The Science of Teishin Acupuncture: A Needle-Free Approach to Healing
Updated: Oct 28
In recent years, Teishin based acupuncture has been gaining popularity as a more gentle and needle-free alternative to traditional acupuncture. In reality, the teishin was a primary tool of the acupuncturist in the earliest days of TEAM (Traditional East Asian Medicine). It was first introduced as the third of the nine needles in the Ling Shu Jing (100- 200 BCE) or Spiritual Pivot, which states, "The teishin has a point which is as sharp as a grain of millet. It controls the channels by touch, not penetration, to bring about the qi."  Modern practitioners often include the second of the nine needles, the enshin, when discussing teishin since they are both non-inerted tools. The Ling Shu Jing states, "The enshin has the shape of an egg. It is used for rubbing and messaging, to divide and separate so as not to injure the muscles and the flesh."  The article Teishin - A Brief History takes a deeper look at the teishin's past.
The teishin and the enshin are used without insertion, treating the patient by touch, pressing, and rubbing. This approach is particularly well suited for individuals who are apprehensive about the use of needles but can be a powerful tool when applied to all appropriate conditions. In this article, we will dive into the world of teishin-based acupuncture, exploring its potential benefits and delving into the science behind how teishin based acupuncture may work.
Expanding the Patient Base with a Needle Free Alternative.
Traditional acupuncture is well-known for using thin needles inserted at specific points on the body to promote healing. However, for some, the idea of needles can be intimidating. A cross-sectional survey in Canada found that 24% of parents and 63% of children reported a fear of needles.  One of the primary advantages of teishin use in acupuncture is its ability to expand the patient base by providing needleless options for those who might otherwise hesitate to receive acupuncture or TEAM treatments. Adding teishin as another tool in the acupuncturist toolbox opens the door for a more diverse range of individuals to experience the potential benefits of acupuncture therapy.
The Science of Teishin Based Acupuncture
Although there has been limited research on teishin based acupuncture specifically, several mechanisms of action may be at work during treatments. Here are some of the key potential mechanisms:
The Skin as an Active Interface
Increased Circulation to Bolster the Healing Response
Focused Healing Intention
Manual Pressure Release of Trigger Points
Teishin and the Skin as an Active Interface
Central to understanding teishin based acupuncture is recognizing the skin's pivotal role as an active interface connecting our brain and body with the outside world. Research has found a bidirectional pathway between the brain and the skin known as the brain-skin axis. [3, 4, 5] The skin should be viewed not just as a protective barrier but as a sensory organ intricately connected to the central nervous system.  This revelation challenges conventional wisdom, suggesting that the skin's role goes far beyond what meets the eye.
The skin is teeming with cutaneous nerves, which have a multitude of roles. They are sensory messengers, regulating blood vessel tone (vasomotor tonus), and controlling the secretory activities of glands. Beyond these vital functions, cutaneous nerves also influence various physiological processes, such as inflammation, proliferation, and tissue repair. 
Research has illuminated the significant role played by cutaneous nerve innervation and neuromediators in the process of wound healing.  This intricate interaction between nerves and signaling molecules is critical for the body's ability to repair itself. Cutaneous nerve fibers are not randomly distributed but are strategically placed to optimize the healing process, reinforcing their importance in our overall health. 
One of the fundamental mechanisms through which teishin based acupuncture may operate is utilizing the skin as an active interface and mediating the brain-skin axis. By stimulating specific points on the skin's surface, the teishin may modulate brain functions, which can lead to a wide array of health benefits. This bidirectional communication pathway emphasizes the potential of teishin techniques to influence our well-being profoundly.
Teishin based acupuncture offers a fresh perspective on an ancient practice, leveraging the intricate network of cutaneous nerves and neuromediators that populate our skin's surface. By stimulating the skin, this method taps into a pathway that can lead to improved health and well-being. Recognizing the skin as an active interface to the outside world is a crucial aspect of this approach, deepening our understanding of how the teishin can offer a unique path to healing. As research in this field continues to advance, we can anticipate further insights into the incredible potential of this skin-deep approach to wellness.
Increased Circulation to Bolster the Healing Response:
Circulation, a fundamental aspect of human health, plays a pivotal role in the body's ability to heal and thrive. In the context of teishin based acupuncture, the role of circulation takes center stage, offering a unique perspective on how this approach may enhance overall vitality and healing. This section explores the intricate connection between teishin acupuncture and improved circulation and how it contributes to the body's healing processes.
