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Acupuncture / Health & Medicine

鍼灸(Shinkyuu) Acupuncture and Moxibustion                                          >>Find Acupunctures

The character for “acupuncture and moxibustion” (shinkyuu) is, aptly, made up of the characters for ‘needle' and for ‘moxibustion' because it is a general term for an Eastern medical treatment that uses both needles and moxibustion as a stimulus to cure illness. Practitioners of acupuncture and moxibustion must pass national qualifications and be licensed in order to practice in Japan.

鍼 ‘Hari' (Acupuncture)

Acupuncture is a traditional type of treatment for illness and discomfort. In acupuncture, needles are used to stimulate skin, muscle and the sub-cutaneous pathways flowing through the body, effecting a physiological change. While acupuncture originated as a Chinese medicinal practice, Japanese acupuncture has undergone its own unique development; Chinese acupuncture and Japanese acupuncture now use different instruments and techniques.

A Short History of Acupuncture                                                                   >>Find Acupunctures

Acupuncture was developed in ancient China approximately 800,000 years ago during the Stone Age. ‘Needles' at that time were made of stone and were used mainly to break open sores and for the extraction of pus from wounds. As technology progressed, needles moved to being made from animal bones, then to ceramics. By around 400 BC, metal needles similar to those still in use today had come into common usage. By 600 AD acupuncture had spread to Japan, becoming the mainstay of Japanese medical science. In the 1600's the Kanshin Method, one of Japan's unique acupuncture techniques, was developed by the blind Matsuyama Kazuichi.

In the 1950's, students were sent from France and various Eastern European countries to China to study acupuncture. By 1997, the Western medical world recognized acupuncture's effectiveness in treating morning sickness, nausea induced by chemotherapy or after surgical procedures, and pain following tooth extraction and oral surgery. Earning even more support from the medical world in 2000, it could be said that acupuncture is gradually being recognized as a valuable medical practice.

Benefits of Acupuncture

1. Lacks side effects.
Unlike medicines, acupuncture's lack of negative side effects could be considered its biggest draw.

2. Reduces pain and swelling
When swelling occurs, those muscles tense and causes poor blood circulation. Acupuncture             needles, placed with accurate precision, reduce muscle tension and improve the circulation, thereby reducing swelling.

3. Regulates autonomic nerves
Loss of homeostasis, caused by stress or changes in hormone levels (like those caused by menopause) can cause headaches, insomnia, heart palpitations, and feelings of general fatigue and discomfort. Acupuncture acts to regulate the autonomic nerves, part of the peripheral nervous system, and is therefore particularly adept at relieving these symptoms.

4. Regulates the functions of internal organ
The movements of internal organs are all regulated by the autonomic nerves. Therefore the effect of acupuncture on the autonomic nerves also improves the function of internal organs.

5. Boosts Immunity
Acupuncture has been proven to increase the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and lymphocyte in the blood stream, strengthening the immune system.

6. Secretes brain hormones.
Acupuncture causes the brain to secret beta-endorphins and enkaphalin, hormones which cause happiness and relieve pain.

Types of Needles                                                                                            >>Find Acupunctures

There are various types of needles used in acupuncture, ranging from those used to cut open the skin, to those (which are what I think of when someone says “acupuncture”) which are placed in the skin or muscle. Needle length can vary from 10mm to 150mm; in Japan the most commonly used type of needles are designed to be stuck into skin or muscle and range in length between 30mm and 90mm, with a width of about .20mm. Compared to the much wider needles used in hospitals and sewing, acupuncture needles are far more slender, reducing the pain the patient experiences when the needles enter the skin. Acupuncture needles can be made out of gold, silver, and stainless steel. Needles of each material are said to have their own special properties but, generally speaking, the safest and least expensive type are disposable needles made of stainless steel, so those see the most use.


Actual procedure runs something like this:

1) The area of the skin or muscle that will undergo acupuncture is massaged in order to relax and soften it.

