Written by Todd Garrity, LAc, WW's resident KHT expert!
Invented by Dr. Tae-Woo Yoo in the 1970s, Korean Hand Therapy (KHT) is the most modern discovery in the world of acupuncture. Dr. Yoo discovered that because the cells of the brain, ears, feet, and hands are similar, these areas can be used as microsystems for the rest of the body; meaning that the entire body and meridian system is represented on these parts of the body. When an acupuncturist inserts a needle or places a pellet or magnet on an area of the hand, the corresponding body area is affected.
Because the hands are very sensitive, the nervous system response is quite rapid as the cellular response of the body is immediate.
The treatment protocols used for treatment can be broken down into four different therapy types, which I will discuss in this article:
- Basic Therapy
- Organ Therapy
- Correspondence Therapy
- Ki Mek (Microsystem Meridian) Therapy
Basic therapy is essentially creating a “healing map” on the hands, sending messages through the nervous system to pay attention to the specific areas of discomfort on the body.
Basic therapy is primarily used for pain management. Your practitioner will locate the precise location of the musculoskeletal pain on the back of the hands, where the map of the bones and muscles are located. The map has the head at the top of the middle finger, with the spine going down the tendon of the middle finger all the way to the wrist. Index and ring fingers are the arms, while pinkie and thumbs are the legs.
Using a metal probe or an electromagnetic point finder machine, your practitioner will gently press along the areas of pain that are represented on the hand and you will be asked to let them know when you feel a sensation that is “different” than the others. Wherever there is pain in the body, there is a blockage of qi and blood flow, therefore, those areas on the hand will often feel cold or tender to the touch.
Once identified, your practitioner will mark the points with a surgical pen so you can find them later. During treatment, those points will receive needles or pellets to elicit and begin the cellular response in the body. Because it is initiating a cellular response, a change in the body will be felt in a few minutes.
Just like taking an herbal or pharmaceutical prescription, the body will need continued care to fully resolve the issue, so instructions will be given for the patient to reapply the pellets nightly at home. By reminding the body of the areas that need attention, the healing potential is amplified.
When internal organs are out of balance, disease can result. Using a variety of Chinese Medicine theories for diagnosis, organs can be tonified or reduced to reestablish optimal flow of energy through the body and regain energetic balance.
Organ points are located on the inside of the hand and mirror the body points called Front Mu, or Alarm points, the points where the qi directly affects the organ. These points are likely to elicit a “different” sensation when probed, such as a change in temperature or a tenderness. For tonifying or sedating, gold or silver pellets may be used, or a needle will be inserted into the skin at an angle that is either flowing with or against the direction of the channel.
Points for Basic Therapy and Organ Therapy can be located by patients at home for continued treatment, whereas the following two therapy protocols need to be applied by a licensed acupuncturist trained in Korean Hand Therapy.
Essentially Point Prescriptions, Correspondence Therapy is utilized to treat the root cause of the imbalance in the patient based on pulse diagnosis and patient evaluation. There are six basic prescriptions:
- Middle Jiao: responsible for digestion
- Lower Jiao: responsible for excretion and reproduction
- Upper Jiao: responsible for circulation
- Abdominal: symptoms where middle and lower heaters overlap
- Neural: all diseases of the nervous system
- Lumbar: all problems of the low back, primarily musculoskeletal system
Your practitioner will begin with the points which make up the prescription and then utilize palpation to find the Basic or Organ Therapy points. For particularly deficient patients, adding correspondence therapy to enhance the strength of qi before directing it to deficient organs or areas of pain will be necessary.
Ki Mek (Micromeridian System) Therapy
Because the entire body is represented on the hands, the meridian system, the invisible highway of energy, is also represented on the hands. Therefore, the Ki Mek (micromeridian system) can be used to affect the Kyong Mek (classical meridian system). Directional needling or positive/negative poles of magnets or gold/silver pellets can be used with or against the channel to sedate or tonify (for excess or deficiency). Traditional diagnosis and point selection apply, although the 5 phase elements tend to be the favored treatment theory in Korean Hand Therapy.
Special point patterns are helpful to know which can be studied in the teachings by Dr. Tae Woo-Yoo, such as Four Gates, Four Life-Saving Points, Four Pulse Points, etc. Ki Mek points may or may not be tender for the patient and are not to be reapplied by patients at home because an error in point location could be detrimental to treatment.
Korean Hand Therapy is a tremendous healing system that can be utilized by anyone anywhere.
Many of the challenges with body acupuncture for some patients, such as staying still for an extended period of time, getting on and off a massage table, undressing, etc. are completely resolved with Korean Hand Therapy. Being able to receive a treatment strictly from points on the hand allows many people who would not have been candidates for body acupuncture to experience the healing benefits from acupuncture.