Five-element acupuncture is a variation that is based on theory from around 200 BC. Over the last 50 years, it was developed and taught by Professor J.R. Worsley. By combining ideas from other schools of acupuncture and the idea of the elements and their corresponding character types he created what is now known as classical five element acupuncture.
The five elements referred to are fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. These elements describe the different types of qi or energy that run through the body and the qualities they reflect. Fire is warm and rising. Earth is grounding and stabilizing. Metal relates to quality and refinement. Water is fluid and powerful. Wood is forceful and youthful. According to the five elements main philosophy, one of the elements is always weaker than the others. This weakness develops in birth or early childhood and is the causative factor or CF. The weakness or CF is the root cause for most of the patient’s symptoms. This weakness in one element will over time begin to affect the other elements. Five-element acupuncturists determine which element is the CF and will work to strengthen it and in turn, the balance of the whole system will be restored.
To determine the CF the practitioners rely on a number of observational techniques including the patients’ skin color, the sound of their voice, odor, and also the emotions of the patient. They closely examine the patient and listen to the way they describe their symptoms and emotional expression. Acupuncture treatments using the five element style are usually more similar to the Japanese style than with TCM. During treatments, a minimal amount of stimulation on the most potent points is used to create the largest effect during treatment. This will result in less discomfort and needles being left in for a shorter period of time.