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What is Scalp Acupuncture?

Hillary Flynn
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Scalp acupuncture is a specialized area of acupuncture that has been in development since the 1970's. Though acupuncture has been a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, scalp acupuncture is a relatively new specialization and a few variations have emerged. Currently, two methods stand out as the most recognized. From China, Professor Zhu Mingqing created Zhu's Scalp Acupuncture based on the original Chinese theory and research. From Japan, Dr. Toshikatsu Yamamoto has developed what is known as Yamamoto New Scalp Acupuncture (YNSA).

The gist of the original theory behind scalp acupuncture is that the different brain areas can be stimulated by introducing acupuncture needles to the appropriate areas on the scalp. In turn, the locations stimulated can improve function and reduce pain in the areas of the body controlled by the particular part of the brain that is stimulated. The idea is have the "good" areas of the brain "re-teach" the malfunctioning or atrophied areas. In the simplest of terms, the acupuncture serves as a manual "reset" button. The general areas are motor, sensory, foot motor-sensory, chorea tremor, vasomotor, vertigo-auditory, speech, optic, balance, gastric, thoracic, and reproductive. Practitioners use a detailed brain/scalp map to identify the areas.

Dr. Zhu began developing his scalp acupuncture method in the 1970's and brought his practice to the United States and created the Chinese Scalp Acupuncture Center of the U.S.A. in 1991, in San Francisco. His practice now extends to Zhu's Acupuncture Medical & Neurology Center, in San Jose, CA. Patients are treated for various maladies, including chronic pain, stroke, and neurological disorders. Zhu's method of scalp acupuncture is said to differ from body acupuncture in a few ways. It is less painful, results are faster, needling locations are different, and patients can be treated in any position.

NSA was first introduced by Yamamoto in 1970 and is based on what he identified as somatotopes. These are tiny points on the head that correspond to points on the body. YNSA practitioners palpate the neck and abdomen to determine where the correlating spots on the scalp will be found. After matching up areas of pain on the body to points on the scalp, acupuncture needles or small lasers are used to stimulate the scalp areas involved. Like the Chinese method of scalp acupuncture, YNSA is also used in the treatment of acute and chronic pain, neurological disorders, child development disorders, nerve pain, stroke, and many other issues.

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Hillary Flynn
By Hillary Flynn , Writer
Hillary Flynn's insatiable curiosity led her to join the The Health Board team, where she contributes well-researched articles on various topics. In addition to her work with The Health Board, Hillary manages an electronic publishing business that allows her to develop her skills in technical writing, graphic design, and business development. With a passion for satirical writing and traveling to historical places, Hillary brings a distinctive voice to her content.

Discussion Comments

By indemnifyme — On Sep 27, 2011

@SZapper - That's interesting. I had acupuncture done once (no needles in the scalp though) and I thought that it really hurt, no matter where the needle was!

However, I would probably be willing to try it again. Especially scalp acupuncture. As the article said, you can sit however you want. I think I would feel more comfortable sitting up straight then laying down. So maybe I will give acupuncture a chance again!

By SZapper — On Sep 26, 2011

@summing - You're right, it is always a good idea to see a licensed acupuncturist. People who are licensed have usually received a masters degree level education and passed licensing exams. You shouldn't be getting acupuncture done by just anyone with a needle!

I've had acupuncture done before, and the acupuncturist put needles in some points on my scalp. I'm not sure what those specific points were supposed to help though. But I do know the overall treatment was a success-I went for anxiety and some stomach issues, and I could tell a difference after the sessions.

However, I don't think it feels any different to get acupuncture done on your scalp versus any other area of the body! Maybe other people have had different experiences though.

By nextcorrea — On Sep 25, 2011

I have to weigh in here as a skeptic. I had a scalp acupuncture routine performed several times as an aid to quit smoking and I am smoking a cigarette as I type this.

The treatment was recommended to me by an aunt who really goes in for this stuff. She actually paid for my sessions. I was skeptical but I went in with an open mind.

After the treatments were finished I wanted a cigarette as badly as ever. I was making a good faith effort to try and quit but the acupuncture did nothing to help.

By summing — On Sep 24, 2011

I have mixed feelings about scalp acupuncture. I think in some cases it can be very effective and have remarkable therapeutic benefits and in other cases it can be nothing more than getting pricked in the head. The difference depends entirely on the practitioner.

I say this just because scalp acupuncture got really big in the 70s and 80s and all of a sudden anyone with any connection to holistic healing was doing it in their backrooms. And there was so much conflicting information about where to place the needles and how to perform the routine that all the good information got mixed up with the bad.

If you go to someone who specializes in just acupuncture and has been doing it for a long time you can probably find a quality treatment. With acupuncturists it is always best to read reviews of them and get recommendations.

Hillary Flynn

Hillary Flynn


Hillary Flynn's insatiable curiosity led her to join the The Health Board team, where she contributes well-researched...
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