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Western Medical Acupuncture/Dry Needling

Anthony Campbell

Last revised 12-09-2020

My new acupuncture textbook        Medical Acupuncture: A Practical
Guide         Book for patients

If you are a patient please click here.


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 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 acupuncture (WMA). Read more.

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.

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?

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 more.


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 practice.

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 helpful.

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 its members.

Participants are entitled to indefinite support from me by email or phone.

See also the FAQ and Pre-Course Reading.


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 computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone.

Course Programme

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.

Course Location

The course is held in North London.

Important: Course Dates in View of Covid-19

(Last revised 7 October 2020)

As I write, infection rates with Covid-19 are increasing and the government has announced that no more than six people are allowed to meet either indoors or outdoors. This effectively means that I can't hold my acupuncture course at present.

In any case, even if that restriction were not in place, an acupuncture course such as mine would not be practical in these circumstances. The course includes a large amount of hands-on instruction in which participants practise the techniques on each other under supervision. Social distancing is obviously impossible in this situation.

I therefore very much regret that I have had to revise the course dates for 2020. The course originally planned for 26-27 September 2020 and 28-29 November 2020 are postponed to 13-14 March 2021.

I hope that the pandemic will begin to come under control in the coming months but at present the situation is very uncertain. If you have any questions or wish to express an interest in attending a later course when things improve, please use the inquiry form.

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