Types of Acupuncture by the British Acupuncture Federation

By Philip Wheeler

Types of Acupuncture

This is a wonderful piece of writing by The British Acupuncture Federation (BAF) on some of the different sytles of Acupuncture.

BAF  are the first collaborative umbrella organisation of leading professional acupuncture associations within the UK




Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a healthcare system based on ancient principles that originated in the East over 2000 years ago where it still features in mainstream healthcare, both as a stand-alone therapy and together with western medicine. TCM acupuncture concentrates on activating the body’s own healing mechanism and has been used historically to treat a wide range of conditions.

The theory behind acupuncture treatment is that the healthy functioning of the body is governed by the flow of “qi” (often translated as “energy”) through a system of channels under the skin. When this flow of qi is impaired, illness occurs. By inserting fine needles at various points along the channels, the body’s balance can be restored and the illness resolved.

The flow of qi can be disrupted in many ways: emotional upset, physical trauma, poor diet and overwork are all common examples. By examining the underlying cause and how it has affected the body, the most appropriate treatment for each client can be selected. Treating the client as an individual is at the core of an acupuncture treatment and is vital in successfully assisting the body to rebalance itself.

What makes this system so uniquely suited to modern life is the physical, emotional and mental elements, which are seen as interdependent, and reflect what many people perceive as the connection between the different aspects of life.


Five Element Acupuncture

According to Chinese theory, we’re made up of the five Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.

They are our creative and controlling energies and ideally should all be in balance. The Elements out of balance are known as the causative factor and become apparent in many ways.

Imbalance within the five elements become evident to the trained practitioner who will be able to diagnose problems within you by evaluating your colour, sound, odour or emotion enabling them to put together a treatment plan that will treat your causative factor or what Element you represent.

This ancient system enables the body/mind/spirit to heal itself, as far as nature will allow.

This principle of five Element Acupuncture is important, because it means the underlying cause of the disease is being dealt with rather than the symptom merely being swept under the carpet, only to reappear in the future.

Not only dealing with your condition by restoring the overall balance of energy, five Element Acupuncture may help you to feel better in a general way, by promoting an improved your quality of life.


Western Medical Acupuncture

Western Medical Acupuncture is practised by a range of health care professionals and postgraduates with clinical medical experience who use acupuncture either as:

An adjunct to their primary medical role

or to explore from a scientific or research perspective

or to support an interest or option to use in private practice.

Acupuncture can be used to treat a wide range of conditions by releasing the body’s own pain killing endorphin’s and serotonin which in turn alters the pain signals received in the brain.

There is growing research that acupuncture can affect both the physical and psychological as well as a range of bodily systems, for example the circulatory system, respiratory, digestive, reproductive, and the nervous system. Because of this there has been increasing scientific research into the field of acupuncture that has supported it being an acceptable form of treatment within the NHS.


Dry needling

Dry Needling or “Trigger Point Acupuncture”. This is an effective and efficient technique for the treatment of muscular pain and myofascial dysfunction and often performed by physiotherapists. Dry needling or intramuscular stimulation (IMS) is a technique developed by Dr. Chan Gunn and is extremely effective for relaxing overactive muscles, which contain trigger points. The approach is based on Western anatomical and neuro-physiological principles using the same filament needles used by acupuncturists.


Auricular Acupuncture

Auricular Acupuncture is a specialised complementary therapy based upon the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture. It is a Microsystem of Acupuncture, which reflects the entire body on the ear, in a similar way to reflexology or iridology. Auricular Acupuncture was largely developed in Europe by Dr. Paul Nogier, a French neurologist and physician who is considered the “Father of modern auriculotherapy“, a version of acupuncture, an alternative medicine practice.

Nogier’s development was made through clinical trials based on mapping brain areas with localised, specific functions and the projection of a foetus on the ear for reference of complaints and points for treatment. Physical, emotional and mental conditions can be treated by stimulating points on the ear, either through needling, electronic stimulation or massage.

Auricular Acupuncture is widely used by medical doctors and other healthcare professionals as a therapy in its own right in France, Germany, Italy, Greece and the USA.

Although Auricular Acupuncture is most widely known within the field of substance misuse in the UK, the WHO lists 150 conditions for which Auricular Acupuncture is appropriate. In 1990 the Director General of the World Health Organisation proclaimed to an international gathering, that “Auricular Acupuncture is probably the most developed and best documented, scientifically, of all the Microsystems of acupuncture and is the most practical and widely used.”


Microsystems Acupuncture

Microsystems acupuncture is based on well-defined areas of the body, such as the hand, foot and ear, that correspond to all organs and parts of the body. Evidence shows that stimulating these areas, usually with needles, may help to deal with symptoms such as anxiety or general stresses.

