Japanese Acupuncture

What is the essence of Japanese acupuncture?

Japanese acupuncture differs from Chinese acupuncture. Often in the modern practice of Chinese Acupuncture the treatment will be solely focused on the individual problem that the patient comes in for.  In Japanese Acupuncture there is a particular emphasis on first balancing the energy in your body and then dealing with the problem at hand.  This not only results in a faster recovery for the patient but will also leave you feeling on top of the world after the treatment. [accessed 17.7.19]

Let us look at the work by Chant et al 2017.  This study aimed to identify unique and routine elements of Japanese acupuncture, describe these elements in detail, and examine how the current beliefs and attitudes of Japanese acupuncture practitioners related to philosophical concepts in their practice.

Two major themes related to philosophical concepts were identified: beliefs and values, and knowledge. Beliefs and values included seven subthemes; Zen Buddhism, effect through technique, instant effects of treatment, anatomical areas of significance, resolution of abnormalities, minimal stimulation, and customer service/patient comfort. The themes reported on in this article are discussed in the following subsections.

Beliefs and values were reflected in procedural routines of clinical acupuncture practice, and demonstrated in practitioner attitudes related to Japanese acupuncture, health, illness, healthcare, and life in general…..

Zen buddhism

Whereas other schools of Buddhism have mostly influenced the spiritual life of Japanese people, ideas from Zen Buddhism have been accepted into almost every facet of Japanese culture. Although Zen Buddhism is a religion, Zen concepts are so embedded in nonreligious beliefs and behaviors (including the practice of acupuncture) that they no longer retain religious meaning in those contexts. Simplicity, minimum effort for maximum effect, and the respect for practicality above convention were some of the dominant values that informed Japanese acupuncture practice.

Effect through technique

This is the value of skills above knowledge. This value was represented by the importance of practitioner sensitivity and the significance given to the arrival of Ki (Japanese language term for Qi), above the circulation of Ki. This value was also connected to the practice of causing tangible treatment effects and detecting subtle changes in the patient condition. It is this value that demonstrated the de-emphasis of complex pattern differentiation and the emphasis of location and treatment of body tissue abnormalities.

Instant effects of treatment

This represents the belief that acupuncture and moxibustion can have instantly verifiable treatment effects. The process of trial and error throughout treatment and the constant confirmation of intervention effects typified this belief. This also connected to the concept of overtreatment and the ability to monitor and prevent over treating a patient. Applying too much stimulation or making too many attempts to improve the patient’s condition without a positive result was believed to be detrimental to the patient’s overall condition.

Anatomical areas of treatment

Some areas of the body were valued as more significant to health than others. One major area of significance was the abdomen. The diagnosis and treatment of this area alone could constitute a practitioner’s entire clinical procedure. The skin was also observed to be an important area of significance that was typified by skin palpation, shallow needling, and contact needling techniques. Areas such as the hands, feet, head, spine, and sacrum were also prioritized depending on the commitment to certain knowledge systems.

Resolution of palpable disturbances

Physical abnormalities or palpable disturbances of Ki, whether part of the main complaint or not, were considered sites of dysfunction that should be rectified. The search for, and treatment of abnormalities, especially on significant anatomical areas, was an important theme. This resulted in the recognition of abnormalities in relation to a predicated natural order and remedying any disorder by the application of prescribed techniques.

Minimal stimulation

The belief that it was not necessary for needles to be inserted into the body to have a therapeutic effect, and that moxibustion stimulation need not be felt by the patient, represents the value of minimal stimulation. This value is also evidenced by the large range of contact tools and minimally or noninserted needle techniques that were believed to have an effect on body tissues and Ki.

Patient service and customer service

This value represents the belief that patients should be comfortable, and treatment need not cause inadvertent injury to patients. It was common for practitioners to be described as “craftsmen,” implying a high level of skill and expertise. It was generally seen as unprofessional to cause discomfort to the patient with needles. This was somewhat demonstrated with the use of thin needles and guide tubes. Additionally, mild stimulation of treatment sites and the idea of not overtreating the patient are also practices that were connected to patient comfort.

Chant, B., Madison, J., Coop, P., & Dieberg, G. (2017). Beliefs and values in Japanese acupuncture: an ethnography of Japanese trained acupuncture practitioners in Japan. Integrative medicine research, 6(3), 260–268. doi:10.1016/j.imr.2017.07.001

Tracey is currently in a treatment study group with Toby Stephens //