What is Acupuncture?

When prospective patients or friends ask about Acupuncture, they usually follow with questions like ‘does it work?’, ‘how does it work?’ or ‘can Acupuncture help with ….?’. To me, each of these questions hold concepts that require unpacking, starting with the question: ‘what is Acupuncture?’.


Does it work? How does it work? Can Acupuncture help with…? What is Acupuncture?


As Acupuncturists, we know how many lineages, styles & techniques there are to choose from. Starting early in our careers, we often resonate with a certain aspect of style, validity of target tissue or even a particular teacher. At the beginning stages of my career, I gravitated towards Trigger Points and Motor Points because I could conceptualize them… their story of use made sense. By focusing on these target tissues as my ‘thing’, I made the choice to cease any focus on other lineages or theories (such as Kiiko Matsumoto’s - which I was presented with early in my training). 

'In hindsight, I should have paid more attention to the time I had with Kiiko, but that is in hindsight.’ 

In hindsight, I should have paid more attention to the time I had with Kiiko, but that is in hindsight. It’s not to say that I regret focusing on Trps/ MPs, rather, it is that I have developed a sense of understanding and appreciation for some of the ideas that crazy Japanese Woman was ranting about (if you’ve ever spent time with Kiiko, you know what I mean) over time and with some experience. 

Just like the beginning of my career, I will continue to have to make choices on what to focus on and what not to focus on through every point in my progressing career. At this point, I am choosing not to study Wang Ju Yi’s Applied Channel Theory or one of the Tan/Tung systems because I am choosing to focus on other areas. As with my hindsight regret of lost time with Kiiko, I know that in the future I will perhaps wish I could have spent time with these systems. In the present now, I wish I could study all of the systems, theories and ideas out there. Because of the opportunity each practitioner has to shape their own path, the practice of acupuncture can look very different depending on the chosen path. While it may seem challenging in a number of ways, I believe the variability in the system is a good thing. 

'While it may seem challenging in a number of ways, I believe the variability in the system is a good thing.’

Perhaps one of the hurdles we have in this profession is the paradox between unification under the banner of acupuncture and the seemingly disparate ways that it’s practiced. SO, to answer the question ‘what is acupuncture?’ is not so simple… it becomes a dialogue, a conversation and sometimes a debate.

Written by: Zach Haigney M.S., L.Ac