Know the Different Types of Acupuncture

Acupuncture continues to grow across the world as a popular treatment for pain and symptoms of a number of diseases and conditions. Most of the time when you hear that someone has received acupuncture, you have one thing in mind. However, the term “acupuncture” has sort of become a catch-all for many different types of treatments that are available to patients. Since acupuncture is an ancient treatment, there have been updates and iterations over the years. Now, many different forms of acupuncture are out there, with their own strengths at treating different conditions. It’s always good to be informed, so we’ve put together a list for you of the most common types of treatments that often fall under the “acupuncture” umbrella.

Body Acupuncture – This is what likely comes to mind when you hear the word acupuncture. Tiny needles inserted into certain points and meridians along the body that regulate the flow of energy and promote healing.

Ear Acupuncture – Traditional Chinese Medicine says that the ear contains acupuncture points that can heal every area of the body. So, many acupuncturists will focus their acupuncture in the ear, using the same needles as in the body, whether on its own or in conjunction with body acupuncture points.

Electroacupuncture – Particularly useful for treating pain, electroacupuncture uses small clips on top of regular acupuncture needles to send an electric current in between two acupuncture needle points. The extra stimulation can improve the flow of energy between the points, helping heal pain.

Acupressure – Utilizing the knowledge of acupuncture points and meridians, acupressure pinpoints these same areas to heal pain, but uses massage and pressure instead of inserting a needle. Many acupuncturists will teach patients the proper areas, since patients can perform it themselves at home.

Moxibustion – When small amounts of herbs are placed on top body acupuncture needles and then lit, giving the area an extra boost of warmth.

Cupping – Usually done in tandem with acupuncture, cupping uses rubber or glass cups that are suctioned onto specific areas of the body. This can help when traditional body acupuncture needs a little bit of a boost when energy along a certain point has become stagnant. Cupping can leave marks on the body where the cup has suctioned on, but they are temporary.

Acupuncture vs. Acupressure

Acupuncture and acupressure are two different practices that sound similar, and yield somewhat similar results. Yet, it’s important to note the similarities and differences within the two healing practices.

Both practices are rooted in ancient Chinese medicine, yet one involves manipulation of trigger points by hand (acupressure) while the other requires slim needles to be inserted at specific meridian points (acupuncture.) Still confused? Think “pressure” meaning to push on, and “puncture” meaning to puncture with a needle.

According to this article by Livestrong, “Acupuncture and acupressure fall under the classification of traditional Chinese medicine or TCM which also employs the use of diet, herbs and mind body techniques, states the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. TCM views the body as an energetic entity that is balanced by two opposing forces called Yin and Yang. It also believes that good health depends on the flow of qi through pathways called meridians. Practitioners of this method aim to restore the flow of qi and the balance of Yin and Yang to improve spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health.”


With acupuncture, needles are inserted at specific point in body meridians encouraging the flow of qi to be repaired, restored, or improved. Using the slim, tiny needles, they are inserted and left in the specific points for a designated period of time (typically 15-20 minutes) to maximize the therapeutic effect.


Acupressure is, in theory, acupuncture but without any needles. The same guiding principles and philosophies are applied, but with pressure by pressing on targeted points along the body. It is not advised you practice acupressure on yourself, as a trained therapist should perform the treatment on you. Over time, you may be able to pick up on self-treatment methods, but it is best to leave it to the professionals.