acupuncture based on the Classical texts of Oriental medicine. The teaching is based on the collective wisdom of core texts such as the Nanjing, Nejing Su Wen and Ling Shu amongst others. Little trivia fact – the Su Wen is the oldest medical text book dated by scholars to the late Warring States period (475-221 BC).

Classical acupuncture approaches health holistically, taking into consideration all aspects of the person, including their physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual health in order to deliver a very specific treatment for the individual. Often fewer needles are used following a thorough diagnosis process to identify the root cause of imbalances in the body that are causing symptoms.

Five Elements/Phases

Early knowledge of the human body was basic in its understanding of the inner workings but through observation physicians could describe processes and the dynamics of physiology by explaining through the natural world and the seasons. Just as the seasons flow from spring to summer to (late summer) to autumn to winter so do we.

This was integrated into the elements found in nature – wood, fire, earth, metal and water; each of which had an particular affinity to the season attributed to it, e.g. wood and spring both describing an upward energy flow. From this there has developed a complete system of correspondences that can directly relate to each of the elements/seasons to include emotions, mental state, parts of the body, actions of the body, sounds, colours to name a few. Using diagnosis to discover which element is out of balance and a treatment to correct.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Following the communist revolution, the Chinese government authorised the establishment of four colleges of Chinese medicine. Their goal was to standardise elements of traditional medical knowledge extracted from modalities of treatment belonging to several different pre-communist schools and medicine from the West. This lead to the term TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) being coined.

Therefore, TCM, in spite of its name, is the modern Chinese Medicine: an attempt to find a harmonious integration between the Chinese Medical tradition and Western Medicine.

Japanese Style Acupuncture

Similar to the Classical approach, Japanese acupuncture is subtle in nature, also using fewer and thinner needles with minimal stimulation. Mostly the diagnostic principles are that of five element acupuncture but, the difference in Europe at present is that there are currently no colleges that offer an undergraduate or foundation course making it difficult for those new to the study of acupuncture to gain any qualification and subsequent professional membership. There is plenty of opportunity to study this at post graduate level.

2. Accredited Acupuncture Courses

It is very important to distinguish the difference between acupuncture courses taught by a specialist acupuncture college that are accredited with the British Acupuncture Accreditation board (BAAB) as opposed to an unaccredited course.

The BAAB are responsible for over-seeing a high standard of acupuncture tuition at its accredited institutions. This is to ensure that new practitioners have a solid foundation in knowledge and practice to be eligible to join the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) upon graduating.

3. Degree vs diploma

Is the course you are looking at offering you a qualification at degree or diploma level? One of the most important distinctions to be aware of is that a degree is generally offered by a college that has been both accredited by the profession (BAAB) and validated by an academic institution such as a university. The rigour of undergoing scrutiny in both cases ensures a high standard of delivery with academic and clinical practice valued equally.

4. Flexibility of study options

Studying acupuncture is very rewarding and extremely fascinating however, it is a rather demanding course and takes several years to learn to a level of proficiency. It is very important to also consider your current working and family commitments to see how you can best fit your study into your daily life or what changes may be necessary in order to study.

To accommodate this, some colleges offer both week day and weekend study options. That being said, it will also be important for you to look at how both the week day and weekend courses are structured and whether there is a part time option to study. It might mean that it takes slightly longer to gain a qualification but maybe a better fit to your circumstances.

5. Government funding

Higher education can often cause a financial concern for many, so it is also a very good idea to look a little deeper at the specific acupuncture courses (those that offer a degree) to see if they are accredited to allow the facility of a government student loan. This whole system is under review and change at the moment but a good idea to take this option into consideration.

Acupuncture in the south-east

If you have read this far then chances are you are seriously thinking of studying acupuncture. Be sure to take your time and find a course that is right for you. In the mean time, please feel free to book onto one of our open days here to get more of a flavour of ICOM and our approach to acupuncture and health care.