Differences between body acupuncture and filiform fire needling

The difference between body acupuncture and filiform fire needling involves two aspects. One it involves the equipment for acupuncture and the other one the differences in the therapeutic method.  The body acupuncture seems to be very similar to fire needling but actually the nature, the specifications, the application, the point usage the function the time of treatment and the duration of treatment period and more have fundamental differences.

1. Differences in materials of equipment
The filiform needle (háo zhēn, 毫针) used in body acupuncture is made out of ordinary stainless steel. From the other hand the needle that is used in filiform fire needling is made of stainless steel of high qualities. The filiform fire needle is relatively strong and under the influence of high heat, does not bend, does not lose its tip sharpness. The specifications also differ. The length of the handle of the filiform needle depends on the length of the body of the needle but in filiform fire needle the handle of the needle remains the same no matter the length of the body of the fire needle. All the handles of the fire needles are 30 mm long so that make it easy to handle them.

2. Differences in nature
The body acupuncture depends on the mechanical stimulation of the points. Usually the effect of each needle is relatively small. That is because the location of the point used quite often is not accurate and the understanding of the patient’s situation is not clear. That is why today many needles are used at the same time. Today apart from using many needles it is a common practice to manipulate the needles few times during the treatment for successful arrival of qi and obtaining qi (dé qì, 得气), guiding of qi (dǎo qì, 导气) and moving the qi (xíng qì, 行气) to the area of pathology. The filiform fire needling depends mainly on thermal stimulation of the points. The therapeutic effect is due to heat and the effect of each needle is quite big. In most cases 2-3 points at a time are enough for a treatment session. Immediately after entering a point with a filiform fire needle the qi arrives (de qi), the qi and the blood moves and the meridians are dredged.

3. Differences during application
When an ordinary filiform needle enters the point it is the needle tip that initially applies the mechanical force to open an orifice on the skin and stays at a certain level of the tissues of the point. Then usually are performed needle manipulations. When the filiform fire needle enters the body it is the needle body that carries the heat and the therapeutic effect. The needle enters immediately from the tip to the neck of the needle till the point the handle comes into contact with the skin. There are no needle manipulations performed.

4. Differences in point selection
The commonly used body acupuncture is based on channel knowledge (jīng luò xué, 经络学) and the points used are from the 14 channels, ashi points (ā shì xué, 阿是穴) and extra points. Furthermore there are points that cannot be used in certain conditions. Filiform fire needling is based on two things. The channel and the channel sinew knowledge (jīng jīn xué, 经筋学). The points selected can be anywhere in the body since there are no points that cannot be used. The tissues that are needled are the skin, the tendons, the vessels and the muscles.

5. Different functions
The ordinary needle is similar to surgical tools in the sense that the needle does not have a antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effect. Filiform fire needle from the other hand has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effect. That is why filiform fire needle can be used directly on sites of bacteria, on ulcers, acute inflammation and pathologic sites such as frostbite, cysts, lesions, aseptic inflammation etc.

6. Differences in treatment time and quantity
The usual time of treatment during acupuncture is at least for 30 minutes after entering the needles. During a filiform fire needle treatment after entering the needle the qi arrives immediately and treatment effect acts instantly. Few seconds after entering the last needle is enough for a complete treatment. Since the therapeutic effect of filiform fire needle is strong there is no need for many treatments. From the other hand the therapeutic effect of acupuncture can be small, that is why usually many treatments are necessary.

There are many schools of acupuncture and various needle techniques applied. The common filiform acupuncture needle is considered cold. The therapeutic effect produced by the needle is related to the impact of the needle itself to the point. Filiform fire acupuncture is totally different than that. The therapeutic effect of filiform fire needle is based totally on the heat transmitted from the needle to the body and not the piercing itself. The needle is simply the conductor of heat in the interior of the body. Traditionally in Chinese medicine needles have been made out of different materials such as gold, silver and steel. These materials is been said that have different therapeutic effects. For example gold is used for tonification, silver is used for disperse and steel is considered neutral. In the system of filiform fire needle the concept of tonify-reduce is not used. Since the stimulus produced by heat is unique the reaction of the point is different than the reaction to a common acupuncture needle. Thus the points often produce different therapeutic effect. Since there are different therapeutic effects the indications of the points could also vary.

During a common acupuncture treatment the needles are usually retained for about 25-30 minutes. In most schools of acupuncture after inserting the needle different kinds of manipulations are performed to strengthen the therapeutic effect. Filiform fire acupuncture does not retain the needles because when the heat is transmitted from the needle to the surrounding tissues there is no reason to retain the needle. Despite the immediate withdrawal of needle, heat remains to regulate and harmonize the body. Again it is not the needling that produces the therapeutic effect but the heat. For the same reason no needle manipulations are applied. There are manipulations applied after needle insertion but that has to do with heat transmission. These manipulations aim to facilitate the heat transmission to the target area.    It is not needed to manipulate the filiform fire needle to produce effects of tonification and disperse. Tonification or disperse effect is automatically produced from the organism after the needle is inserted and the heat is transmitted into the tissues. Muscle spasticity is an excessive condition while flaccid paralysis is a deficient condition. In common acupuncture schools the one condition would need disperse manipulations and the other one tonifying manipulations. In the system of filiform fire acupuncture this is not the same. For example in spasticity or flaccid paralysis of the hand one fire needle on the point SI3 (Hòu Xī, 后 溪) will bring immediate positive results in both cases even though tonifying-reducing techniques are not used. The body is self regulated after receiving the therapeutic stimulus.

Needle knife (zhēn dāo, 针刀) is a special kind of acupuncture technique that is also widely used in China. Similar to filiform fire needle the needle knife is commonly targeting the fascia in order to achieve therapeutic results. For that purpose needle knife is directly affecting the fascia by cutting certain tissue while from the other hand filiform fire needle is indirectly affecting it by the heat transfer. Knife for that reason could produce much more adverse reactions than filiform fire needle. Filiform fire acupuncture is safe because the needle does not need to enter the pathologic are, is the heat that is doing that.