The importance of integrated working

Some common questions on how we work alongside allopathic medicine

“But what will my doctor say?”

Take a look at Helen Smallwood’s video about this exact question, which shows that acupuncture is popular and well-supported by the medical professionals.

Studies have shown that majority (83%) of GPs agree acupuncture can be clinically useful and 72% that it can be cost effective. (Lipman et al, 2003), and 65% agree acupuncture is effective (White, Resch, & Ernst 1997).  In a study by the British Medical Association

“Overall 79% of the GPs agreed that they would like to see acupuncture available on the NHS” (BMA, 2000 p76).

Where GPs recommend acupuncture to patients, it is mostly for pain relief, musculoskeletal disorders, psychological conditions, stress, skin diseases and chronic illnesses (BMA, 2000; Giannelli, Cuttini, Da Fre & Buiatti, 2007; Adams 2001a; Ernst 2000b; Desser, 2003, Lewis & Halvorsen, 2003). Their support is shown by the fact that between 59% (BMA, 2000) and 79% (Lipman, 2000) of GPs would like to see acupuncture available within the NHS.

“Can I stop taking my medication?”

I am often asked permutations of this question, and my answer is that acupuncturists are not doctors, and this is always something to go back to your GP with, as this is their area to advise you on. It is important to have these conversations with your medical team, and it’s crucial if you are considering making changes to medications, that your GP and any consultants whose care you are under, are up to date on what you are doing.

Pharmacists can also be a very helpful resource, and in particular if you are using over the counter medications, they can advise you of contraindications and interactions they may have with your prescribed medications.

“Will acupuncture affect my medication?”

Acupuncture is fine alongside prescribed medications, and we also suggest that patients may wish to let their GP and team know they are having acupuncture, because we’re always happy to work with our medical colleagues as necessary, if that is the patient’s wish.

In terms of acupuncture and working with patients, some of the reasons people are looking at introducing complementary medicines and coming to us, is for example to help them reduce the number of painkillers they are taking, or see if we can do something to help their side-effects. This can be very helpful as long as we have a team approach, realistic expectations and discussions, and the patient is also working with their GP or consultant.

The research evidence for acupuncture is growing, and we find that medical professionals are more and more aware of what we do, in some cases recommending acupuncture for particular conditions, so be sure to tell you GP if you are thinking of acupuncture, and keep them up to date on how you are getting along.

Links and resources

Acupuncture and GP opinions:

BMA press release on their book on acupuncture ant survey on doctors’ views of acpupuncture

References and resources

BMA (2000) Acupuncture: efficacy, safety and practice – a BMA report (BMA’s Board of Science and Education) Harwood Academic Publishers

Silvert, M (2000) Acupuncture wins BMA approval BMJ 2000; 321 doi:

Lipman L, Dale J, MacPherson H Attitudes of GPs towards the provision of acupuncture on the NHS. Complement Ther Med. 2003 Jun;11(2):110-4.

White AR, Resch KL, Ernst E 1997 Complementary medicine: use and attitudes among GPs Fam Pract. 1997 Aug;14(4):302-6

Massimo Giannelli, Marina Cuttini, Monica Da Frè, and Eva Buiatti (2007) General practitioners’ knowledge and practice of complementary/alternative medicine and its relationship with life-styles: a population-based survey in Italy BMC Fam Pract. 2007; 8: 30. Published online 2007 May 15.

Giannelli M, Cuttini M, Da Frè M, Buiatti E. General practitioners’ knowledge and practice of complementary/alternative medicine and its relationship with life-styles: a population-based survey in Italy. BMC Family Practice. 2007;8:30. doi:10.1186/1471-2296-8-30.

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