The 7 main differences between Japanese Acupuncture vs Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture

In both TCM and Japanese style acupuncture, disease is seen as an imbalance in the organ system or Qi meridians, and the goal of any remedy or treatment is to assist the body in re-establishing its innate harmony. Disease can be caused by internal factors like emotions, external factors like the environment and weather, and other factors such as injuries, trauma, diet, and germs. However there are some key differences between the two:

1- The Size of the Needles – Chinese acupuncture and Japanese acupuncture differs in the size of the needles used on patients. Japanese needles tend to be a smaller and typically sharper than Chinese needles. Many say that this is the reason for a gentler, more superficial needling with less pain on the patient. Chinese needles are bit of a wider gauge, and they promote more of an aggressive needling.

2 – Depth of Insertion – The gauges of the needles go hand in hand with the depth of insertion required. Japanese needling is extremely gentle and superficial – meaning they only focus on the surface and just slightly under the surface of the skin,  whereas Chinese needling fosters more depth of insertion. Some patients feel this to be too painful, while others feel that this treatment benefits them more, as they can sense the movement of qi through the body more effectively.

3 – Herbs in conjunction with treatment – A large difference between the two practices is in the  use of herbs in conjunction with acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and herbs are an essential aspect of TCM as a whole. Japanese practitioners tend not to use herbs in conjunction with treatment, but they do refer their patients to other practitioners that are knowledgeable about the subject. The use of herbs is much more integrated in Chinese treatment, as opposed to Japanese treatment.

4 – Touch as a means of pre-treatment – Japanese acupuncture places a
lot of emphasis on the use of palpation (touch) before needle treatment. These practitioners rely on abdominal palpation to judge the insertion point of the needle. This practice roots from the many blind acupuncturists of Ancient Japan, and it goes hand in hand with the gentle needling.

5 – Chinese acupuncture insertion methods – The Chinese and Japanese practices differ greatly in their needling technique. Now a standard in the acupuncture field, guiding tubes for needles were not part of the Ancient Chinese traditions, and in fact were developed in Japan in the 1970’s when disposable needles became available. Further, Chinese acupuncture tends to manipulate the needle when inserted into the body much more than Japanese acupuncture.

6 – Stronger Qi sensation – Chinese acupuncture gives patients a much more distinct feeling of qi moving through specific points in their body, as practitioners of this discipline tend to, as stated above, rotate and shift the needle much more than Japanese practitioners. Further, the increased depth of the needle gives more distinct sensations.

7 – Moxa – In keeping with the theme of “gentle” and “relaxing”, Japanese acupuncturists almost always incorporate the technique of moxibustion. This involves burning cones of Moxa (derived from mugwort plant) over the patient’s skin before needling. This warming sensation adds to the soothing nature of Japanese acupuncture.

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