A brief history of dry needling acupuncture

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Traditional Chinese Medicine

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Like any medical procedure, dry needling acupuncture has gone through a period of development and may now be considered to be reaching its maturity. Dry needling as a medical technique has been observed in various human civilizations for over two millennia. From historical literature, we know that it appeared in Egypt, Greece, India, Japan, and China. The Chinese, as we know, systematically preserved this technique, developed its medical value, and formulated the well-known acupuncture of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), widely acknowledged as one of the great inheritances of Chinese civilization.

Modern dry needling started in the 1930s in England and developed to maturity in the United States (see Chapter 10). Travell and Simons did comprehensive clinical research that led them to define and locate most of the important trigger points of skeletal muscles in the human body. They also noticed the relationship between trigger points and internal visceral pathology. 1 From the beginning they noticed that trigger points affect the posture and biomechanical balance of the musculoskeletal system. Other clinicians contributed different dry needling techniques, such as the Intramuscular Stimulation technique developed by Dr. C. Chan Gunn.2 These researchers created the foundation of the analytical approach in dry needling therapy. Then came the synthetic approach.

Dr. Ronald Melzack found that more than 70% of the classic meridian acupoints corresponded to commonly used trigger points.3 Then the discovery of homeostatic trigger points by Dr. H.C. Dung, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, advanced our understanding of the connection between homeo-static trigger points and the principle of the central innervation of trigger points (see Chapters 7 and 8). Travell herself paid attention to Dung's work (personal communications between Travell and Dung in 1984 and between Dr. Dung and myself).

With 40 years of clinical experience and medical training, I found that both the analytical and synthetic approaches could be organically integrated into a new modality—modern dry-needling therapy. Working in the neuroscience program of the National Institutes of Health and in the physical therapy department of the University of Iowa, I did research on pain relief and the neurophar-macology of the central nervous system, kinesiol-ogy, cognitive neural science, and neurology. I was able to incorporate all these fields into dry needling therapy.

For the last 10 years, my colleagues in the U.S., China, Germany, Brazil and other countries and I have used dry needling acupuncture to treat thousands of patients, including elite athletes. All this research and clinical experience has helped to develop the practice of dry needling into its current form.

As with any modern medical technique, our current knowledge is built on the past. We constantly evolve new wisdom and demolish old dogma. We forge new perspectives in our practice and continually redefine our goals. This dynamic process advances our knowledge and prevents stasis, and in this way dry needling acupuncture will continue to grow.

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