Today’s treatment methods easier, less painful



As anyone versed in acupuncture knows, the most effective tools are human hands. Throughout the 1,500 years history of the practice in Japan, the therapist’s hands have served as a sentient bridge connecting patient to therapist. Since the post-war era, major advances in treatment techniques have evolved. Today, what tools are available to the modern practitioner?

In 1980, the Japanese needle manufacturer Seirin Corp. developed sterilized disposable acupuncture needles, a major innovation, as well as a necessity in the face of the HIV epidemic. Seirin was also the first to introduce the guide tube kit at the time, which has since become a global standard. Guide tubes not only make inserting the fine needles used in Japanese acupuncture easier, for both sighted and visually impaired practitioners, they also reduce the patient’s pain from needle insertion. Currently, disposable needles with guide tubes are the preferred choice, used in schools for training and at clinics and hospitals around the world.

Until the 1990’s, the angle of conventional needles was relatively wider, which easily caused pain upon penetrating the skin. Seirin developed new grinding technology to make the tip’s angle more acute, producing a more streamlined tip that eliminated pain and discomfort, even for thick needles. Recently Seirin has developed rounder-edged, acute-angle needles to further minimize pain.

In current practice, needle size can be distinguished by sight, but more easily by a color-coded grip, also developed by Seirin.

Even though the main choice of needles today are disposable stainless steel, some practitioners use precious metals such as gold and silver. Many schools use silver needles for students as they are more soft and flexible, thus requiring more skill to insert.

Moxibustion (or okyu), a form of heat therapy in which moxa (dried mugwort) is burned near the skin surface, is often used in conjunction with acupuncture to stimulate the flow of energy in the body. Various forms of moxa therapy are practiced. Commonly, the Japanese practitioner burns a cone-shaped moxa as small as half a grain of rice applied on an acupuncture point without letting it burn the skin.

Gentle yet effective forms of moxibustion are gaining traction with the mainstream consumer nowadays. At the stylish Sennenkyu showroom in Ginza, customers can get a demonstration from a licensed practitioner on how to apply small moxa plasters to the skin, while browsing through the shop’s extensive selection of plasters for home use. Sweet smelling scents — apple with citrus to green tea — and even smoke-free versions are available to try.

A plaster, about the diameter of a yen coin, includes an inner chamber filled with moxa, offset from the skin. After the moxa is lit, heat radiates through an aeration pore contacting the skin, warming the desired point, with no risk of burning the skin. A sticky film helps the plaster stay on the skin through the five to ten minutes of heat, reaching about 40 to 50 Celsius.

“The combination of heat and fragrance is comforting and healing. It gives people the feeling they are doing something good for their body,” said the store manager. On a recent visit to Sennenkyu’s showroom and clinic, where patients can be treated with moxa, I was able to experience okyu firsthand.

After palpating my back, forearms and calves with a light touch, the practitioner applied a couple of plasters to my legs and feet to help release lower back tension. Indeed, within minutes, I felt a pleasant heat radiating from these spots, while the room filled with an intoxicating aroma, similar to burning incense. These portable, disposable plasters, sold in packs of 50 to 80 units, are perfect for home use, and have become especially popular with office workers suffering from chronic back and shoulder pain.

Sennenkyu is as much about making moxa treatments more simple to use and accessible as it is about changing the image of moxibustion. Once regarded as simply a folk remedy, moxibustion has made a breakthrough as a safe and effective form of holistic therapy. The company believes in transparency in showing and teaching customers moxibustion’s effectiveness and benefits. In line with this principle, the bright and modern shop features large wraparound windows that showcase the demonstrations and products within, truly a one-of-a-kind store.

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