When East Meets West…Different Styles of Acupuncture
It may surprise you to know that acupuncture is not a single, standardised practice, but actually refers to a collection of different styles and approaches. The term ‘acupuncture’ is defined as the insertion of needles into specific acupoints on the body. But it is the theories and application of this technique that sets one style apart from another.
To make it easier, let’s break it down into two broad categories: Traditional Acupuncture and Medical Acupuncture.
Traditional Acupuncture is what evolved over two thousand years ago. Also sometimes referred to as Classical acupuncture, it was developed in China and relies on classical theories such as Yin and Yang, Qi (energy), Meridians etc. There are a number of traditional acupuncture styles in the UK, and some of the more common ones are:
Probably the most common approach followed in the UK, and the predominant style taught at acupuncture colleges (remember Traditional Chinese Medicine/ TCM is a term that covered not only acupuncture, but also other practices such as herbal medicine, massage, dietary therapy and qi gong.) This is also the form of acupuncture practiced in China, and follows a pattern-based diagnosis and treatment protocol. Some practitioners may use a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine, others choose to focus mainly on acupuncture.
Five Element Acupuncture
In the UK this is more likely to refer to a system developed and promoted by J.R. Worsley. It also uses classical concepts of acupuncture, but with a greater emphasis on Five Element theory. Five Element acupuncture differs slightly by placing a focus on identifying and treating an individual’s “constitutional” factor, as well as more emphasis on the internal and mental/emotional aspects with unique treatment protocols.
Japanese Acupuncture developed its own distinct path following the integration of Chinese Medicine theories early on in its history. It’s also important to know the term “Japanese Acupuncture” actually puts a number of different styles under this heading, but as a general rule Japanese acupuncture uses a more touch-based approach in diagnosis and point location. It also uses thinner needles and less stimulation and focuses on identifying and treating the “root”, or main underlying condition. (This is one of my own preferred styles, so if you want to find out a bit more, check out the Spotlight on Japanese Acupuncture page).
Medical acupuncture by contrast is a more modern attempt to bring acupuncture in line with a western medical framework, and is practised mostly by osteopaths, doctors, and physiotherapists. These practitioners use acupuncture as an additional technique, learned through short or weekend courses.
It is adapted from Chinese acupuncture and focuses more on principles of anatomy and physiology rather than classical concepts, and stimulates the nervous system to treat things like pain and nausea.
You may have also heard the term “Dry Needling”. Dry needling is a limited form of acupuncture used by physiotherapists to treat ‘trigger points’.
Trigger points are tight bands or knots of muscles, and dry needling is focused on relieving muscular pain. It’s called dry needling to differentiate it from using a syringe or injection, which contains a substance.
At Empower Acupuncture, I focus very much on the traditional aspects, and use a mixture of TCM, Japanese acupuncture, Master Tung’s style and continue to integrate new approaches into my practice. To find out how I could help you, don’t hesitate to get in touch!