Japanese acupuncture is very distinctive from the Chinese styles that we may be more familiar with. Acupuncture began its evolution in China some 4,000 years ago and was introduced to Japan about 1,400 years ago where it immediately began to develop its own special character.
Practitioners of Japanese acupuncture still follow the basic principles of Oriental medicine as written in the Chinese classics, where human health depends on the harmonious flow of energy or Qi in and around pathways we call meridians.
The most notable distinguishing features of Japanese acupuncture are in its refinement of the technology (including the needles), techniques, and diagnostic methods.
In Verena’s practice, you will find a great influence of the Japanese style Acupuncture in her treatments. As mentioned above, all practitioners’ backgrounds are based on the theories and practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). While submerged in her TCM studies, she felt strongly drawn to explore the traditions of the Japanese philosophy. With a solid foundation of Chinese style Acupuncture and a great interest in Japanese style, her treatments will reflect elements of both theories and techniques.
Japanese Needles for a Gentler Touch
Japanese acupuncture needles are shorter, thinner, and far more flexible than Chinese acupuncture needles. This is because painless insertion is important in Japanese acupuncture and delicate needle techniques are emphasized. In the Edo period, about 400 years ago, one Japanese practitioner invented a small simple tool called the guide tube to facilitate the painless insertion of very fine needles: these are now commonly used by acupuncturists around the world. There are also techniques in which the needles do not penetrate the skin to activate the healing power of Qi. Such gentle methods are especially useful in the branch of Japanese acupuncture that focuses on babies and children (Shonishin).
Japanese Needling Technique
Japanese masters have continually refined needling techniques over the centuries, based on their growing understanding of how Qi can be accessed at the surface of the body, and to suit the constitutions of modern-day Japanese people. They have learned that the treatments are more effective and comfortable when needle insertion is accurate but very, very shallow, when the manipulations are gentle, and when the duration of needling is shorter.
This allows time to round out treatments with:
· gentle acupressure
· passive stretching
· moxibustion (a warming therapy using the herb mugwort or artemesia vulgaris).
Japanese Diagnostic Methods Require a Gentle Touch
Japanese-style acupuncturists are adept at reading the condition of the vital organs via the "pulses," on the wrist. Much attention is also give to the hara or abdomen, which, is felt or "palpated" for patterns of imbalance. The practitioner will re-check the pulses and hara several times through the course of a treatment to ensure its effectiveness. In addition, the practitioner will gently palpate areas on the body locating areas that need focused attention.
What makes Japanese Acupuncture unique?
As described above, the techniques used are much gentler, subtler and less painful than that of Chinese Acupuncture. Also, Japanese practitioners place a great importance on very specific point location. This is done by carefully palpating and finding a very accurate “active point” – which cannot be captured accurately by locating according to textbook locations. Acupuncture points are maximized when knowledge of the points are matched by experience and sensitivity of a practitioner’s fingertips. By placing such great importance on palpation and accurately palpated-point location, Japanese Acupuncturists are able to be extremely effective without using deep needle insertion or strong stimulation.
Techniques that are often used in Japanese Acupuncture:
· Filiform Needle
· Intradermal Needles
· Press-tack Needles
· Non-inserted Needles
Filiform Needle (Goshin Needle)
The insertion of needles is one of the most common techniques used in Japan. The needles differ from hypodermic needles, in that they are extremely fine – two or three needles may fit inside the barrel of a common hypodermic needle used for injections.
The needles used (in both Japanese and Chinese Acupuncture) are always disposable and one-time-use-only needles. Japanese filiform needle widths generally range from 0.12 mm to 0.18 mm in diameter. This is quite a bit smaller than that of Chinese Acupuncture, which usually ranges from 0.30 mm to 0.40 mm in diameter. Needle lengths usually vary between 30 and 50 mm, yet the insertion depth ranges from 5 mm to 10 mm in Japanese Acupuncture. This shallow insertion is also one of the key trait, which makes Japanese Acupuncture so unique.
Intradermal Needle (Hinaishin Needle)
An intradermal needle is a very short stainless steel needle no longer than 3 mm in length. The needles have one sharp end for insertion, and another circular end for control of insertion and, also for assurance that half of the needle remains outside of the skin – as it lays flat on the skin.
Intradermals are inserted extremely shallowly usually to about 1.5 mm. They are then secured with waterproof medical tape if the patient is to have the needle in for longer than treatment time. A patient may have the needles in for up to a week depending on the complaint, and the patient can proceed with regular daily activity and not have it affect the needle’s position, or cause any discomfort to the patient.
Intradermal needles may be commonly mistaken or confused for press-tack needles. Press-tack needles are another type of needle used in Japanese and Chinese style Acupuncture for various techniques. Most commonly known to be used for Auricular Acupuncture for common uses such as treating tooth pain, as general anesthesia, for drug detoxification and quitting smoking – a very popular and effective use.
Non-inserted Needle (Enshin Needle and Teishin Needle)
These non-inserted needles are instruments, which have a thinner blunt point at one end and a rounded end at the other. These needles are used exclusively for pressing or hovering over specific acupuncture points or rubbing in a directive motion on a particular area. These methods are used often on children, very sensitive patients or needle-phobic patients.
Moxibustion is a commonly used method in both Japanese and Chinese Acupuncture. Japanese acupuncture however, does use this technique more frequently as a lot of importance has been placed on the practice of Moxibustion in Japan. This practice consists of the application of heat to particular acupuncture points with a specific herb known as Mugwort (Moxa). Moxibustion is either used directly on the surface of the skin or indirectly on acupuncture needles.
Direct Moxibustion is the igniting of a small piece of moxa, which has been placed on the skin, and allowed to burn down to a beneficial warmth feeling on the chosen point. This warmth stimulates the selected acupuncture point and transmits the therapeutic effects of the herb – known to Eastern medicine to have many healing properties.
Indirect Moxibustion is where the herb is placed on top of a needle and ignited – here it is allowed to burn down fully as it never touches the skin. As the herb burns it warms the needle and transmits the therapeutic effect through the needle into a very specific area of the skin – with no more than a pleasant warm feeling at the site of Moxibustion.