Article Text


Book review
  1. Colin Lewis
  1. Correspondence to BMAS, Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, 60 Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3HR; bmaslondon{at}

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Biomedical Acupuncture for Sports and Trauma Rehabilitation: Dry Needling Techniques By Ma Yun-tao. Published by Churchill Livingstone (Elsevier). 2010. Hardback 384 pages. £48.99. ISBN: 978-1-4377-0927-8 Embedded Image

This is a comprehensive treatise on the use of dry needling techniques to prevent and treat all manner of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries. Its neuro-anatomical and physiological explanations with complete dismissal of traditional Chinese acupuncture will appeal to Western medical acupuncturists. The author has 40 years' experience of acupuncture and heads the Biomedical Acupuncture Institute in Colorado. His qualifications are PhD and LAc. Dr Ma has extended the use of acupuncture in athletes by treating pain and also improving dysfunction and performance in a prophylactic manner.

The key to Dr Ma's approach is integrative systemic dry needling (ISDN), which he defines as ‘a unique medical procedure that is designed to restore and normalise soft tissue dysfunction’. It is based on simple dry needling, myofascial trigger point treatment with due credit to Travell and Simons, and intramuscular stimulation of Chan Gunn fame (but with no detail).

Chapters describe joint mechanics, physical properties of normal and injured muscle and the effects of over-training. Much attention is directed to acu-reflex points and the subdivision into homeostatic, symptomatic or paravertebral types (ie, non-segmental and segmental points). There are tables, anatomical drawings and innervations throughout the book, which is heavy going.

After this intensive explanation, chapter 14 introduces the principle of treating soft tissue dysfunction in sports injuries, where symptoms and signs of specific conditions are discussed. So how is all the detailed scientific explanation translated into practical advice? Simple; needle the painful, tender and swollen area locally for two sessions a week. There are too many instances of ‘dry needling acupuncture is very helpful in reducing pain and swelling when used in addition to conventional treatment’ references applied to injury types. I was looking forward to definitive advice about using dry needling for preventing injury and enhancing athletic performance, but this chapter ran to only five pages including two case studies, and the importance of maintaining core strength.

There is considerable science, explanation, anatomy, neurology and physiology in this book. Dr Ma's spin is to reduce systemic stress and restore optimal homoeostasis in the athlete by ISDN. In other words, with pain removed and musculoskeletal efficiency restored, and with a happy mind, the athlete will perform better.

Many acupuncture concepts are raised (but minimal reference to electro-acupuncture), and I felt it contained too much detail (such as many anatomical drawings). The detail detracted from the concept that dry needling is a simple practical technique. I enjoyed the strong Western and scientific acupuncture approach to a comprehensive reference manual for the dry needling of athletes.

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  • Competing interest None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.

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