TCM and Japanese Styles

Acupuncture Styles – Difference between TCM and Japanese Acupuncture

Acupuncture has developed in the past few thousand years, through a rich tradition of trial and error, into an “empirical” medicine.

In the United States and Canada, many different styles and techniques of acupuncture, moxibustion, and acumoxa techniques have been adopted, including but not limited to traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture (TCM), Japanese acupuncture, classical acupuncture, medical acupuncture (neuro-anatomical acupuncture), electroacupuncture, auricular acupuncture, trigger point acupuncture, and Korean hand acupuncture. Increasing numbers of medical professionals such as physicians, chiropractors, and physiotherapists incorporate acupuncture as an adjunct modality into their treatment plan.

The most common system of acupuncture used in North America today is the Chinese system (or Traditional Chinese Medicine – TCM).  In general, TCM-trained acupuncturists use bigger and longer needles and almost always attempt to produce a de qi sensation (numbness, heaviness, twitching, or radiating ache around the needle insertion). TCM practitioners believe that the de qi sensation is essential for producing acupuncture’s benefits. In contrast, many Japanese-trained practitioners tend to use much finer needles and stimulate only the surface of the skin, and often do not consider the de-qi sensation of importance. It should be noted that not all Japanese practitioners treat their patients with the same technique. Chinese acupuncture was introduced into Japan about 1500 years ago. The basic principles remained similar to the Chinese meridian system, but the treatment style became quite different. This may be the result of social differences between mainland China and the island of Japan but it may also be a matter of simple economics.

In China, acupuncture is one of the cheapest medicines available whereas Western medical interventions and pharmaceuticals are expensive and less accessible. Acupuncture is so commonly practiced and the stream of patients is so voluminous that ensuring patient’s comfort has actually become secondary in this training and system.In Japan especially in the last 100 years, acupuncture has thrived in the private-practice sector. Western medicine has proved to be highly economical and is the central paradigm for Japanese government-supported healthcare. Practitioners of acupuncture in Japan have had to compete by developing traditional methods into highly effective and comfortable treatments.

There are many styles of acupuncture but which is best for you? This really depends on your condition and personal preference and may mean trying out a few practitioners before you find the right one. Every acupuncturist believes their treatment system is best but really, there is simply not enough evidence to conclude either way.

Seirin Japanese Acupuncture Needle