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What is the difference between Western Medical Acupuncture & Chinese Acupuncture?

What is Western medical acupuncture?

Medical acupuncture or Western Medical acupuncture is a therapeutic technique that involves inserting fine needles into certain points across the body, to encourage healing and pain relief. It states that the practice differs from Chinese Medicine Acupuncture as it doesn't adhere to the concepts of Qi, Channels and follows a diagnosis. Medical acupuncture is usually offered by doctors, nurses, midwives, health visitors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, dentists and podiatrists. Most commonly western medical acupuncture is offered by the NHS.

What is the difference between Western medical acupuncture and Chinese medicine acupuncture?

The main difference is that Western medical acupuncture does not follow the theory and diagnostic principles of Chinese Medicine and instead bases treatment on modern concepts of Western medicine. However due to the difference in diagnostic principles practitioners of western medical acupuncture tend to work by isolating the problem as opposed to treating the problem holistically. The points utilised in Western Medical acupuncture are taken from the Chinese Medicine acupuncture system.

Acupuncture vs Chinese Medicine Acupuncture vs Eastern Acupuncture vs Traditional Acupuncture

This is a case of me, myself and I. I say tomahto, you say tomayto. You get the point. This is why I like to also call it the original acupuncture. A method with more than 3000 years of history behind it that is still being understood by modern medicine. A method that helped develop dry needling, and western medical acupuncture. This is the method of acupuncture that I practice.

What most people don't recognise is the complexity of acupuncture. Trained acupuncturists are able to explore the various micro systems and techniques that exist to treat the body such as scalp acupuncture, auricular acupuncture, wrist and ankle acupuncture, electro acupuncture, distal needling acupuncture, master tung acupuncture.

An analogy that I like to use in clinic is to liken the body to a tree. If there is a diseased part of the tree you can target the diseased area or you can look at the surrounding areas, the neighbouring branches, the root, the soil and the environment. Targeting the local area of dysfunction is one way of treatment however I have found that in some cases treating in areas away from the problem is more effective and safer. Acupuncture is just one technique I can use for treating pain and dysfunction. I also have additional tools in my belt including diet, Chinese herbal medicine, gua sha, cupping and moxibustion

Which is better? Western Medical Acupuncture or Acupuncture?

The bit we've all been waiting for. What is the best option? Ultimately this is just an opinion and I am here to guide you and provide you with all the information needed in making the right decision for you.


Western medical acupuncture practitioners require between 2 to 4 days of training before a practitioner can be qualified to perform the practice.

In saying that, I appreciate that medical professionals such as doctors, chiropractors, osteopaths, and physiotherapists have received prior medical training in their respective fields for at least 3 years. However, in my opinion this does not compensate for the lengthy theoretical and practical training acupuncturists receive before being qualified to perform acupuncture.

Registered acupuncturists have significantly more training in acupuncture and dry needling as this is their primary modality, not an add on. On average a registered acupuncturist would have a foundation of close to 1000 hrs before they are qualified.

150 hours of Anatomy and Physiology outlining location of organs, nerve structures and arteries

100 hours of point location including how to needle in order to prevent issues such as organ puncture, nerve damage, artery damage and pain.

200 hours of needling training

400 hours of supervised clinical practice

On top of that registered acupuncturist are required to complete at least 24 hrs of continual development annually.

As I said before, I believe that there is a place for dry needling, western medical acupuncture and acupuncture.

Western medical acupuncture is offered on the NHS which benefits patients that might not be able to afford private treatments and brings more awareness to the capabilities of acupuncture. However I believe for individuals that are interested in holistic care that treats the root of the problem as well as the symptoms, Chinese Medicine can offer so much more than just acupuncture.

Here's a nice video to sum up what I talked about in this blog!

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