In Japan, Oriental medicine is called the medicine of vital energy. The explanation of its effectiveness is based on an energetic model rather than the biochemical model of western medicine. Ancient oriental physicians recognized that vital energy (called Ki in Japanese or Qi in Chinese) circulates along channels or meridians throughout the body and links all of the body's parts and functions. Ki maintains and nurtures our physical body as well as our mind. It keeps the blood circulating, warms the body and fights disease. When a person is healthy, Ki flows smoothly through the channels but if, for some reason, the flow is blocked, weak, or excessive, then symptoms and/or illness occurs.
In treatment, the aim of the therapist is to correct the flow of Ki by inserting needles or applying pressure to specific points along the channels. In so doing, a change in part or function of the body is achieved. Changes in Ki precede physical change, so acupuncture and shiatsu can act as preventive medicine, correcting energy flow before a serious illness occurs. If physical change has already occurred, it can be reversed by adjusting the flow of Ki.
Needling techniques in Japan generally involve thinner or smaller needles than Chinese acupuncture. Consequently, most patients find that treatments are relaxing and cause minimal discomfort. Often, they are not even aware that needles have been inserted.
Treatment is usually divided into two different steps: "root" and "local" treatment methods. Root treatment seeks to address core energetic and structural imbalances in the patient. Local treatment addresses symptomatic relief of patient complaints. For many acute problems, local treatment is enough.
However, to resolve long-standing or complex conditions, or to treat the underlying cause of problems, both local and root treatments are performed at the same time. Once imbalances have been identified and corrected, the body's self-healing abilities are activated and heals itself.