Different Terminology is used by Western Medical Acupuncture and Chinese Acupuncture


While Western medical acupuncture has evolved from Chinese acupuncture, its practitioners no longer adhere to concepts such as Yin/Yang and circulation of qi. Practitioners of Western Medical Acupuncture regard acupuncture as part of conventional medicine, rather than a complete ‘‘alternative medical system’’.

Table showing the differences between Western Medical Acupuncture and Traditional Acupuncture1

Western Medical Acupuncture Differences Traditional Acupuncture– from Chinese traditional medicine (TCM) theory
  • Diagnosis is based upon the symptoms
  • Diagnostic methods are concerned with the nature & location of the symptoms
  • Differential diagnosis involves the theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine & pattern differentiation
    • Diagnostic methods include looking at the tongue & palpating the pulses
  • Mechanism of change (changing the symptoms)

is based in biomedical science

  • Change is linked to a direct expected action of acupuncture on the symptom(s)
Rationale Mechanism of change (changing the symptoms) depends upon affecting the balance of Qi, Yin & Yang, & other defined substances of the patient, as decided by the differential diagnosis
A change in dimensions of the symptom. For example, a change in the intensity & area of pain Outcome  

  • Desired changes in the balance of Qi, Yin & Yang, and other imbalances defined by the differential diagnosis. These changes may be in the patient’s mind, body, or symptoms

1.    Price, S., Long, A.F. Godfrey, M., Thomas, K.J. Getting inside acupuncture trials – Exploring intervention theory and rationale. BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine 2011; 11:22


Catherine Tiphanie is a Registered Osteopath, trained in Western Medical Acupuncture by the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS). She has also undertaken the related MSc (WMA) programme at the University of Hertfordshire. She uses acupuncture within her clinical practice, treating patients with a range of health problems.

Catherine Tiphanie is a member of:

The British Medical Acupuncture Society

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