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    Private GP Services & Occupational Healthcare in Edinburgh, UK.

    Western acupuncture vs traditional acupuncture

    Acupuncture treatment on back

    Posted on September 6th, 2015

    In our previous blog post, we introduced you to Matt Bulkeley, our newest GP who focuses on acupuncture and joint injection.

    Acupuncture, which can be used for a range of health problems, including back pain, headaches and migraines, is a traditional Chinese treatment. However, at YourGP private health practice, Matt will be specialising in western medical acupuncture, a therapeutic adaptation of the traditional treatment.

    So what’s the difference between the two versions of acupuncture? And which is more effective?

    What’s the difference between western and traditional Chinese acupuncture?

    Traditional Chinese acupuncture is based on the belief that it can restore the flow of Qi, an energy that flows through your body, while western medical acupuncture is evidence- based and is only administered after a full diagnosis.

    Matt explains: “The difference between western and eastern acupuncture is clearly marked. The western model uses anatomy, physiology and current medical models, while eastern is philosophy based – much more about yin, yang and Qi.”

    Yin and yang and Qi are two concepts fundamental to Chinese medicine. Qi (pronounced chi) is usually translated as vital energy, which is thought to circulate through channels connected to body organs and functions.

    Matt continues: “Eastern acupuncture often looks at the tongue [in Chinese medicine, the tongue is seen to reflect the degree of health or imbalance of the body] and shape of your ears for clues to diagnosis, whereas I’m more traditional.

    “So if you see me, your Qi will remain where you left it – but hopefully your pain will go.”

    Is western acupuncture safer than eastern acupuncture?

    Acupuncture is widely considered a safe treatment when conducted by a qualified practitioner, and serious complications, such as infections or damage to tissue, are extremely rare.

    The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also now recognises that acupuncture works and has an evidence base, and recommends it for migraine, tension headaches and lower back pain.

    According to Matt, it’s also useful for muscle spasms and relieving tightness, so it can be beneficial for people who have ‘put their back out’ or those with tennis or golfers’ elbow.

    As Matt explains though, western acupuncture is much safer than eastern acupuncture.

    “A lot of the points are similar but one of the main differences is western acupuncture is much safer,” he says.

    “In eastern medicine, a practitioner may needle over the chest for chest pain, but I wouldn’t do that, as it’s far too risky for a collapsed lung or needling the heart.”

    If you want to speak to Matt about acupuncture or arrange an appointment with him, use our online booking form, email our reception team at or call us on 0131 225 5656.

    And if you want to find out more about the differences between western and traditional acupuncture, leave a comment below, or get in touch on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

    Image courtesy of Boemski under CC BY 2.0

    Just a massive thank you for being so willing to help us out. I was kept up to date in all email communication between the two clinics which I found very reassuring. I honestly can not emphasize enough how grateful we both are that the clinic was able to help us out with the Zita West fertility tests. We really did not know what we were going to do after the mix up with the blood collection dates due to the 4th of July in America and really thought we would have to give up on these tests so it means a massive amount to us that we have been able to proceed with them because of your willingness to help us out. Thank you again.

    D and A McG

    YourGP is regulated by Healthcare Improvement Scotland – the regulator for independent healthcare services across Scotland. Healthcare Improvement Scotland accepts complaints at any time. Contact them at:

    Independent Healthcare Team
    Gyle Square | 1 South Gyle Crescent | Edinburgh | EH12 9EB
    0131 623 4342 |

    YourGP is registered with the Joint Council of Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) Registered Office: Station Road, North Street, Havant PO9 1QU.