2) The needles are carefully placed, and pushed through the top layer of skin. This is the time when the patient is most likely to experience some pain or pressure.  In order to reduce this pain, the Kanshin Method, a Japanese method of acupuncture, was developed.

3) The needles are pushed inside the muscle under treatment. The stimulation of any given needle can be increased or decreased at this time by changing the depth of the needle or by turning the needle minutely.

4) After removing the needles the area is massaged again, in order to prevent bleeding from the small blood vessels near the surface of the skin and to eliminate any discomfort caused by the removal of the needles.

The Kanshin Method: A Japanese method of acupuncture           

The Kanshin Method is a Japanese method of acupuncture designed to make the original insertion of the needles as painless as possible. Kanshin needles have an outer barrel through which the actual needle is inserted to the appropriate depth and an acupuncturist lightly hit the tip of the tip of the needle. This is the way to mitigate the pain significantly. After the needle has been inserted into the skin, the barrel is removed. There is no set way to remove the barrel; using the barrel at all is the main component of the Kanshin Method. The Kanshin Method is the most popular type of acupuncture practiced in Japan and sees significant use in Germany and Korea, though in most of the rest of the world the typical Chinese method, which does not use a barrel, is more common.

灸 ‘Kyuu' Moxibustion                                                                                  >>Find Acupunctures

Moxibustion is a traditional medicinal practice which uses heat as a stimulus to effect changes in a patient's physiological status, thereby curing illness. In China and Japan the primary method of moxibustion consists of the burning of moxa. Moxa is made from herbs, placed on acupuncture points on the skin of the affected area and set on fire. Sometimes moxa is attached to acupuncture needles set in the skin and burned there, rather than directly on the skin. Besides burning moxa, the heat stimulus can also be created by heating materials such as metal or stone separately, and then placing the heated materials on the skin along acupuncture points.

Japanese moxibustion, compared to the traditional Chinese Gaichi Method, uses less heat applied for longer periods of time. The idea behind this method is that less heat allows for longer exposure, and longer exposure allows the heat to permeate more thoroughly throughout the patient's body, allowing for greater net effect.

A Brief History of Moxibustion

Moxibustion was invented in China approximately three thousand years ago, and along with acupuncture and other traditional medicines, arrived in Japan around 600 AD. Primarily considered a folk medicine, moxibustion was used to treat sore feet and weariness from travel and to lower high blood pressure.

Benefits of Moxibustion                                                                               >>Find Acupunctures

1. Reduction of stress and sensitivity to cold.
Moxibustion uses heat to stimulate acupuncture points, improving the circulation of blood and energy inside one's body. This improved circulation is said to have positive effects on a set of diverse ailments including sensitivity to cold, stiff shoulders, lower back pain, various illnesses, menstrual pain and other feminine ills.

2. Increased physical strength
The heat from moxibustion warms the inside of the body, improving one's constitution and physical strength. It is especially beneficial for those with weak constitutions or suffering from chronic illnesses.

3. Improved immunity
Moxibustion is said to be helpful in raising the human immune system, curing illness, and generally improving health.

4. Relaxing Effects
After the heat from moxibustion spreads throughout the whole body, the body relaxes, causing the patient to experience a pleasant lack of tension.

Types of Moxibustion                                                                                    >>Find Acupunctures

Moxibustion is separated into two distinct groups: that which leaves a scar, and that which does not.
Idiom: Okyuu wo sueru
In Japan there is the saying ‘Kyuu wo sueru' which is often used to chastise children in need of punishment. While the saying literally means ‘to apply moxa,' in terms of usage it is something like the Japanese equivalent of the English phrase "To put the fear of God into." Even though most moxibustion today does not leave a scar after application, the idea that moxibustion = burning still remains, and that's where the concept for the saying comes from.


Ichiro wa kyou mo shukudai wo yarazu ni asobi ni itta na... kaettekitara okyuu wo suenai to na. "Ichiro went to play without doing his homework again today. When he comes back, I'll really put the fear of God into him!"

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