Members of a medical acupuncture society were circulated by postal questionnaire to enquire into their acupuncture practice. Over half the replies were from general practitioners, with one third from anaesthetists. Most were using acupuncture for musculo-skeletal and general pain, but a large variety of conditions were reported as responding well by small numbers of practitioners, while others regarded these same conditions as being resistant to treatment. It is suggested that this was due to inadequate training, particularly for non painful disease which requires a more traditional and less Westernised approach. The British Medical Acupuncture Society has since modified its teaching structure to take account of this finding.
Acupuncture is more popular with middle aged patients and, while medical referrals are common, most patients self-refer on the recommendation of friends and relations, but not until they have tried other therapies. Once they have experienced acupuncture they are more likely to come for initial treatment with any future problems.
The majority (75%) of medical acupuncturists see less than 250 patients a year, and almost 50% see less than 100. Most seem to be conventional doctors who use acupuncture for particular problems in suitable patients. The authors believe that practising acupuncture from a firm base in conventional medicine is likely to give the greatest benefit to patients.
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