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Know the Different Types of Acupuncture

Acupuncture continues to grow across the world as a popular treatment for pain and symptoms of a number of diseases and conditions.

Most of the time when you hear that someone has received acupuncture, you have one thing in mind. However, the term “acupuncture” has sort of become a catch-all for many different types of treatments that are available to patients. Since acupuncture is an ancient treatment, there have been updates and iterations over the years. Now, many different forms of acupuncture are out there, with their own strengths at treating different conditions. It’s always good to be informed, so we’ve put together a list for you of the most common types of treatments that often fall under the “acupuncture” umbrella.

Traditional (oriental) Acupuncture

  1. Ancient Chinese type (TCM) acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of acupuncture practiced in the world today with an unbroken tradition dating back thousands of years.

  2. Dr. Tan type acupuncture is a form of Chinese acupuncture with its roots firmly in acupuncture theory. Additional theories by Dr Tan are then layered on top.

  3. Master Tung type acupuncture is a form of Chinese style acupuncture that's based on a family lineage tradition dating back hundreds of years. It uses different acupuncture points to the TCM type.

  4. Korean acupuncture is a branch of Chinese style acupuncture. Hand acupuncture is unique to Korean acupuncture and is similar in respect to auricular acupuncture.

  5. Japanese acupuncture is another branch of Chinese style acupuncture and is heavily based on acupuncture practiced in China.

  6. Vietnamese acupuncture is also a branch of Chinese style acupuncture and again is heavily based on acupuncture practiced in China.

  7. Abdominal acupuncture was invented by Dr. Bo a few decades ago and is based on classical acupuncture theory and is popular for chronic pain.

  8. Marmapuncture is a type of acupuncture practiced in Ayurveda medicine from India.

  9. Shamanic acupuncture is a spiritually guided form of treatment that uses spirit healers to guide the acupuncturist in their selection of points to stimulate. This is more often practiced by Qigong master or reiki therapy.

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. TCM acupuncture concentrates on activating the body’s own healing mechanism and has been used historically to treat a wide range of conditions. [Read more: Acupuncture: An Overview of Scientific Evidence]

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.

Treatment of TCM acupuncture is holistic and individual-based. Patients receive a diagnosis, syndrome differentiation and treatment principles and consequently point selection or herbal prescription according to TCM theory.

Western Or Modern Acupuncture

More recently, physiotherapists, chiropractors, nurses and doctors have started performing 'acupuncture' after doing a short course. Very often regulation of acupuncture in this area is incomplete or vague at present.

  1. 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 interest or option to use in private practice. [Read more: TCM vs Western Medicine]

  2. 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.

  3. Auricular Acupuncture is a specialized 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. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Five Element acupuncture was created by the Englishman JR Worsley and is a western type of acupuncture. Five Element acupuncture doesn't exist in East Asia and isn't recognized in China or Australia, where acupuncture is regulated.

How Long Does It Take To Train In The Different Styles?

The time it takes to train in the different styles of acupuncture varies greatly, from 30 hours for the western style to 3,500 for traditional styles. In Canada, Australia and East Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Vietnam acupuncture is regulated and certain standards of training must be met in order to practice acupuncture. Only regulated healthcare professionals that practice traditional Chinese medicines can practice in these countries.

In countries where acupuncture isn't regulated, anyone in the medical, health care or complementary medical field can practice acupuncture after basic training of 30-300 hours, such as a weekend course.

As acupuncture is not clearly regulated in most western countries, people are unaware of how to find a reputable acupuncturist. Always choose one from an accredited acupuncture association, where acupuncturists have done over 3000 hours of training.


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