When physical or emotional
stress occurs internally, it also manifests itself
externally, in skin and muscle tissue. As a result,
specific points or regions can become painful,
tense, sensitive, indented, etc. Oriental medicine
succeeded in developing a system of therapy, which
uses these points not only for diagnosis, but
also treatment. Acupuncture and shiatsu affects
the body's internal condition by manipulating
the peripheral or external tissues. The treatment
results acupuncture and shiatsu achieve have been
explained by oriental medicine for centuries while
modern medicine is just beginning to propose explanations
for their effectiveness.
MODERN MEDICINE PERSPECTIVE
microscopic prick of an acupuncture needle
creates a site of injury at the cellular level.
The body’s response to injury is a release
of chemicals vital to cellular repair. In
this way, an acupuncture needle insertion
fools the body into thinking it has been invaded
by a foreign object and both tissue and cellular
biochemical defense mechanisms are initiated.
This helps to reduce local inflammation and
and shiatsu stimulate the body to produce
its own pain-relieving chemicals called "endorphins",
which are also known as "anti-stress
Gate Control Theory:
Pain is transmitted
from the periphery to the brain via the spinal
cord. There is a mechanism (or "gate")
at work in the spinal cord, which stops pain
messages from reaching the brain. The insertion
of the thin needles of acupuncture or the
holding pressure of shiatsu can close this
gate, thus lessening the sensation of pain.
Endorphins (above) can also block pain pathways
by acting on these gates.
It has been noted that acupuncture points have different electrical potentials than other areas of the body. It is not known exactly why these different electrical potentials exist but research suggests that acupuncture, on one level, works by affecting electrical conduction in the body. Research into this phenomenon continues.
Autonomic Nervous System:
The autonomic nervous
system is responsible for coordinating and
conducting all of the body's involuntary functions.
Acupuncture and shiatsu "turn on"
the conserving, healing function of the autonomic
nervous system while overriding the fight-or-flight
function which, when overactive, puts a great
deal of wear and tear on our bodies and minds.
Trigger Point Theory:
research, western physicians have discovered
specific points of tension in the body that,
when released, are particularly effective
in the alleviation of musculo-skeletal pain.
The locations of these points remarkably correlate
with the acupuncture points of oriental medicine.
ORIENTAL MEDICINE PERSPECTIVE
In Japan, Oriental
medicine is called the medicine of vital energy.
The explanation of its effectiveness is based
on an energetic model rather than the biochemical
model of western medicine. Ancient oriental
physicians recognized that vital energy (called
Ki in Japanese or Qi in Chinese) circulates
along channels or meridians throughout the
body and links all of the body's parts and
functions. Ki maintains and nurtures our physical
body as well as our mind. It keeps the blood
circulating, warms the body and fights disease.
When a person is healthy, Ki flows smoothly
through the channels but if, for some reason,
the flow is blocked, weak, or excessive, then
symptoms and/or illness occurs.
In treatment, the aim of the therapist is to correct
the flow of Ki by inserting needles or applying
pressure to specific points along the channels.
In so doing, a change in part or function of the
body is achieved. Changes in Ki precede physical
change, so acupuncture and shiatsu can act as
preventive medicine, correcting energy flow before
a serious illness occurs. If physical change has
already occurred, it can be reversed by adjusting
the flow of Ki.
Japanese Acupuncture techniques are often gentler,
subtler and less painful than the techniques used
in China. The following techniques are used during
treatment in our clinic and are uniquely Japanese:
they are either clearly of Japanese origin or they
are very popular in Japan. Each one is different
in character and very effective on its own.
In addition to the stimulus each technique generates,
it goes without saying that there is a special
effect that comes from the stimulation of a very
specific location of an acupuncture point (or
"active point"). These points are a
living phenomena with changing natures and locations,
so they cannot be captured accurately by merely
locating the points according to a textbook. The
treatment is of little value unless the Acupuncturist
has the awareness and palpation ability to detect
the "active points". The best use of
acupuncture points only becomes possible when
knowledge of the points is matched by experience
and sensitivity in the fingertips. Japanese Acupuncturists
place a lot of weight in finding the exact location
of "active points" for treatment.
This is why Japanese Acupuncture techniques are
able to be extremely effective without using deep
needle insertions or strong stimulation.
NEEDLE (FILIFORM NEEDLE)
In Japan, the
goshin or filiform needle method is the most
common needle technique. Filiform needles
are very different from hypodermic needles
in that they are solid and extremely fine.
In fact, two or three acupuncture needles
would fit inside the barrel of a regular hollow
needle used for injections. The filiform needles
used in our clinic are made of stainless steel
and come individually packaged and pre-sterilized
with Ethyleneoxide gas. They are almost always
inserted using an insertion tube to reduce
any sensation of pain. A Japanese Imperial
Acupuncturist, Dr. Waichi Sugiyama, invented
these tubes in the late 1600's.
Japanese filiform needles are thinner than
Chinese filiform needles. The needles used
in our clinic are between 0.12 mm and 0.18
mm in diameter. This is almost five times
smaller than the equivalent smallest Chinese
needles (0.32 mm to 0.38 mm in diameter).
Needle lengths vary between 30 and 40 mm but
the depth of insertion in our clinic ranges
between 5 mm and 10 mm. Shallow insertions
also make Japanese Acupuncture unique.
steel, disposable filiform needles
HINAISHIN NEEDLE (INTRADERMAL
or intra-dermal needle, is an extremely useful
treatment modality invented by Kobei Akabane
Intra-dermal needles are very short (3mm)
stainless steel needles that come individually
packaged and pre-sterilized. One sharp end
is for insertion and the other circular end
is to control the depth of insertion and to
guarantee that half of the needle remains
outside the skin.
