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Types of Acupuncture

//Types of Acupuncture

TCM trained acupuncturists don’t just learn acupuncture—they are also trained in other healing modalities. Even though needle insertion is the key tool in acupuncture treatments, sometimes it is helpful and necessary to add a little more. There are a number of types of acupuncture. Other modalities acupuncturists often use are:

Tui Na

This is a basically a system of medical massage which can be used on infant through geriatric patients. In this system, the goal is to find areas of stagnation, release that stagnation and bring the body back into balance. Tui na is used in many situations from relieving muscle tension, and pain, to helping disperse fevers, increase heat metabolism in a cold type situation or just reduce stress and increase relaxation. When using tui na techniques, it is always the goal of the practitioner to bring back balance to the body.


Cupping therapy is the placing of cups on specific points of the body to relieve situations of invasion or stagnation. The cups create a suction against the skin and by doing so bring the energy and blood up to the surface of the skin. In TCM, “invasion” basically means that a pathogen has entered the body and the goal of cupping is to pull that pathogen out. Often, in the early stages of a “cold,” the practitioner can apply these cups to specific areas of the body (usually the upper back) and clear the invading pathogen from settling deeper into the body.

Stagnation typically means “pain”. When there is stagnation in the body, there is usually some manifestation of pain. Tight muscles are frequently painful and are considered to be in a stagnant state. Using cupping on tight muscles is often helpful because the intentional suction created by the cups forces the blood and energy to move into that specific muscle, thus creating balance and relaxation.

Moxabustion Therapy

Moxa, otherwise known as mugwort, is an herb that is burned on or near a body with the intention to add or move energy. During a moxa treatment, the patient is not burned. There are different forms of moxa, from stick moxa, similar in appearance to a cigar, which is lit and then moved along specific channels or areas of the body to create the desired effect, to direct moxa, which is placed on a medium on the body, such as salt or ginger or an anointment, and then burned until the patient feels the heat. Moxabustion therapy can increase immunity, relieve pain, warm a body and assist in bringing the body back into balance.

TDP or Infrared Heat Therapy: TDP lamps are used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, increase circulation, and strengthen immunity. These lamps have a mineral plate over the heating element that is coated with minerals easily absorbed by the body.

Infrared Lamps are also used to relieve pain, increase circulation, reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

Gua Sha

This method of treatment involves scraping of the skin over areas of stagnation in order to release stagnation from injured areas, stimulate blood flow and promote healing. The skin is scraped with a smooth tool and is useful in many situations.


Often called “e-stim”, this is a process where two electrical connections are made between two acupuncture points in order to accelerate or accentuate the movement of energy from one point to another. E-stim is extremely helpful in pain reduction, increasing circulation to areas of poor circulation and in adding energy to an area of deficiency.

So, in addition to the ordinary acupuncture needle, the practitioner may propose the use of one of these modalities in order to boost the treatment. These different types of therapy often add increased relaxation during the treatment and are certainly helpful in many situations. Some patients enjoy the treatments so much that they eventually request a specific modality to be added to their session.

If you have any questions about these different types of therapies, ask your acupuncturist if she has been trained to use them. A good acupuncturist will be glad to explain or demonstrate these techniques for you!