Styles Of Acupuncture Chinese And Japanese Acupuncture

Acupuncture originally developed in ancient China, but as the
technique has spread around the world, different styles of acupuncture
have evolved. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) principles–including
energy (Qi) and energy pathways (meridians)–underlie all acupuncture
practices, but the application and specifics for various styles of
acupuncture vary.

Acupuncture and TCM

Most acupuncturists are trained in the TCM style of acupuncture,
which focuses on the flow of Qi through the meridians. Inserting
acupuncture needles into acupuncture points on the meridians stimulates
the flow of energy, encouraging the body to heal itself.

One theory of acupuncture and TCM is the “five element” theory, in
which each of the five elements–wood, fire, earth, metal and
water–represents a quality of Qi as it cycles through nature, the
seasons and through our lives. Five element acupuncture, which is
different from traditional TCM acupuncture, focuses on returning these
five elements to harmony and balance in your body. The needling
technique in five element acupuncture is similar to that of Japanese

Japanese Acupuncture

Japanese acupuncture uses the same meridian system and diagnostic
techniques as Chinese acupuncture. Generally, Japanese practitioners use
finer needles and practice more superficial and gentle stimulation of
acupuncture points. Many Japanese acupuncturists also use moxibustion
(the burning of the herb mugwort either in the room or to heat the
acupuncture needles).

In the 17th century, blind Japanese acupuncturist Waichi Sugiyama
developed a method for inserting needles, called “guiding tube
insertion,” that drastically decreased the pain of having a needle
inserted. Acupuncturists all over the world now use this method.

Modern Styles of Acupuncture

Modern styles of acupuncture include:

  • Acupuncture Physical Medicine (APM), which
    combines traditional acupuncture with Western physical medicine
    techniques. APM practitioners search for constrictions, or holding
    patterns, in the body and use acupuncture and techniques such as trigger
    point dry needling to release these patterns. Trigger points are
    specific irritable points in the body that cause pain and restriction,
    and dry needling is a way to release them.
  • Electroacupuncture, which involves attaching a
    device that generates continuous electric pulses to the acupuncture
    needles after they are inserted. The electrical current provides
    additional stimulation.
  • Laser acupuncture, which uses laser light instead of acupuncture needles to stimulate acupuncture points.


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Tanaka, T.H. (2010). Acupuncture styles and techniques. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from

Tri-State College of Acupuncture. (n.d.). Acupuncture physical medicine. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from