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 an uninterrupted tradition of
acupuncture from ancient times to the present, and most Chinese
acupuncture today is based on modern concepts of anatomy and
pathology. This type is often described as Western medical
Western medical acupuncture originated with Felix Mann
(1931–2014), a conventionally trained doctor. 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.
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
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
How does acupuncture work?
One of the ways in which Western medical acupuncture differs from
traditional acupuncture is in the ideas of how it works.
Traditionalists in the West usually talk about "energy" and other
nebulous concepts that make little sense scientifically. Modern
acupuncture, in contrast, finds explanations for acupuncture effects
using the concepts of modern physiology and neuroscience. This makes
it easier for health professionals to adopt the practice and is more
satisfying intellectually. Read
HOW CAN I LEARN ACUPUNCTURE?
My acupuncture course
This course has been held for almost 40
years, during which several thousand health professionals have
attended. Naturally there have been many developments in our
understanding of medical acupuncture in that time and this is
reflected in the course content, which is constantly revised and
updated to take account of ongoing research.
Purpose of the course
The 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
Some people think that acupuncture is very complicated and esoteric.
I believe strongly that this is wrong. If you are a health
professional you will find that acupuncture is simpler than you
expect! What is essential is to grasp the general principles
and then apply them.Read more.
Who is it for?
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
How long is it?
Modern acupuncture can be learnt easily by most health
professionals. 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. You already have many of the
skills that are needed.
This means that an introductory course doesn't have to be lengthy.
The material can be covered in an intensive practical weekend (see course programme). Participants
receive one-to-one instruction in performing the treatments so the
number on each course is kept low.
Emphasis on safety
Research shows that acupuncture is remarkably safe in the
hands of adequately trained practitioners but, as with any procedure
involving insertion of needles, there are risks, some
of which are serious. All aspects of safe needling receive full
attention throughout the course. At the end there is a revision
questionnaire to make sure that everything is clear.
After the course
Progress after the course depends
largely on using the techniques to treat patients as much as
possible. But there are many opportunities available to advance
one's knowledge and these are discussed at the end of the course.
Participants are encouraged to become members of the British Medical
Acupuncture Society and to complete the requirements for the
Certificate in Medical Acupuncture (CMA) offered by the Society to
Participants are entitled to indefinite support from me by email or
The textbook for the course is my All
You Need to Know About Acupuncture. In addition to the
printed copy, participants now also receive an e-book (epub or pdf) version
which can be installed on any suitable device such as a desktop,
laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
My acupuncture background
I was a consultant physician at The Royal London Hospital for
Integrated Medicine 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.