What’s your favourite style of Acupuncture?

You’ve probably heard of Traditional Chinese Medicine. But have you heard of Traditional Japanese Medicine or Traditional Korean Medicine? What are their differences? Simply put, these are different styles of the medical practices that originate from the Far East in Asia. These medical practices are also known as Oriental Medicine and they can be described in general terms as a form of medical treatments utilising acupuncture and herbal medicine. These medical practices have been around since thousands of years ago in the Far Eastern parts of Asia mainly recorded in China, Japan and Korea.

China having the longest of recorded history, it is likely that Oriental Medicine had initially originated from China. As trade and ideas had spread to the neighbouring countries such as Korea and Japan, each of the nations have developed unique styles of treatment to suit their cultural nuances and climate conditions. Sounds interesting, right?

Looking firstly at the Chinese style of acupuncture, it is usually perceived to be more direct and ‘aggressive’, for example using thicker needles in its treatments. Such techniques as thrusting and twisting of the needles are used in the Chinese style; whereas they are not seen in the Japanese or Korean styles of acupuncture. Also the stimulated sensation which is called the “de qi sensation” is sought after in the Chinese style acupuncture. This is a dull, heavy or pulling sensation that can be felt by the patient. However, just because it is seen to be a more ‘aggressive’ style of treatment in comparison to the others, it does not mean that it is bad or inferior. In fact, most Chinese people would favour this style of acupuncture. This may be due to their cultural nuances that favour more direct solutions and their belief in the “no pain no gain” attitude when it comes to medical treatments.

The Japanese style of acupuncture adopts essentially the same principles when it comes to diagnosing and selecting for the right acupuncture points. The differences are, by and large, that it uses much thinner needles that are inserted only superficially. The needle doesn’t go any deeper than a few millimeters under the skin. Special techniques are used when the practitioner inserts the needle with the aid of small tools to guide the needle through. It allows the insertion to be much more gentle and pain-free. In fact, most of the time, you won’t even feel the needle going in!

Another unique point of the Japanese style therapy is that it uses many different styles of the heat in its treatments. Yes, both the Chinese and Korean styles also uses heat which is called “moxa”, however, their use is not as extensive as the Japanese. The Japanese has their own five different types of Moxa – each used in its unique ways. Some Japanese practitioners state that all types of disease come from harbouring the cold element in our body. The Cold provokes bad circulation and can also make the cell to abnormally mutate or prematurely die – leading to the cancerous cell to develop. Following this principle, applying heat to any cold parts of the body for treatment is widely used in the Japanese style of acupuncture.

The Korean style of acupuncture lies somewhere in between the two. The Korean style can be described as treatments that use not too much of stimulation yet without being too gentle. It is the type of treatment that is not afraid to incorporate modern technologies and techniques into the practice. One example of such unique and novel treatment methods used is for treatment of the arthritic pain by injecting a dose of bee venom to the affected area. This sort of treatment has been well researched and documented, in South Korea, for its effectiveness in reducing arthritic pain. Also many acupuncture and herbal practitioners in South Korea are constantly looking for other herbal medicines that could to be injected for positive clinical outcomes. These innovations have allowed the oriental medicine to reach another level leading to the discovery of various herbal topical creams for medication.

So, by now, you might be thinking which of the styles is the best for you. As an oriental medicine practitioner who has a Korean background growing up with the Australian culture and also having the benefits of studying for a Bachelors and Masters in Chinese Style of Acupuncture for 6 years and subsequently being trained in Japanese Acupuncture, I like to incorporate all the methods to provide the best care for the patient. Having said that, I do lean more towards the Japanese style of acupuncture, simply because I believe in helping the patient to relax and enjoy the experience will give my patient the best results.

Grace Choi

Clinical Acupuncturist

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