Different Types of Acupuncture Explained

Different Types of Acupuncture

Having been around for thousands of years and spread out all over the world, it’s hardly surprising that there are multiple types of acupuncture.

Whether you want to try out acupuncture for the first time or you’ve already tried one type and want to try another, we’ve compiled a handy guide to the different types of acupuncture available.

Traditional Acupuncture

Acupuncture within traditional Chinese medicine tends to look at the body as a whole, rather than only focusing on one specific ailment.

In this philosophy, illness and issues are caused by the flow of Qi (life force) being blocked or out of balance. By dealing with the blockage in one of the meridian channels, the acupuncturist aims to re-balance the entire body and improve health and well being throughout.

A traditional acupuncturist will be able to tell where the blockage of Qi is in the body, depending on what the symptoms are. They can then create an acupuncture treatment plan that will treat the correct meridian channel.


In traditional acupuncture practices, practitioners often use other complementary therapies in conjunction with acupuncture, a popular one being moxibustion.

Moxa is dried mugwort and the therapy revolves around burning the incense as it sits on specific areas of the skin. The warmth aims to relax muscles and aid the treatment of complaints.


Some traditional practitioners place suction cups over acupuncture needles once they’re already in place to combine cupping therapy with acupuncture and further alter the blood flow in the affected area. Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Cupping Therapy for more information on this ancient practice.

Auricular Acupuncture

Whereas the majority of acupuncture is performed all over the body, auricular acupuncture is specifically and only performed on the ear.

The belief behind it is that each part of the body is represented in one part of the ear and thus issues with any part of the body can be treated through needling in the outer ear and ear lobe.

Check out our auricular acupuncture needles here.

Japanese Acupuncture

Japanese acupuncture is similar to classic acupuncture but an emphasis is placed upon using extremely fine needles in few points. The Japanese method aims to get great results with absolutely minimal treatment.

Korean Acupuncture

Korean acupuncture often focuses on specific body parts such as ears or hands and uses these to treat any other part of the body.

Medical Acupuncture

Practised considerably more in the Western world, this type of acupuncture focuses more on nerve trigger points to relieve issues such as chronic pain, headaches and migraines. It tends not to follow the idea of Qi like traditional acupuncture does and instead places emphasis on specific areas of pain.

Medical acupuncture still uses acupuncture points for pain management as a part of physical therapy but it focuses on relieving tension rather than treating the body as a whole.

How to Choose the Right Type of Acupuncture for You

You might find it easy to choose a type of acupuncture based on your physical needs or personal beliefs.

For instance, if you don’t feel like you can relate to the concept of Qi and meridian blockages, then choosing medical acupuncture (often just known as ‘acupuncture’ when provided in sport clinics and osteopathy studios) might be more suitable for you.

This type of acupuncture is usually the one patients are referred to by their GP. It’s also readily available in many therapy clinics with acupuncturists also being trained in other medical sciences. These can include anything from chiropractors and sports masseuses to osteopaths and doctors.

To find the best medical or traditional acupuncturists near you, you can search the registers of governing bodies:

Western acupuncture

British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS)

Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP)

Traditional acupuncture

Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture UK (ATCM) 

British Acupuncture Council (BAcC)

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