Circulation is not merely a mechanical process but a lifeline that ensures the body's overall well-being. It involves the transport of blood, nutrients, and oxygen throughout the body, which is essential for tissue repair, growth, and maintenance. For wounds and injuries, the role of circulation becomes particularly critical. Efficient circulation directs vital resources to the injured area, promoting the healing process. [10, 11]
Teishin based acupuncture employs various techniques, each designed to invoke specific responses within the body. Some techniques that are traditionally thought of as tonifying can invoke vasodilation and increase circulation. One such technique, known as "scattered needle," involves rapid taping over a specific area on the body with the teishin. The skin will often become slightly red and full, showing an increase in localized circulation. This increased circulation can be invaluable for various health benefits, including accelerated wound healing.
Wound healing is a complex process influenced by several local factors, including circulation. Circulation carries extra nutrients, oxygen, and white blood cells to the injured tissue, creating an optimal environment for tissue repair. However, limited or compromised circulation can significantly delay the healing process, potentially leading to complications. When circulation is improved, more blood, nutrients, and oxygen are directed to the affected areas. This accelerates the healing of wounds and injuries and promotes overall vitality and well-being.
By stimulating specific points on the skin's surface, teishin based acupuncture may significantly enhance circulation. Employing techniques like scattered needle, teishin based acupuncture may enhance localized circulation, promoting better blood flow to injury sites and thus expediting the healing process. Understanding the interplay between circulation and Teishin-based acupuncture provides a fascinating glimpse into the multifaceted nature of this approach, showcasing its potential to improve overall health and well-being.
Teishin and Healing Intention:
In the realm of healing and wellness, the power of intention is a force that has long intrigued both scientists and practitioners. Often, we have marveled at the mysterious and potent phenomenon known as the placebo effect, typically associated with sugar pills and inert treatments. However, as highlighted by Stanford Medicine News, recent research offers a new perspective on the placebo effect. It suggests that the placebo response is not the result of taking a placebo but rather the combination of three key components: the body's natural ability to heal, the patient's mindset, and the social context in which healing occurs. 
"The placebo effect is more than positive thinking — believing a treatment or procedure will work. It's about creating a stronger connection between the brain and body and how they work together," -- Professor Ted Kaptchuk.
This fresh understanding of the placebo effect opens the door to a powerful concept – that our mindset and intention can significantly impact physical healing. The patient's expectation of healing, rooted in their mindset, triggers specific brain areas associated with anxiety and pain. This activation, in turn, initiates physiological processes that contribute to healing outcomes. Moreover, this same mindset focused on the negative can lead to adverse effects, known as "nocebo" responses, further underlining the profound influence of the mind on our well-being. 
With its unique focus on stimulating the skin's surface, teishin based acupuncture provides a promising avenue for exploring the connection between intention and healing. By engaging with patients in a way that emphasizes the importance of intention and a positive mindset, practitioners of teishin based acupuncture can harness the power of the mind to enhance the healing process. Some teishin techniques involve holding the teishin at a specific point on the body, creating novel sensations, and invoking a strong mind-body connection. These novel sensations direct the patient's intention to that area, causing them to hold a focus on healing.
The emerging research on the power of intention and its influence on physical healing underscores the potential of the teishin as a tool in complementary medicine. By recognizing and nurturing the role of intention in the healing process, teishin based acupuncture opens up a fascinating dimension in the realm of traditional healing practices, offering patients a holistic approach that considers not only the body but also the mind's influence on well-being and recovery. As we continue to explore this intricate interplay between intention and healing, teishin based acupuncture stands as a promising avenue for improving healthcare and patient outcomes.
Teishin for Manual Trigger Point Therapy:
Painful conditions of the musculoskeletal system constitute some of the most important chronic problems encountered in clinical practice. A myofascial trigger point refers to a highly sensitive area, often located within a tense region of skeletal muscle or fascia. When subjected to pressure, it is often tender and is associated with the development of distinctive referred pain, motor impairment, and autonomic responses. One commonly used method to relieve trigger point pain is Manual Pressure Release (MBR), which uses the application of sustained tolerable persistent pressure against the tissue barrier of a trigger point,  usually with the practitioners thumb as the tool.
Some styles of teishin based acupuncture use larger blunt variations of the tool known as enteishin or enshin and rely on deep manual pressure to stimulate tender or active points on the body, known as ashi points. While ashi points may be a broader category, they likely encompass trigger points.  Additionally, one study found that 71% of standard acupuncture points had a correspondence with trigger points.  Thus, using teishin based acupuncture with deep sustained pressure to alleviate tension, pain, and muscle knots can be classified as manual trigger point release.
A Teishin-based approach to trigger point release offers an additional advantage, particularly beneficial for the practitioner. Among physical therapists and other professionals involved in manual therapy, thumb and hand injuries are prevalent, as reported in various studies. [16, 17] A teishin based approach proves less physically taxing for the practitioner, sparing their thumbs and fingers from the stress and fatigue associated with manual techniques. This observation underscores that teishin based acupuncture not only benefits the patient but also enhances the well-being of the practitioner, offering a more sustainable and comfortable approach to trigger point therapy.
