When you hear the word "acupuncture" what comes to mind? Do you see a person lying down on a bed, and needles sticking out of different parts of their body? Acupuncture is acupuncture, right? Yes and no. Did you know that although the principles and concepts are the same, there are different types of acupuncture?

In this article, we are going to explore and learn about the different types of acupuncture. Why? So when you go to look for an acupuncturist, you will have a better understanding of the type of acupuncture each acupuncture therapist is offering in their practice and what it entails.

Two Main Styles of Acupuncture

There are two main styles of acupuncture:

  1. Chinese style acupuncture

  2. Japanese style acupuncture

When a person attends school for learning acupuncture, they will most likely be learning one of these two styles.

What's the difference between the two main styles? Let's use the following comparison chart to find out . . .

The Difference Between Chinese and Japanese Style Acupuncture

Here is a comparison chart for a quick overview of the differences between Chinese and Japanese acupuncture:

5 Other Countries that have Developed Styles of Acupuncture

Outside of Chinese and Japanese style acupuncture, the following other countries in Asia also have developed styles of acupuncture but are not as often taught at schools for acupuncturists:

  1. South Korea

  2. North Korea

  3. Vietnam

  4. Okinawa

  5. Others

So, how many types of acupuncture are there? Let's find out . . .

8 Different Types of Acupuncture

There are eight different types of acupuncture that are often used:

1. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

This type of acupuncture is the root of acupuncture and its art. It is a part of the 2500-year old medical practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM also includes other holistic treatments such as herbal medicine, massage (tui na), exercise (qigong and tai chi), and dietary therapy. This type of acupuncture also is an integrated part of both Korean and Japanese health and healing traditions.

2. Five-Element Acupuncture

Five-Element acupuncture gets its principles and foundation from TCM. Five-Element acupuncture stands out in how it diagnoses and treats an individual person. How so? Five-Element acupuncture assessment process uses a person's personal connection and relation to the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. The aim of this type of acupuncture is to help you realign and harmonize with your body, heart, spirit, and mind.

3. Auricular Acupuncture

This type of acupuncture focuses on the ear. Auricular acupuncture involves the placement of needles to stimulate points on the external surface of the ear which has the potential to affect health conditions and systems throughout the body. It is sometimes used in group settings such as retreats to allow many people to receive beneficial acupuncture treatments at one time. For someone nervous about full-body acupuncture treatment, auricular acupuncture can be a good place to start.

4. Electro Acupuncture

This is a type of acupuncture where a low-level electrical current flows between acupuncture needles. Want to know more about this type of acupuncture? 

5. Scalp Acupuncture

This type of acupuncture focuses on the scalp. The placement of needles for this type of acupuncture are placed in the scalp. It is often used for migraines and other conditions.

6. Acupressure

Don't like the idea of needles? Acupressure although its own type of therapy - it uses the same points throughout the body as acupuncture. This is why it is also seen as a type of acupuncture. Acupuncture uses needles whereas acupressure uses firm pressure on different points. Want to know more about the similarities and differences between acupuncture and acupressure? 

7. Medical Acupuncture

Medical acupuncture is a type of acupuncture that is conducted by doctors trained and licensed in Western medicine. The doctors providing medical acupuncture have taken additional training in acupuncture as a specialty practice. These doctors who do acupuncture do so to both treat and prevent health conditions.

8. Community Acupuncture

This type of acupuncture is a part of a nationwide movement to improve access to acupuncture therapy. In this type of acupuncture, do not expect to have an acupuncture session all on your own or a session that is private. With community acupuncture, people seeking acupuncture are treated in a group setting. A sliding scale is often used instead of a predetermined firm hourly rate. Would you like to know more about community acupuncture read: What is Community Acupuncture Like?

4 Types of Acupuncture that Also Incorporate Other Therapies

There are four types of acupuncture where other Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments are combined with the art of acupuncture:

  1. Acupuncture and cupping

  2. Acupuncture and moxibustion

  3. Acupuncture and magnets

  4. Acupuncture and heat


Acupuncture: In Depth. (2017, February 21). Retrieved February 13, 2019, from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction

Litscher, G., & Rong, P. J. (2016). Auricular Acupuncture. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2016, 4231260. Retrieved February 12, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4887640/