Differences Between Western Medical Acupuncture and Traditional Oriental Medical Acupuncture (Part Two)

There are many practical differences between those who are involved in traditional Oriental medical acupuncture and those who practice Western medical acupuncture. Let’s take a look at some of these differences from a practical perspective.

Western medical acupuncture is often undertaken in a busy medical practice or clinic where each patient can only be given a minimum of time. This modern form of acupuncture is much easier to learn and master by modern medical professionals who have never been exposed to it before such as doctors, chiropractors, physiotherapists, podiatrists and osteopaths. These modern members of the health community do not view acupuncture as a new technique or a new system of thought or reason but instead view the healing practice of acupuncture as an extension of the work they already do to help their patients.

Those who follow the traditional Oriental medical model (referred to sometimes as traditionalists) view western medical acupuncture in a less than desirable way. These practitioners see the new more modern way as a kind of “watered- down version of real acupuncture” and believed that it has only a limited ability to help people in a minority of situations. In some areas those who have not taken traditional acupuncture training and still go about the task of inserting needles based on specific physically manifested symptoms are considered to be doing “dry needling” which helps to distinguish the traditional method from the modern western method.

It is unfortunate that very little research has been conducted in relation to acupuncture, both the traditional method as well as the Western medical modern method. As well little if any research has been done to compare these two types of acupuncture to compare which one is best, which one helps patients more and to clearly differentiate the positive and negative points of each.

Choosing where to insert the needles according to traditionalists is simple because they know where all of the points and meridians are located. However if one does not want to go with this theory then this task becomes increasingly more complicated. One popular idea is to insert needles in the trigger points of the body. Trigger points are sore or tender areas that exist mainly in the muscles and it is from these areas that pain and discomfort radiates out to other spots of the body. Traditional medicine has created a name for tender areas, which is Ah Shi Points (or are sometimes called spontaneously tender points).

Others consider body segments, which is to say that the spinal cord is arranged in a way that it has segments and each segment contains “pairs of nerve roots” that emerge or jut out from it along the full length of the spine. It is these nerve root pairs that provide ample supply for the skin in accordance with a series of stripes. In this way it is simple to say that the different segments of the spinal column are able to supply sensations to all different areas of the human body. The needles for acupuncture in this way are inserted according to the segments that are linked to the internal organs that are in need of treatment. This method is very close to the traditional Chinese medicine way of making use of tendino-muscular regions or meridians.