Dr Tan Balance Method

The Dr Richard Tan Balance Method comes from a Chinese family tradition different to the Chinese medicine taught in the 'normal' way.

It can be used for many problems.

Because it focuses on where the pain or discomfort is and the acupuncture channels that run through it, it does not rely so much on a knowledge of syndromes.

Dr Richard Tan

But acupuncturists need to really know their acupuncture channel theory to practise this form of acupuncture. Even so, it is often just as quick to practise as the more normal systems of acupuncture (once you've got the theory in your head, that is!)

And it has the great advantage that the patient gives immediate feedback as to how well the treatment is working.

Usually, I ask the patient to assess the level of pain or discomfort before treatment as being 10/10.

During treatment I hope to reduce this to 0/10. I would say that normally I achieve this within a very few minutes.

I then leave the patient to rest for a while, with the needles remaining inserted. Often the patient goes to sleep or sinks into a pleasant reverie. Music can help them reach the right level.

A Lattice of Channels

The principal acupuncture channels and their subsidiary channels form a lattice throughout the body. Many channels interconnect with other channels, not just at different points along the channels, but because they share certain characteristics with other channels.

Now it gets a bit technical - this page isn't the best place to start if you want to know about acupuncture! Click here for a simpler introduction.

As explained in the Unified Acupuncture Theory system developed by Dr Jonathan Shubs partly from the Tan Balance Method and Dr Tung's acupuncture system, each channel has up to six other channels on which points can be found to reduce or clear pain or problems along any one given single channel.

Pain or discomfort along, say, the Foot Shao Yin channel might be cleared using points along, for example, any of the following channels which have a special relationship with the Foot Shao Yin channel:

  • Foot Tai Yang channel
  • Hand Shao Yin channel
  • Hand Tai Yang channel
  • Hand Jue Yin channel
  • Hand Shao Yang channel
  • Hand Yang Ming channel
  • Additionally, Foot Shao Yin channel points could be used.

Why are these six channels used and not the other six? Well, there's a theory for using these particular channels but it really doesn't make much sense if you are new to acupuncture.

(Indeed, many acupuncturists who are certainly not new to the subject find it hard to understand!)

And why aren't the 'Western' names for the channels given?

For example, why is the Foot Shao Yin channel not just called the Kidney channel, which is the same thing? Answer: because that wouldn't bring to mind the reason for choosing the other channels. Otherwise, you'd just have to learn them by rote.

Rote learning is perhaps not difficult for just one channel, but there are twelve of them! Interconnections would have to be learned for all of them and without the underlying theory to support, it would be easy to make mistakes.

Using the original Chinese channel names actually makes it easier.

However, it is rather technical and few acupuncturists learn about it when going through their initial training.

Tan Balance Method - the points

With the Tan Balance method, points are found on the associated channels that evoke discomfort on pressure. These points are then needled. In the Unified acupuncture theory method, finding the points in question is much more discerning and the degree of improvement helps decide which points to use.

The points used may or may not be points recognised by classical acupuncture theory. In fact, they often aren't but, if they can immediately reduce the discomfort from 10/10 down to 0/10, they are treated with great attention to detail and careful needle manipulation.

In many cases, points are chosen on the side of the body opposite to the site of the pain. There is a coherent theory for this too.

Of course, quite often traditional or classical points are chosen, because they work! But if using the Tan Balance method, or even more so the Unified Acupuncture theory, a point is not chosen because it is well-known, but only because it works in this case.


No system is flawless. One of the problems with this Tan Balance method is that needles should remain in situ for at least 45 minutes, and preferably 90 minutes. This is usually longer than the time allowed for treatment.

Also, during treatment, the needles may need further manipulation several times during the 90 minute session.

Additionally, often a series of daily or two-daily treatments works best at clearing the ingrained 'pain' or 'problem'. Not all patients can afford to come daily for a week.

Even so, using the 'enhanced' Unified Acupuncture theory system, (which explains and embraces Dr Tung's system as well) and incorporating other systems including Japanese, Korean, 5 Element and traditional Chinese theory, for example, I have achieved really astounding results with the Tan Balance method often in just one or two treatments. (Well, I was astounded, even if the patient expected it so thought less of it!)

So, good and lasting effects can occur if the needles are removed after 15-30 minutes: 45-90 mins may be the ideal, but this isn't always possible and treatment can be effective in a shorter period.

Theory behind it

The underlying theory emerges from study of the I Ching, the ancient Book of Change. This is, if you like, the basic theory of yin and yang.

It employs hexagrams of single or broken horizontal lines to represent Yang (unbroken lines - see above) and Yin (broken lines - not shown).

There are 64 hexagrams and if you're feeling brave and somewhat mathematically inclined, the Yin-Yang code, by Dr Ning Lu may help you get to grips with it.

Warning! This is not an easy read, and the early chapters take liberties with the English language.

However, to get from from the Book of Change to which acupuncture channels  to use does take a bit of explanation so that's why I suggest you go on a course to learn about it.

To try to explain it here would require a very long page, too long to be digestible for most people.

And to be honest, there are other things I want to write about!


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Jonathan Clogstoun-Willmott Books

All the books in the 'Chinese Medicine in English' series should be fully accessible on Kindles and Kindle apps. (Or you can buy the softback print editions, of course.)

('Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine' published 1986, was never available in a Kindle version.)

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Here are some of the books I (Jonathan) have written.

Subscribers to Kindle Unlimited can borrow the first four for 'free'.

Qi Stagnation - Signs of Stress

Yin Deficiency - Burnout and Exhaustion

Yang Deficiency - Get Your Fire Burning Again!

Yuck! Phlegm! How to Clear Your Phlegm ...

Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine

Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine! See Reviews.

Seven Reviews so far for Yuck Phlegm. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it's easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)

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