Can you have acupuncture without needles?

If we've seen each other in the past year, you may know that I've been taking a deep-dive into Japanese-style acupuncture and its related techniques. 

Unlike Chinese-style acupuncture, where a strong needle sensation is considered therapeutic, Japanese-style can be so gentle it is said you could needle a sleeping cat. Fewer points may also be needled, as elegant simplicity is highly valued.

Along with gentle needling, practitioners in Japan have revived the use of the teishin and other traditional tools that are used on the surface of the skin. (The filiform acupuncture needle that is used today was only one of nine different types of needles that were used in ancient times. Most of those needles were used on the surface of the skin and did not go through.) There is also a lot of use of moxabustion. Other modalities include the movement education system known as sotai, which emphasizes awareness and breathing, going toward ease and away from pain. 

The teishin is the best know of these non-insertion tools. Long and thin, with a knob on one end and a dull point on the other, it has broad application in the painless stimulation of acupuncture points. For this reason it is used with both children and adults—my littlest patients refer to it as a magic wand. There is a whole system of pediatric treatment called shonihari that uses the teishin and other tools (see photo) to tap, press, and otherwise stimulate acupuncture points and channels.