They are inserted very shallowly (about 1.5
mm) on an angle into the skin between the
superficial and deep fascia. They are then
secured with waterproof medical tape. Properly
inserted and taped, they should not be felt
if the area is moved or touched. They can
be left in place for up to one week to provide
gentle and continuous treatment. Patients
can go about their activities of daily living,
even showering or swimming, without even noticing
Complications with the use of intra-dermal
needles are rare. Because of the properties
of the superficial fascia and because the
needles are carefully taped in place, the
risk of infection from the use of intra-dermal
needles is almost insignificant.
Dr. Yoshio Manaka, M.D., Ph.D. said that "The development of intradermal needles by Kobie Akabane was especially noteworthy as the epitomy of this Japanese tendency toward miniaturization. My colleague Kazuko Itaya and I have studied the effects of acupuncture on micro-circulation using intradermal needles. Although it seems to go against the common perception of acupuncture, our findings proved that even the slightest needle stimulation induces a generalized increase in vaso-motion. The finest intradermal needles were sufficient to improve the nutritional state of tissue and greatly facilitate reabsorption in cases of internal hemorrhage or edema." (NAJOM, Vol.1,No2 Novenber 1994 P.5)
Chinese intra-dermal needles have been made
but they are thicker and longer than those
made in Japan. The Chinese have also invented
a needle for a similar purpose called the
press-tack needle (Empishin in Japanese).
The press-tack needle resembles a small thumbtack.
It is inserted more deeply than the intra-dermal
needle and its insertion is perpendicular
to the skin's surface rather than angled like
the insertion of the intra-dermal needle.
Intra-dermal and press tack needles can be
used for auricular (ear) acupuncture. In the
1950's, Dr. P. Nogier of France started researching
effective acupuncture points in the ear. Auricular
acupuncture became very popular in China around
the same time, which has resulted in many
clinical studies and the discovery of additional
points. Today, auricular acupuncture has become
popular in Japan and North America. It is
particularly effective for weight loss, drug
detoxification, tooth pain, stomach pain,
back pain and anesthesia as well as for quitting
ENSHIN NEEDLE AND TEISHIN
NEEDLE (NON-INSERTED NEEDLES)
The term "needle"
is used loosely to define these instruments.
An enshin needle is roughly the thickness
of a pencil with a rounded end at one end
and a small blunt point at the other. It is
about 5 cm in length. A teishin needle has
a rounded but sharper tip than the enshin
needle and is longer in length (about 10 cm).
Keiri Inoue invented the spring-loaded teishin,
which makes it easier to control the pressure
applied to specific points. Both are crafted
of stainless steel.
These non-inserted needles are used exclusively
for rubbing and pressing methods for very
sensitive patients, children, and needle-phobic
are almost always more sensitive than adults.
In Japan, non-inserted needles are used for
the practice of shonishin, a pediatric acupuncture
is a stainless steel ball bearing usually
no bigger than 2 mm in diameter. It is secured
to a circular piece of tape that can then
be pressed onto the skin. In Japan, the press-spheres
are placed mostly on body points that are
particularly sore and retained for a maximum
of three to four days.
They can be used instead of an intra-dermal
needle on children, sensitive patients and
patients who are needle-phobic.
Press-spheres can be very useful when applied
to points in different micro-systems such
as the Chinese auricles or Korean hand points.
is the application of heat to acupuncture
points with a special herb called moxa. There
are two different types of moxibustion: direct
Direct moxibustion refers to the placing of
small pieces of moxa directly onto the skin,
which are then ignited by incense. The moxa
is allowed to burn down to the skin in order
to stimulate the selected acupuncture point.
This technique is the most popular moxibustion
technique in Japan but it has almost disappeared
from use in Chinese moxibustion.
Indirect moxibustion is performed in many
ways. The heat of the moxa irradiates the
selected point but makes no direct contact
with the skin. There are two popular modern
indirect moxibustion techniques in Japan:
Ibuki and Kamaya methods. In the Ibuki moxa
method, a piece of moxa is placed inside a
small cylinder (5 mm x 10 mm) which then sits
on a circular base. Once ignited, the piece
smolders for a minimum of approximately 3
minutes, producing a medium level of heat.
The Kamaya moxa method employs a simple device
consisting of a small cardboard tube (12 mm
in length and 9 mm in diameter), which is
filled with coarse moxa. A small stick is
used to push the moxa halfway up the tube
so that there is a 6 to 7 mm space between
the skin and the moxa. Indirect moxa is a
way of applying heat without burning the skin.
It is relatively risk-free and easy.
Only in Japan are there separate licenses
for the practise of acupuncture and moxibustion.
This requires practitioners to uphold a high
standard of training in moxibustion therapy.
While it a technique adjunct to acupunture
outside of Japan, moxibustion therapy in Japan
requires a higher degree of specialization
to obtain a National licence.
kamaya mini moxibustion
also known as shiatsu, is acupuncture without
needles. As a modified form of acupuncture,
shiatsu manipulates acupuncture points to
stimulate the body's self-healing system.
Derived from Chinese massage, this gentle
but deep stimulation is a traditional Japanese
massage technique in which a vertical and
continuous pressure is applied to acupuncture
points on the body by the therapist's hands.
Shiatsu is very useful as a method of both
palpation and treatment. In Japanese acupuncture,
palpation is the most important assessment
and diagnostic tool used. This is in contrast
to Chinese acupuncture, where the tongue and
pulses are heavily relied upon for assessment
Shiatsu is ideal for patients who don't care
for or cannot receive any form of needle technique
because it is an acupuncture treatment using
the fingers instead of needles. Shiatsu is
the most popular and highly respected form
of manual therapy in Japan.