Fire needle acupuncture also known as fire needling is an acupuncture technique which involves quickly inserting a red hot needle into areas on the body. Deep insertions result in greater pain and other side effects. Fire needling combines conventional acupuncture and cauterization with heated needles therapy.
Filiform fire needling is a technique and not a school of acupuncture, even though this way of needling has its own theories and way of thinking. While applying filiform fire needling it is not always required to diagnose based on the theories of Chinese medicine even though Chinese medicine way of thinking is welcomed. For example in Chinese medicine we know that tinnitus may be due to problems of either Liver or Kidney. Regardless of the cause, the treatment with filiform fire needling will be partially the same. Fire needling on the area of sternocleidomastoid muscle will have an immediate effect in the treatment of tinnitus because these particular tissues of this area are related to the tension of the tympanic membrane thus causing tinnitus. In this technique the target tissue is often the fascia the skin, tendons, the muscles, and the vessels. The periosteum could also be a target tissue but it is not so oftenly used.
The purpose of filiform fire needling is the transmission of heat into the body’s specific points. These points could be the know acupuncture points or other unknown points. Actually treatment with filiform fire needle is moxibustion therapy or better putted as jiufa therapy. However the major difference of filiform fire needle is that during moxibustion heat is transferred to the skin and then to the other tissue while the filiform fire needle transfers the heat directly into the body.
Internal heat application method (nèi jiǔ fǎ, 内灸法) only contains fire needling (huǒ zhēn, 火针). Fire needling has a long history in China but the first recordings can be found at the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, thus making these texts the first book about fire needling. Inner’s Classic Ling Shu (líng shū guān zhēn, 灵枢官针) mentions that the ninth needle that is described as the big needle is the fire needle (jiǔ yuē cuì cì, 九曰焠刺) and the practitioner of fire needling can use this needle to treat bi syndrome (cuì cì zhě, cì fán zhēn zé qǔ bì yě, 焠刺者，刺燔针则取痹也).
Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, Su Wen (素问: 调经论) says that when the pathology is in the level of bone, which is the deepest and most chronic level, then it is recommended the use of fire needle or herbs that are heated (bìng zài gǔ, cuì zhēn yào yùn, 病在骨焠针药熨). Here “burn needle” (fán zhēn, 燔针) is the term used in the classic to describe the action of “warming the needle” and the “fire needle” itself. “Quenching needle” (cuì zhēn, 焠针) from the other hand is only used as a noun to name “fire needle”. “Inserting a needle after it has become hot” (zhuó rù, 灼入) is another special term used in the classics.
Fire needling is considered heat application method and not acupuncture. Acupuncture according to the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic has 3 rules. Firstly in the chapter 刺节真邪论 mentions that when “using needles, regulate the qi” by doing manipulations (用针之类，在于调气). The qi regulation is taking place with different needle manipulations. Secondly in the chapter 终始第九 whenever needling a pathway, stop when the qi is regulated” (凡刺之道，气调而止). This regulation of qi is continuously taking place at the point with needle manipulations till the qi has arrived. Thirdly in chapter 九针十二原 is noted that “it is important when puncturing to have qi arrival, so that there is effectiveness” of the treatment (刺之要，气至而有效).
In fire needling treatment there is no use of manipulations after needle insertion for regulating the qi, since the heat load is performing that regulation. In addition to that, in fire needling there are no continuous needle manipulations till qi arrival. It is just puncturing in and out. Finally in fire needling in order to have positive therapeutic result must provide extreme heat load. If the heat load is not enough and there is only a usual point puncturing then the therapeutic results will be poor.