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Western Medical Acupuncture/Dry Needling

Anthony Campbell

Last revised 26-04-2019

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Western medical acupuncture

Acupuncture is a treatment that consists in inserting fine needles into the body to relieve pain and other symptoms. Most people think of it as having originated in China and there are Chinese texts describing it that go back a little over 2000 years. It is therefore said to be very old, and this is part of its attraction for some. However, even in China there is not a continuous tradition of acupuncture from ancient times to the present, and most Chinese acupuncture today is based on modern concepts of anatomy and pathology. Read more

Western medical acupuncture originated with Felix Mann (1931–2014). He initially learnt traditional acupuncture but his clinical experience led him to reformulate the treatment in modern terms. He abandoned the traditional concepts of 'points' and 'meridians' and thought in terms of areas; he also said that acupuncture is a means of modulating the activity of the nervous system. He taught many doctors to practise modern acupuncture in the 1970s and his ideas still form the basis of Western medical acupuncture. Read more

Dry needling

The term 'dry needling' was introduced in the 20th century by people who were treating musculoskeletal pain by the insertion of needles without injecting anything (injection would be 'wet needling'). They wanted to distinguish what they were doing from traditional_Chinese acupuncture. The term has been adopted quite widely by osteopaths, physiotherapists, and others, and is often equated with the treatment of myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) However, MTrPs figure prominently in Western medical acupuncture and I see no use in trying to differentiate dry needling from acupuncture. I regard these as different names for the same thing, although I normally use only 'acupuncture'.

How does acupuncture work?

If we forget about the esoteric ideas that characterised the traditional system, we can think of acupuncture as a form of pain modulation by sensory stimulation. There is nothing magic about needles. Pain can be modulated by touch, pressure, warmth, cooling, and other stimuli; needles are simply another method of doing this. If we think of acupuncture in this way it becomes more comprehensible and less strange. In fact, the effects of acupuncture are surprisingly similar to those of physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic, and other familiar forms of physical treatment. This isn't surprising, because they all work via the nervous system. Read more

My acupuncture course

This course is designed to equip you with the basic knowledge and skills you require to start using acupuncture and getting good results. It is therefore practical rather than theoretical; theory is described only to the extent necessary to understand the practice. The course is primarily intended for newcomers to the subject, but because it offers a different way to understand acupuncture a number of experienced acupuncturists have found it helpful.

Because acupuncture can be thought of as a form of physical treatment it can be quickly learnt by most health professional. If you are a member of such a profession you will quickly find that in practising acupuncture you are applying your existing knowledge in a different way. This means that an introductory course does not have to be lengthy; in fact, it can be covered in an intensive weekend practical course. See course programme.

This doesn't of course mean that you are an expert acupuncturist immediately after the course, but what you need then is lots of practical experience rather than theoretical study. There is sometimes a temptation to make acupuncture appear very complicated and esoteric. I believe strongly that this is wrong. If you are a health professional, acupuncture will be a lot simpler than you think! The important point is to grasp the general principles and then apply them.

My acupuncture background

I was a consultant physician at The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (formerly The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital) for over 20 years. I attended Felix Mann's acupuncture course in 1977 and then set up the first acupuncture clinic at the hospital. Acupuncture remained my main clinical interest until my retirement. I am an Accredited Member (DipMedAc) of the British Medical Acupuncture Society and former vice-chairman of the Society, of which I was a council member for many years. I have published numerous peer-reviewed papers on acupuncture and allied subjects, three chapters in multi-author textbooks, and three acupuncture textbooks of my own. The latest of these, All You Need to Know About Acupuncture, is the textbook of the course.

Course location

The main course is held in North London. I occasionally hold courses elsewhere in and around London at individual practices for a group of students.

Course Dates

For dates of future courses see Course Dates.

Getting more information

To apply for a course or request further information, please contact me.

Other useful pages

Also see the FAQ and Pre-Course Reading

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