logo_kanjilogo_eigoacupuncture top image
acupuncture top image2-1acupuncture top image2-2acupuncture top image2-3
AcupunctureShiatsuRecomendationsFAQBiographyFees and HoursContact Us
image_above navigation
How does Acupuncture work?
What are Japanese Acupuncture techniques?
What is moxibustion?image_next _btnwhat
What can I expect during a treatment?
How many treatments will be required?
What can be treated?
Facial rejuvenation Acupuncture
below_left navi
Acupuncture main text _left
Acupuncture main text _headingAcupuncture main text _heading2image_sim1
Acupuncture main text image_sim2long

How does Acupuncture work?




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.


A modern Medicine Perspective
An oriental Medicine Perspective






Biochemical Defense Mechanism: The 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 relieve pain.

Endorphins: Acupuncture and shiatsu stimulate the body to produce its own pain-relieving chemicals called "endorphins", which are also known as "anti-stress hormones".

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.

Electrical Conduction: 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: Through clinical 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.


The Nervous System

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.


Traditional Abdominal Diagnosis

What are Japanese Acupuncture techniques?

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.




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.


image of filiform needles.
Stainless steel, disposable filiform needles



The hinaishin, or intra-dermal needle, is an extremely useful treatment modality invented by Kobei Akabane of Japan.

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 them.

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 smoking.


image of Intra-dermal needle
Intra-dermal needle


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 patients. Children are almost always more sensitive than adults. In Japan, non-inserted needles are used for the practice of shonishin, a pediatric acupuncture method.


image of Enshin       needle
Enshin non-inserted needle
image of Teishin non-insertedneedle
Teishin non-inserted needle



The press-sphere 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.


image of Press-sphere



Moxibustion is the application of heat to acupuncture points with a special herb called moxa. There are two different types of moxibustion: direct and indirect.

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.


image of Mugwort
Mugwort (moxa-wool)

image of Mugwort
Indirect kamaya mini moxibustion



Japanese acupressure, 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 and diagnosis.

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.


image of Japanese acupressure
Japanese acupressure


Fees & Hours
Contact Us