The two major styles of Acupuncture practised in the West are Five Elements Constitutional Acupuncture, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Acupuncture. Integrated Acupuncture combines both styles, so that whatever complaint you have the practitioner will be able to provide a powerful approach to its treatment.
Somewhat confusingly, Five Element Acupuncture retains more of the essence of Traditional Acupuncture than does TCM, which is a 20th century take on the ancient art. Five Element Acupuncture incorporates a wide range of subtle information about the person; including, among many others; emotional traits, voice quality, skin hue, preferences, and dislikes as well as symptoms and complaints. The observational skill of the practitioner leads to an assessment based on the individual's unique character as it has evolved through their life experience. Treatment is aimed at supporting and nurturing that individual's very core so that they move inexorably towards reclaiming their original birth-right health and balance.
TCM is quite different. In style it moves towards the western medical method in that it is more structured, having something of a tick-box approach that deals with specific symptoms, rather than the observational and intuitive style of Five Element diagnosis. TCM is the Acupuncture of Mao’s China, when the philosophy and practice of Chinese Medicine, along with everything else, underwent a huge overhaul. Increasing exposure to western thinking led the Chinese government to banish from their traditional medicine some of the aspects that may have appeared too exotic or liable to be greeted with scepticism by the black and white rational-logical western mind. The emphasis shifted from treating the individual (who showed up with symptoms) to focus on the symptoms (which showed up in an individual)
In practical terms this means that if you, heaven forbid, wrench your back lifting something too heavy for example, a Five Element approach would be less suitable. You don't want to be standing there bent double while your Acupuncturist delves into your thoughts, feelings and responses to abstract situations. You want pain relief and mobility and you want it NOW! You need TCM.
On the other hand, what if you have a chronic back problem; an ache or pain that keeps returning no matter how much physio you have had, or how many painkillers you have taken? In that case there is something deeper going on. It may be a muscle problem arising from long term unhealthy posture. The postural problem may be due to external conditions, such as a work station that doesn't suit you. Or it could be to do with tension held in the body from recurring difficult emotions (think how caved in and deflated we become when sad or grieving, for example) Long-standing conditions have distant and sometimes multiple causes. Gaining in complexity over time they become more personalised; contain more of 'us' within them. We start talking about my sciatica, my dicky hip etc. and this actually makes the condition more entrenched. Fortunately they respond wonderfully well to the holistic, core-focused approach of Five Element Acupuncture. And the bonus is that as the person moves ever closer towards balance other incidental ailments and dis-ease also begin to disappear as a happy side effect!
The Integrated approach has become popular because it allows a broader scope of diagnostic methods, tools and models. Because Five Elements and TCM Acupuncture are descended from the same branch of medicine they readily combine and complement each other, allowing treatment plans to be devised that lean more or less towards either style and are most appropriate to the person and to their symptoms. When choosing your Acupuncturist it is well worth considering whether their style of Acupuncture is suitable for you. There are however other considerations such as the practitioner’s breadth of experience, qualifications and how much at ease you feel with them. One way of knowing you are in safe hands is to choose an Acupuncturist who has been accredited by the British Acupuncture Council.