Over the 3000+ years of Chinese Medical History, like many forms of medicine, different schools of practice have developed. Some have used the underlying theory and integrate more with modern medicine, while others hold on to the classic theory alone. Typically, the emphasis on needle technique is slightly different, though equally effective. Ultimately, while all of these different type of Acupuncture may approach a case from a different perspective, the founding principles are ultimately the same.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

The product of a formalization by Chairman Mao in the 1950’s, in which it was standardized into a modern curriculum that combines historical Chinese Medicine with the teachings of Modern Medicine. Stripped of religious aspects, this style of acupuncture was instituted into Chinese hospitals and is supported by large amounts of research (Acupuncture Styles, n.d.). In TCM, a combination of Patient Questioning, Observation, and Palpation lead to a pattern diagnosis that suggests specific points that will influence the meridians to correct the body’s behavior and eliminate the pattern (Woodley, 2009). Compared with some other styles of acupuncture, TCM is sometimes considered to be fairly aggressive due to heavy needle manipulation in the pursuit of De Qi (the sensation of Qi arriving). Often, De Qi is experienced as a mild dull ache, tingling, or warm feeling at the insertion site.

Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM)

A slight variation of TCM that has retained or reconstructed more of the historical context of Chinese Medicine that was lost in the Cultural Revolution of China (Woodley, 2009). Practitioners emphasize a stronger foundation of the classical texts, with less attention paid to modern research. CCM also encourages the retention of esoteric concepts that traditionally accompany a practice of Chinese Medicine, yet is typically very technical (Acupuncture Styles, n.d.).

Five Element Acupuncture

Based on the theory of the Five Elements – a foundational aspect of Chinese Medicine. This branch’s popularity in the Western world is largely credited to J.R. Worsley, and focuses entirely on the energetic and esoteric components of historical acupuncture. Each patient is diagnosed with a causative factor based on the Five Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water, and is treated according to the energetic connotations of that factor, assuming any issue will be worked out after correcting the imbalance (Acupuncture Styles, n.d.).

Medical Acupuncture, sometimes Modern Acupuncture

Based on modern understandings of anatomy and on experimental evidence. It is primarily used by doctors, chiropractors, osteopaths, and physiotherapists, and includes the techniques “dry needling” in which a needle is inserted into a trigger point, and “trigger point therapy” or “injection therapy” in which a saline or herbal fluid is injected into the point. While this form is the most stripped of original concept, hard data suggests the lack of context reduces its effectivity (Woodley, 2009).

It is also important to note that, while these professionals often have extensive medical training, their training in acupuncture (or the insertion of needles into the body) is typically less than 100 hours. In comparison with the trained Acupuncturist’s 950 practical hours and 5 years of didactic training, they are considerably unprepared. Often, “horror stories” come from those who have not had sufficient training in needle insertion.

Tung Style Acupuncture

Originates from Taiwan by Master Tung Ching Chang, and utilizes uncommon points on the meridians to achieve rapid results with few needles. Distal points on the limbs are selected for the ability to balance the Qi of the entire body. Along with the limbs, the ears and scalp are imaged to match the entire body. This style makes use of bleeding specific points on the chest and back to work on certain conditions (Woodley, 2009).

Korean Hand Therapy (KHT) or Koryo Hand Therapy

Introduced in 1971 by Dr. Tae Woo Yoo, and utilizes the hands as microsystems for the body, and is very popular in pediatric use (Woodley, 2009).

Auricular Acupuncture

Originating in China, it has been largely made popular and been developed through the work of Dr. Paul Nogier. This style maps the entire body onto the ear, and utilizes small needles, magnets, pellets, and seeds to stimulate points. It is commonly used with whole body acupuncture, and chosen to treat addiction, pain, and stress. Using five points on each ear, the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association Treatment Protocal has been very successful in large-scale substance abuse programs (Woodley, 2009).

Zhu’s Scalp Acupuncture

Specialized for the treatment of neurological disorders, including spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, TBI’s, and post-stroke when administered within six-months of the cardiovascular incident.


Acupuncture Styles. (n.d.). AltMD. Retrieved January 24, 2016, from http://www.altmd.com/Articles/Acupuncture-Styles

Dharmananda, S. (2001). The Jin-Yuan Medical Reforms. Institute for Traditional Medicine. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.itmonline.org/arts/jinyuan.htm

Huangdi Neijing. (2016, February 19). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huangdi_Neijing

Jin-Huai, W., PhD. (2013). Historical Timeline of Chinese Medicine (R. W. Jacques, Trans.; A. Nugent-Head, Ed.). Association for Traditional Studies. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.traditionalstudies.org/historical-timeline-of-chinese-medicine/

Maciocia, G. (1989). The foundations of Chinese medicine: A comprehensive text for acupuncturists and herbalists (3rd ed.). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

Tanaka, T. H., PhD. (2003). Acupuncture Styles and Techniques. Acupuncture Treatment. Retrieved January 24, 2016, from http://www.acupuncture-treatment.com/acupuncture-styles/

Woodley, S. (2009). Modern Styles of Chinese Medicine. Retrieved January 24, 2016, from http://www.steve-woodley.co.uk/?content=styles


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