Acupuncture and Osteopathy.

Here at the Monkton Farleigh Osteopathic Practice Katie offers modern/medical acupuncture as an adjunct to her Osteopathic treatment. We consider it another tool in our tool box to help repair the musculoskeletal system and resume full function and health. There is some confusion amongst patients as to what acupuncture is and how modern/medical acupuncture differs from traditional acupuncture. Here is an explaination that may help.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture needle on top of a coinAcupuncture is a treatment that consists in pricking the patient with a special needle. It developed in China about 2,000 years ago. Traditional Chinese acupuncture uses a complicated system of ancient ideas that are not easy for most of us to understand or accept today. However, many modern Western practitioners find that acupuncture can be understood in scientific terms. This makes it easier to use in a Western setting and it is becoming increasingly acceptable here. Many hospitals today offer acupuncture to their patients and the British Medical Acupuncture Society has over 2500 members.

Today, therefore, there are two main forms of acupuncture: traditional and modern.

What are the main differences between traditional and modern acupuncture?

The differences are mainly at the level of theory/ideas about what is going on when one inserts an acupuncture needle into a patient. There, are, however, also some practical differences. The principal differences between the traditional and modern schools can be summarized as follows :


  • Follows rules laid down in the past.
  • Based on pre-scientific ideas.
  • Practical rather than mystical but appeals to Westerners interested in mysticism and energy flow.
  • Traditional diagnostic methods are used, such as the pulse and the appearance of the tongue.
  • Generally more needles are inserted and for a longer period of time compared to modern acupuncture. 


  • Largely or completely ignores the old rules.
  • Based on modern anatomy and physiology.
  • No element of mysticism.
  • Physiological diagnostic methods are used such as trigger points and muscle tightness.
  • Generally fewer needles are used and for shorter periods of time – often 2 minutes or less. This makes it easy to combine with Osteopathic treatment within a treatment session and also leads to fewer adverse treatment reactions.

The chief advantage of the modern approach, so far as Western health professionals are concerned, is that it can easily be assimilated to the rest of their training. Also, it has given rise to some new forms of treatment, such as periosteal acupuncture, which is good for treating joint pain.