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Acupuncture in the Treatment of Pain: An Integrative Approach.

Acupuncture in the Treatment of Pain: An Integrative Approach. 2010

Marcus Backer & Michael G Hammes (Eds). Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh. Hard cover, 545 pages. RRP: AU$ 110.00. Available from Elsevier Australia,

'Acupuncture in the treatment of pain: An integrative approach' was a book that I eagerly awaited delivery of, anticipating scientific medicine principles integrated with acupuncture from a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and western acupuncture perspective.

This book was originally published in German in 2005. The editors are well renowned medical acupuncture researchers who with 18 other European physicians (with Chinese medicine specialist knowledge) compiled the text. The purpose of the book is the integration of TCM, particularly acupuncture, with 'modern pain therapy'. The authors describe the book as intended for both beginner and experienced acupuncture practitioners.

The book is divided into two sections. The first section begins by describing differing bio-psycho-social pain components and the neurobiological processes from a Western perspective. This describes many acupuncture neurophysiological processes. It then moves to treatment strategies, some familiar others alternative; however these are poorly referenced and not linked to levels of evidence.

Chapter 3, 4, 5 and 8 are dedicated to TCM, explaining pain and treatment guidelines, discussing diagnosis / differential diagnosis in TCM, and further TCM treatment options. Chapter 7 annotates the meridians and common acupoints. This is not a comprehensive acupuncture point atlas, the point descriptions provided lack detail, particularly that of the tissue being needled, its nerve supply and relevant precautions.

Chapter 6 describes more neurobiology underpinning acupuncture, different western acupuncture treatments, such as auriculotherapy and trigger point needling, and practical aspects to providing and applying treatment safely, using references to substantiate data. However it then describes acupuncture treatment principles using TCM approaches.

In Part Two pain syndromes are covered in nine chapters, including the 'locomotor system', visceral, neuropathic and psychosomatic pain syndromes. There is information provided from a medical and therapy perspective, these detail lists of possible treatments, but again do not explain the evidence-base behind them. Then treatment possibilities from a TCM perspective for generic conditions are prescribed. An analysis of acupuncture points using a neurophysiological perspective is lacking, the only Western clinical reasoning for utilisation of points is that of local and distant points. Systematic reviews or trials of acupuncture treatment for these conditions are not described nor used as supporting references. It must be noted that this formulaic presentation is not followed in Chapter 15, Acupuncture in palliative care, by Graham Leng and Jacqueline Filshie. This chapter provides excellent descriptions of many conditions for the treatment of other secondary problems experienced by patients with cancer, or recovering after cancer related treatment including surgeries, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

In summary, this textbook provides a brief description of western scientific neurophysiology to underpin how acupuncture works in the body. However, the focus is on descriptions of 'medical' conditions, their treatment using western medicine and therapies, and how treatment using traditional Chinese acupuncture can be provided. The text could have been enhanced if integrating acupuncture from a neurophysiological perspective was also evaluated. This textbook would provide support alongside a structured acupuncture course of study and as a useful adjunct to link traditional Chinese acupuncture procedures with conventional medicinal principles.

Susan Kohut MHSC (Hons), MNZSP

Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy, AUT University, Auckland
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Author:Kohut, Susan
Publication:New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2011
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