an intro to japanese style acupuncture

by Calley Williams, L.Ac.


1. Gentle Needling technique

-In Japanese style Acupuncture the needles are very thin and inserted superficially, and in some instances, they are not inserted at all. There is usually no manipulation of the needle, but instead the practitioner waits until he/she feels the Qi (energy) arrive. Each treatment will begin with contact needling at specific points to build up a person's constitution. For Japanese practitioners, the most energetic and influential aspects of Qi are at the surface of the body (which then goes internally into the organs when we sleep at night). This gentle needling technique is great for highly sensitive people (HSP's).

-Every person is born with a constitutional deficiency of one of the main yin organ systems. We look at different characteristics and features of the individual to help us assess what the constitutional deficiency is and how it led to the current state of imbalance and dis-ease. The main yin organs that a person could be constitutionally deficient in are: Spleen, Lung, Kidney, & Liver (the Heart is also a main yin organ, but we believe if a disease progresses to a deficient Heart, it is only in the very late stage of life, as the Heart is the governor of the body). For example, if your weak link is the Lung, then you might suffer from chronic bouts of bronchitis or asthma. Another characteristic of someone who is a Lung deficient constitution is a lot of body hair, as the Lungs control the opening and closing of the pores, so when this function is weaker to begin with, the body makes up for it with extra hair to protect the skin and keep the body warm. A treatment will begin with contact needling at specific points to help to nourish this weak link. 


2. A Strong Emphasis on Intuition & Touch

-In Japanese style Acupuncture, the diagnosis is very hands-on, and there is much emphasis on intuition and touch. In fact, 40% of licensed Acupuncturists in Japan are blind, so it is important to be able to "see" the points through the hands. Points may be chosen to be needled based on how they feel, rather than their known point function (some might feel tight, tender, or even energetically deficient or excessive). The channels are palpated in order to decide which acupuncture points are most appropriate for the individual patient. A point chosen by touch and intuition might not always sync up with the known function of that point. 

-Much like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we look at the tongue and pulse to see what’s going on at a deeper level in the body. In Japanese style we feel the pulse in order to assess which channels are excess and which channels are deficient (each organ has its own channel of energy that flows through a certain pathway of the body, which can be felt in a different position of the pulse). Acupuncture points are then chosen to correct this imbalance (by touch and palpation as noted above).

-In Japanese Acupuncture we also do abdominal palpation where the abdomen is split up into different areas to represent different organ systems. We can tell a lot about what is going on by palpating the abdomen.


3. Front and Back Treatments

-In Japanese style Acupuncture treatments there is usually a front and a back treatment.

-The front treatment focuses more on balancing out the channels or meridians of the body (as felt through the pulse, and why the pulse will probably be felt multiple times throughout a treatment), and tends to be a shorter treatment. The Qi (energy) in the channels moves fast and differences can be felt almost immediately in the pulse after a (much-needed) point is needled. 

-The back treatment is longer and focuses more on nourishing the body through a set of points on the back called back shu points (each organ has its own back shu point that is used to tonify that system). Each organ system relates to an element in nature, so we use certain elemental engendering patterns of needling on the back to support the patient's constitution. The back treatment used in this way, works on a deeper level, so the needles are left in longer.