There are many styles of Japanese acupuncture. Kiiko Matsumoto Style or KMS acupuncture, is a system developed and practiced by Kiiko Matsumoto and is a fusion of several high‐level Japanese masters that she studied and mentored with, especially the late Master Nagano. She ultimately assimilated what she had learned from her various teachers and went on to create her own style. Kiiko is internationally renowned as a clinician, scholar and teacher with over 30 years of experience. Her unique system is taught around the world, including at the Harvard Medical School. Kiiko is widely regarded as a living master of acupuncture and her style is one of the most powerful being taught and practiced anywhere. She continues to develop and bring forward groundbreaking diagnostic and treatment approaches to the field of acupuncture.
How Does KMS Acupuncture Work?
In my practice it begins by asking questions such as: “Why is this person not getting better on their own?”, “What body systems are involved in this persons health imbalance?”, “What clues are in the patient’s health history?”, and “What acupuncture points would provide the most accurate information to the body to allow it to heal itself?” These questions are answered through palpation.
KMS acupuncture utilizes a highly refined system of palpation to evaluate, diagnose and assess the effectiveness of a proposed treatment. Palpation is the application of pressure on areas of the body to determine the presence or absence of discomfort as felt and reported by the patient. Such areas are considered ‘positive reflexes’ to the practitioner and are diagnostically significant, offering clues and information about why the patient is not well.
Because areas of discomfort represent diagnostic information, a KMS practitioner uses palpation to create a sort of map of the patient’s weaknesses and imbalances. These ‘reflex areas’ are then compared against the patient’s primary complaints and health history, to determine the most effective treatment strategy. Then points are chosen and validated through palpation and symptom relief.
Needles are placed only after each point is verified. It is incumbent upon me as the practitioner to ensure that each point is doing something physiologically positive. Patients can expect to feel results in real‐time.
Through the skillful choice of the appropriate acupuncture points, the points provide ‘information’ to the body to allow it to heal itself. Releasing reflex areas and presenting symptoms restore the body to physiological balance.
The advantage of a palpation‐based system is that both the patient and the practitioner are aware when an area of discomfort or symptoms are being improved by the treatment. This is not the case with the acupuncture style that is taught at most schools of acupuncture in the United States.
How Does KMS Acupuncture Differ From TCM Acupuncture?
The following is a brief comparison of Kiiko Matstumoto Style (KMS) Japanese acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) style acupuncture. TCM is taught in most U.S. schools of acupuncture.
Kiiko Matsumoto Style
- Local and painful points never chosen for treatment – used only for evaluation of improvement of condition.
- All sensation at point of insertion is discouraged. Very gentle and shallow insertions are the rule. The patient should not notice that a needle has been placed.
- Extremely fine gauge needles with very shallow superficial insertions.
- Diagnosis based on patient’s history and empirical palpatory findings. Reflex zones and symptoms are diagnostically significant which informs the choice of appropriate acupuncture points to enable observable improvement in the patient’s condition.
- Point selection based on empirical palpatory findings, patient’s health history, symptoms and complaints — creating positive results in real‐time.
- Efficacy determined in real‐time based on immediate response of the patient’s body and chief complaints.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Local tender & painful areas considered for needling.
- Strong stimulation of needles and obtaining the
‘Qi sensation’ considered necessary (feeling of distention, achiness, discomfort).
- Thicker gauge needles and deeper insertions.
- Diagnosis based on tongue and pulse*, and patient’s health history, then diagnosing according to theoretical pattern differentiation.
- Point selection based on theory and textbook definitions of point actions and indications.
- Efficacy often determined by long‐term improvement.
*Pulse diagnosis is highly subjective, difficult to teach and therefore difficult to master. It can take many years to acquire the skill to be able to use pulse diagnosis accurately & effectively.