Being as not many people have very much knowledge of acupuncture, there are a lot of aspects to take into consideration. For starters, there is more than one style of acupuncture that an acupuncturist may specialise in.
Much like choosing an individual style of yoga or a particular form of martial art, choosing the type of acupuncture that you would like to practice is very important. However, most practitioners do not know this when they begin their studies, so it’s nice to attend an acupuncture training course that teaches aspects of each style.
Later on when the practitioner has found their style, they may then choose to predominantly practice one or two styles that they feel a particular affinity with and from which they have obtained considerable results.
So, what are the various styles of acupuncture?
The oldest known style of acupuncture is Classical Acupuncture; it is based on the Classic writings of Oriental medicine. These are the most essential texts, the teaching, comes from the Neijing Su Wen, Nanjing, and Ling Shu.
Here is an interesting fact, the oldest medical textbook which was dated by scholars is the Su Wen, up until the late Warring States era which was 475 to 221 BC.
A holistic approach to health is what classical acupuncture applies, for a very specific and individual treatment to be delivered/ All aspects of a person are taken into consideration, this includes their mental, physical, emotional and yes, their spiritual health.
Once a thorough diagnosis has been ascertained to pinpoint the core issues and the imbalances within the body that are bringing about these symptoms, the practitioner then chooses an appropriate treatment strategy and particular acupuncture points that will support the most beneficial outcome. In Classical acupuncture, there are many instances in which fewer needles are used during treatment as practitioners utilising this style typically aim at addressing the cause of the condition rather than focusing on the symptom or manifestations alone.
The Five Phases/Elements
During the early developments of acupuncture, knowledge of the human body was very basic due to a lack of deeper understanding of its inner workings. However with thorough observation physicians were able to describe the physiology and processes by using the natural world as well as the seasons to explain. Much like the season flow from spring and on into summer, then to late summer and move forward to autumn finally arriving at winter, it was observed that so too do the human energetics also adjust and change with the seasons.
Ancient practitioners therefore based the interpretations of signs and symptoms of the movements and changes within the seasons and categorised the human body and symptoms into five phases or elements; wood fire, earth, metal and water.
This interpretation of health and disease also incorporates various climatic influences such as cold, heat, dryness, damp, fire and wind. For example, if a person is exposed to excessive cold then they may, in turn, develop cold-like symptoms as this climatic factor has entered the body.
In a similar way, a person who lives in a damp building may eventually begin to suffer from symptoms such as aching joints, fatigue and breathing difficulties, which can all be related to damp invasion.
For more understanding and further reading about the five elements and the classifications within acupuncture, see this article.
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)
After the communist revolution, the Chinese government authorised that four Chinese medicine colleges be established. The reason behind this was to systematise various elements of medical knowledge that were traditional from treatment modalities the belonged to various schools which were pre-communist as well as Western.
This is how the term Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) was coined. So, regardless of its name, TCM is, in fact, modern Chinese medicine, an endeavour to find an integration between Western medicine and Chinese medical tradition that is harmonious.
TCM also uses various models of the five element theory.
The Japanese Form of Acupuncture
Much like the Classical approach, there are fewer needles used. The needles are often thinner that Chinese needles and minimal stimulation is applied upon needle insertion, and once they are in place.
The nature of Japanese acupuncture is very subtle. Mainly, the diagnosis is based on the five element principles of acupuncture. At this time, there are no colleges which provide a foundation or undergraduate course in Japanese acupuncture in Europe. This makes it tough for those new to the practice of acupuncture to find a way in which to become qualified and earn professional membership in the Japanese style of acupuncture. However, at postgraduate level, there are plenty of opportunities to study this interesting and subtle form of the practice.