Types of acupuncture


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With over 2,000 years of history behind it, the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture has spread, grown, and evolved in many remarkable ways since its inception. In this article we look at the many different types of acupuncture that can be found in the world today, each of which is unique in its own way, but still retains the core philosophies upon which acupuncture was first developed.

What do different types of acupuncture have in common?

While there are many different methods and forms of acupuncture, these techniques are all brought together by the central tenets of the practice that date back to ancient China.

Acupuncture was originally developed as a means by which to restore good healthy by correcting the obstructed flow of a vital energy called Qi. Qi was believed to be an important part of good physical and spiritual health, and this energy was thought to travel around the body by means of pathways called meridians. The acupoints targeted by acupuncture and its many sister practices are specific parts of the bodily system of meridians in which obstructions, causing illness, can be found and remedied.

Many acupuncturists today still abide by these beliefs and tenets; however others, particularly in the Western world have adapted the philosophy underlying acupuncture to be more in line with a modern understanding of physiology and the workings of the body. Based on this modern understanding, acupuncture and the stimulation of acupoints aims to trigger muscle relaxation, improved circulation, and the release of chemicals from nerves, all to promote well-being, pain relief, and recovery.

The many derivatives and types of acupuncture discussed in this article share these philosophies, whether modern or traditional, and will all involve different ways of stimulating acupoints to achieve specific ends.

Why are there different types of acupuncture?

The different forms of acupuncture that exist today have arisen due to different reasons. Some were developed as alternatives to the needle based traditional acupuncture, and these include techniques like electroacupuncture and acupressure. Others have arisen as a consequence of the spread of acupuncture into regions like Japan and Korea, both countries which have adapted the practice of acupuncture in different ways.

Ultimately the variation in acupunctural practices have arisen because the technique has existed for over 2,500 years and over that amount of time changes and adaptations are to be expected.

The different types of acupuncture

Some of the many different types of acupuncture practiced around the world include:

  • Acupressure: Is a form of acupuncture that uses pressure and massage techniques to stimulate acupoints rather than needles. Acupressure itself is practiced in many different ways across the world.
  • Moxibustion: Involves the stimulation of acupuncture points through the burning of a herb called moxa near these points.
  • Auricular acupuncture: The focus of this type of acupuncture is the ear. Either needles or minute electrical currents are used to treat a variety of different techniques. The idea is to stimulate signals to the brain that can relieve pain and help promote recovery.
  • Japanese acupuncture: Is basically the practice of acupuncture in Japan, which has developed many of its own unique facets. Japanese acupuncturists will often use touch as part of the diagnostic process. This form of acupuncture also usually involves very fine needles which are not inserted to a significant depth. This practice will also sometimes involve using acupressure or moxibustion.
  • Korean acupuncture: Is similar to Japanese acupuncture in that the practice developed after the spread of Chinese acupuncture into the country. Overtime, Korean acupuncture developed its own distinctive character, which in fact combines elements from both Chinese and Japanese acupuncture. Korean acupuncture commonly uses copper needles rather than the standard stainless steel variety used more commonly across the world today.
  • Traditional Chinese Acupuncture: Is perhaps the most widely spread form of acupuncture, and is the original form of acupuncture from which others have been derived. That being said, there can be considerable variation in the techniques and methods applied within traditional acupuncture because of different schools of thought and approaches in different schools and regions.
  • Trigger point acupuncture: Specifically targets what are called ‘trigger points’ .These are parts of different muscles which  have tightened in such a way as to form hard knots which can be responsible for pain, spasm, and discomfort. By targeting these trigger points with a needle, this form of acupuncture can relax knots and relieve sufferers from a great deal of pain and discomfort.
  • Electroacupuncture: This method makes use of small amounts of electricity passed between two needles. This technique is also known as percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, most often abbreviated to PENS. While it may sound daunting, this practice is quite safe and has shown promise in some studies investigating its effectiveness.
  • Cupping: This method involves the use of suction generated through cups to stimulate particular acupoints.

There are undoubtedly other acupuncture techniques applied in different practices across the world, however this selection encompasses some of the most common and popularly applied forms of acupuncture.


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