Acupuncture Styles –
Traditional Chinese, Five Elements, Western or Dry Needling?

When choosing an acupuncture course in the UK it is important to be aware of the significant differences that exist between these distinct acupuncture styles, underlying philosophies, depth of needling and the health conditions that they are able to treat.  Without such knowledge, you will be unable to make an enlightened choice when choosing acupuncture training courses.

A very small proportion of the British population knows that there are different styles of acupuncture.
The assumption is that acupuncture is “acupuncture” from who ever you receive it or wherever the therapist is trained.
The public assumes that they will receive essentially the same kind of treatment from any qualified acupuncturist they might choose. This is not true and is misleading. Unfortunately, the terms ‘Acupuncture’, ‘Traditional Acupuncture’, ‘Five Element Acupuncture’ and ‘Medical Acupuncture’ are all used.

Acupuncture Bronze Man etched with Meridians and Acupuncture points
A thousand year old life sized, bronze statue shows all the Meridians etched into it’s surface with the Acupoints represented by drilled holes created in the Song Dynasty (960-1279AD).

Traditional Acupuncture based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) could mean

  • more gentle and very shallow acupuncture commonly used by those trained in most of Britain’s schools
  • more powerful acupuncture using deeper needling as universally performed in present day China and taught at the BODYHARMONICS centre.   Chinese acupuncture manipulates the needle when inserted into the body to get Deqi.

Five Element Acupuncture as well as ‘Stems & Branches’ Acupuncture

Originated in China is taught mainly in the Western degree courses.  Needle insertion is often very shallow and brief.
Graduates of the BODYHARMONICS centre will have the required skills and understanding to effectively treat all conditions using Traditional Chinese Acupuncture theory as well as having an ability to use the underlying concepts of Five Element philosophy.

Integrated Acupuncture

This style combines ‘Five Element’ with ‘Traditional Acupuncture’ usually with the emphasis on ‘Five Element’.


Microsystems Acupuncture is complementary to traditional acupuncture. Microsystems acupuncture states that different areas of the body, such as the hand, foot and ear, correspond to all organs and parts of the body. Evidence shows that needling these areas, can relief pain and emotional issues.

Auricular acupuncture

The ear functionally and topographically represents the whole body. Either needles, studs, seeds or metal balls are used on specific points.

Wrist & Ankle acupuncture

Based on 12 distal points which energetically link into all the body’s physiological systems. Read more….

Spinal Acupuncture

The  acupuncture points on either side of the spine represent all the organs of the body and the spinal nerves can treat musculo-skeletal conditions

Abdominal Acupuncture

Abdominal acupuncture focuses on the umbilicus to affect Qi and Blood flow to the whole body to treat both musculo-skeletal & internal conditions.

Scalp acupuncture

Affects the motor, sensory and associative areas of the cerebral cortex.

Korean Hand acupuncture 

Known as “Sujok”.  In Sujok, the whole body is reflected in each finger or toe.

British Medical Acupuncture

The public should be made aware that doctors, physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, nurses etc usually do a very short acupuncture training, mostly just 2-6 days.   They mainly perform trigger point acupuncture for pain relief relating to musculo-skeletal problems. Most of the medical acupuncture courses do not include any Traditional Chinese Medical theory or diagnosis. They do not use the meridians and the conceot of Qi which the Chinese call energy.

Master Tung’s and Dr Tan’s Taiwanese acupuncture systems

Needles are inserted into areas which correspond to specific and quite different parts of the body.

Dry needling or trigger point acupuncture

Dry needling on trigger points is used by physiotherapists, massage and sports therapists for myofascial pain. It is a short course and should not be called acupuncture.