Healing, Wellness

The Difference Between 5-element and Traditional Chinese Acupuncture

A client asked:

What is the difference between 5-element acupuncture and Traditional Chinese acupuncture? I’ve looked it up on the internet and it seems 5-element acupuncture is more for emotional issues. Don’t most health issues come from emotional stuff? I just want to breathe like a normal person.

My answer:

First of all “Traditional Chinese Acupuncture” isn’t. In our school, we called it Communist Chinese Acupuncture (never to our teacher’s face!) When I got out of school, I passed the licensing test (very hard) and still had no idea if or how the dang stuff worked or if it even did work. I had no feedback.  Pulses never changed, pain didn’t necessarily go away.  

I don’t know much about what people term “5-element Acupuncture” because it was an Englishman’s (Dr. Worsley) Jungian psychological interpretation of a specific part of the Chinese Classic Medicine texts known as the 5-element theory. I wanted to study it, but the opportunity never came my way…I kept hearing about it, but it wasn’t available here until literally in the last few years.

What I’ve studied for the last 33 years is a Japanese Style taught by Kiiko Matsumoto who was the first person to demonstrate to me that “if you poke here, that gets better.” It’s a style taught to blind practitioners in Japan. And there are several schools for the blind because the profession lends itself to tactile intelligence. It made sense to me because both myself and my client could tell it was working! The theory is also solidly based on the classic texts of Chinese Medicine rather than some homogenized, Government approved abbreviation of Classic Chinese medicine. 

If you understand that emotions are a major part of being human, then you don’t need to create a distinct style to address them, you just need to know which areas of the body tend to reflect “psychosomatic” origins of illness and pain and use points to relieve those reflex points as well as treating the primary dysfunctional systems and body parts. In this way, you can treat the root causes as well as the symptoms and get immediate feedback that you have chosen the right root cause to treat. (You get better results in reduction of pain and discomfort, relaxation and calm, etc.) 

The autonomic nervous system and the vagus nerve gut brain feedback system have a LOT to do with emotionally mediated chronic and acute problems and can be addressed with noticeable and immediate effectiveness IF you know where to look and how to use the theory to choose the right points. 

“Psycho-somatic” pain and disease is real pain.  Just because it is mediated partly by the emotional-neurological system does not mean it can be fixed by some version of pharmaceutical mood altering medication. I think we’ve all seen the shortcoming of that approach in the holistic medical field. It might help, but just altering the chemical contents of the blood does not necessarily affect a cure.

This is not to say that Worsley 5-element isn’t powerfully helpful in the hands of a gifted practitioner trained by his school. It’s just that what you’re really looking for is someone who has an in-depth grasp of Acupuncture Theory and clinical expertise based on the classic texts as well as their own genius synthesis of what they have studied.  

It doesn’t matter so much whether it’s Kiiko Matsumoto style (of course I think she’s the best acupuncturist in the world), or Worsley style, or Dr. Tan Style based on Dr. Tung Style or even “TCM” in the hands of a gifted clinician who also has found some way to study the classics.  

Me, I’m just lucky Kiiko is a great scholar as well as an amazing clinician and she makes her synthesis of modern medical and Classical Chinese theory available to us average American students that would otherwise be struggling to apply a watered down version of acupuncture medicine!