Technique Matters in Teishin Based Acupuncture:
One of the advantages of teishin base acupuncture is that it allows practitioners to tailor their approach to the patient's specific needs. For instance, a practitioner may use a scattered needle technique to address circulation issues. In contrast, pressing techniques with an enshin or enteishin may act as a manual pressure release for trigger points. Stationary listening techniques can be used to drive the healing intention of the patient. As we begin to understand how teishin based treatments work, customizing treatments with the appropriate approach for the individual patient becomes easier. We can choose the proper technique to invoke the response needed in the patient and improve patient outcomes.
Teishin based acupuncture presents a promising avenue for those seeking the benefits of acupuncture without the use of needles. While research in this field is still in its infancy, the potential mechanisms of action offer intriguing insights into how this technique may yield healing effects. By customizing techniques to emphasize specific mechanisms, practitioners can tailor treatments to each patient's unique needs, providing a personalized and effective approach to healing.
Incorporating teishin based acupuncture into the realm of TEAM opens up new possibilities for a broader demographic of patients, ultimately contributing to the diverse and evolving landscape of holistic healthcare.
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2 Taddio, A., Ipp, M., Thivakaran, S., Jamal, A., Parikh, C., Smart, S., Sovran, J., Stephens, D., & Katz, J. (2012). Survey of the prevalence of immunization non-compliance due to needle fears in children and adults. _Vaccine_, _30_(32), 4807-4812. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.05.011
6 Vidal Yucha, S. E., Tamamoto, K. A., & Kaplan, D. L. (2019). The importance of the neuro‐immuno‐cutaneous system on human skin equivalent design. _Cell Proliferation_, _52_(6). https://doi.org/10.1111/cpr.12677
7 Danny W. Scott DVM, William H. MillerJr. VMD, in [Equine Dermatology (Second Edition)](https://www.sciencedirect.com/book/9781437709209/equine-dermatology), 2011
8 Laverdet, B., Danigo, A., Girard, D., Magy, L., Demiot, C., & Desmoulière, A. (2015). Skin innervation: important roles during normal and pathological cutaneous repair.
9 Ashrafi M, Baguneid M, Bayat A. The Role of Neuromediators and Innervation in Cutaneous Wound Healing. Acta Derm Venereol. 2016 Jun 15;96(5):587-94. doi: 10.2340/00015555-2321. PMID: 26676806.
13 Fryer, G., & Hodgson, L. (2005). The effect of manual pressure release on myofascial trigger points in the upper trapezius muscle. _Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies_, _9_(4), 248-255. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2005.02.002
14 Lee, S., Lee, I., & Chae, Y. (2022). Similarities between Ashi acupoints and myofascial trigger points: Exploring the relationship between body surface treatment points. _Frontiers in Neuroscience_, _16_, 947884. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2022.947884
15 Melzack R, Stillwell DM, Fox EJ. Trigger points and acupuncture points for pain: correlations and implications. Pain. 1977 Feb;3(1):3-23. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(77)90032-X. PMID: 69288.
16 Albert, W. J., Currie-Jackson, N., & Duncan, C. A. (2008). A survey of musculoskeletal injuries amongst Canadian massage therapists. _Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies_, _12_(1), 86-93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2007.03.003
17 Gyer, G., Michael, J., & Inklebarger, J. (2018). Occupational hand injuries: A current review of the prevalence and proposed prevention strategies for physical therapists and similar healthcare professionals. _Journal of Integrative Medicine_, _16_(2), 84-89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joim.2018.02.003
About the Author
Mark Parzynski. DAOM, L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and educator with a diverse background in the field. He has studied in the United States, Japan, and China and uses a range of unique therapeutic approaches to create personalized treatment plans for his patients. Dr. Parzynski has over a decade of experience as a clinical supervisor and has taught graduate students and clinicians.
In addition to his work in acupuncture, Dr. Parzynski is also a skilled craftsman and silversmith. He began making teishin and gua sha tools as an acupuncture student. His passion as an artisan has continued, and for over a decade, he has been making tools for practitioners worldwide, including some of Japan's most renowned masters.
Dr. Parzynski is also a Chinese internal martial arts practitioner, which he incorporates into his acupuncture practice and daily life. He was a senior student of the late Sifu Gregory Fong and has taught Taiji Quan, Yi Quan, and Qi Gong since 2006.
For acupuncture tools and classes provided by Dr. Parzynski, visit www.AcuArtistry.com