In a typical microsystems acupuncture session, the practitioner will ask questions about previous medical history, general physical and emotional health, as well as medication, drug use, diet and lifestyle. Treatment generally involves the stimulation of defined points on a distinct area of the body using a variety of techniques such as acupuncture, electrical stimulation A.S.P. s (acupuncture semi-permanent needles) or pellets.

Microsystems acupuncture is commonly used in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, prisons, drug rehab units and complementary health clinics alongside medical treatments.


Japanese Acupuncture

Japanese acupuncture uses very fine needles that are only inserted to a shallow depth or with systems such as Toyohari they are not inserted at all (contact acupuncture). Japanese acupuncturists often tend not to use Chinese herbs but will frequently refer a patient/client to a herbalist practitioner for such treatment. Touch as a Means of pre-treatment – Japanese acupuncture places a lot of emphasis on the use of palpation (touch) before needle treatment. These practitioners rely on abdominal palpation to judge the insertion point of the needle. This practice roots from the many blind acupuncturists of Ancient Japan, and it goes hand in hand with the gentle needling.

Insertion Methods – The Chinese and Japanese practices differ greatly in their needling technique. Now a standard in the acupuncture field, guiding tubes for needles were not part of the Ancient Chinese traditions, and in fact were developed in Japan for the use of very fine needles which needed support to be able to pierce the skin. This was re-introduced when disposable needles became available to allow quick painless puncturing of the skin without any risk of damage due to deep needling. Further, Chinese acupuncture tends to manipulate the needle when inserted into the body much more than Japanese acupuncture.


Korean Acupuncture

Korean Acupuncturists tend to use the 4 needle technique of acupuncture. Assume that meridian (acupuncture energy pathway) means road. When a single lane is blocked by a broken- down car, you can remove a car by pulling from the front and pushing from behind. In the case of acupuncture, the acupuncturist uses just 2 needles. When 3 roads meet, he must block one road and the other two roads then move freely. In this case he uses 3 needles. When 4 roads meet, he must block two roads and the other two roads move freely. In this case he uses 4 needles.

All the important concepts in the traditional acupuncture are included in special 5 points in each meridian. Korean Acupuncture calls these 5 elements and 5 transport points. All these locations are under elbows and knees. This provides extra safety. These points represent cold and hot, deficient and excessive on each meridians. The practitioner selects these points according to the patient’s symptoms.

Many famous practitioners in Korea use this technique. They used to use traditional acupuncture in the beginning but when they find good results using Korean 4 needles technique, they usually switch to this technique.


Dental Acupuncture

The primary aim of acupuncture in dentistry is increasingly about improving the quality of outcomes when linked with conventional routine dentistry. Acupuncture is not a replacement for conventional treatments, and is not a replacement for local anaesthetic injections. Whilst it appears that surgical anaesthesia can be achieved in some sites in the body, this is exceptionally difficult to achieve in the head and neck, probably due to the complex nerve supply.

The control of gagging during dental treatment is very important to improve the care that a patient can receive. Gagging can sometimes make it almost impossible to fully examine the mouth, or take X-rays. Acupuncture can quite easily control gagging (about 80% reliable) using needles around the mouth, or ears. Patients can then receive treatment comfortably, and with much less stress – to all parties!

Research shows that acupuncture can work just as well as conventional treatments for many medical conditions. However – because there are few side effects from acupuncture – for many patients this is a better option. An example is the treatment of tennis elbow: acupuncture can give quick and effective pain relief, and improve function, but over the course of 6 months conventional treatments such as physiotherapy are generally as good (it just takes longer to get there). However the use of steroid injections to control symptoms can lead to tissue damage, and deformity of the muscles around the elbow. Acupuncture may help avoid this undesirable side effect.


Veterinary Acupuncture

Up until the Yuan dynasty of the 14th century, Chinese medicine was used sparingly on large animals. Much of the focus was on the treatment of horses since they were so essential to the military. In more modern times it has been used increasingly on pet animals. Acupuncture is one of the 5 branches of TCVM and can only be carried out by qualified vets in the UK.

Acupuncture is used mainly for functional problems such as those involving non-infectious inflammation, paralysis, or pain. For small animals, acupuncture has been used for treating arthritis, hip dysplasia, lick granuloma, feline asthma, diarrhoea, and certain reproductive problems. For larger animals, acupuncture has been used for treating downer cow syndrome, facial nerve paralysis, allergic dermatitis, respiratory problems, nonsurgical colic, and certain reproductive disorders. Acupuncture has also been used on competitive animals, such as those involved in racing and showing. Veterinary Acupuncture has also recently been used on more exotic animals, such as an alligator with scoliosis, though this is still quite rare.

Because of acupuncture’s effectiveness and lack of side-effects, it is widely used in the Veterinary field.





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