Zhang Xue-li & Liu Ying Published by People’s Medical Publishing House, 2008 Hardback, 303 pages Price: £35.50
(Reviewed by Friedrich Staebler, EJOM Vol. 6 No. 5)
To explain how I felt about this book I would like to begin with a verbatim quote from the Preface: ‘With about 20 years’ clinical experience, the author has taken the quintessential data from its masses and assembled various specialists’ distillation of researches to compile this book – Dermal Needling Therapy.’ In other words, we are confronted in this book with a hotchpotch of various people’s ideas, poorly cross-referenced, superimposed on standard acupuncture textbook data, written in legible English interspersed with some farcical translations of Chinese terms and, I am sorry to say, with not a lot of interesting material about dermal needling therapy.
Part 1, THE OUTLINE begins by explaining the structure of the plum blossom and 7-star needles over a few pages, how they are sterilised and stored, how they are used, the difference between gentle and strong tapping (i.e. the strong tapping leaves the skin crimson red with minimal bleeding) and the principles of point selection (local, distant, according to syndromes, along the corresponding channel, etc.). The latter are practically identical to the principles of point selection which can be found in any Chinese book on acupuncture treatment.
This is followed by one useful page pointing out the precautions when using dermal needling and another somewhat perplexing page about the management of prevention of accidents. I quote the paragraph about ‘Pneumatothorax’ (sic): ‘… dermal needling is safe, but there are reports about pneuomothroax (sic) in cases of application to the back of the body after an emphysema condition (sic)… possibly due to rupture of the alveolar wall… resulting from strong tapping’. I don’t think that left me much the wiser.
The next 80 pages deal with the major acupuncture points of the 14 channels and extra points, their location, relevant aspects of their anatomy (like underlying muscles, nerves and blood vessels), indications of when they are used and how to use them with acupuncture, which looks to me like a carbon copy from a Chinese book on acupuncture.
Part 2, THE CLINICAL PRACTICE continues in the same vein. After a brief introduction on differentiation of syndromes and ‘Point Combination’, the final 180 pages of the book deal with a selection of 31 treatments of internal diseases, 8 musculoskeletal disorders, 12 skin and external conditions, 4 male, 14 gynaecological and 3 paediatric conditions, and finally 4 ENT disorders. Why these conditions were chosen in a book on ‘Dermal Needling Therapy’ remains unclear to me as the reasons were not properly explained.
The following strike me as relevant. A) The point selection appears to me identical to that of acupuncture needling. B) At no point does the book extol or explain the advantages of dermal needling over acupuncture other than mentioning in one sentence that dermal needling has been found to be effective in the above mentioned conditions. C) When references are made about tapping channels and areas of the body they are invariably vague and don’t really explain how the tapping is to be done. D) The only reasoning for using dermal needling at all, this is my reading in-between the lines, is the fact that dermal needling is safe and can be performed by personnel with minimal training.
To illustrate the points I made above I give an example from the book of how a condition is suggested to be treated (the following condition was chosen randomly, the text here is truncated yet the words quoted are verbatim). ARRHYTHYMIA ... TYPES OF SYNDROMES: 1) Heart blood deficiency… 2) Heart deficiency with timidity… 3) Yin deficiency with effulgent fire… 4) Inactivity of heart yang… 5) Drug poisoning… MAIN POINTS: PC6 (nei guan), Sp4 (gong sun) HT7 (shen men). SECONDARY POINTS: ‘Heart blood deficiency’: BL15 (xin shu), BL20 (pi shu), RN17 (dan zhong), ‘Heart deficiency with timidity’: BL15 (xin xu), BL19 (dan shu), GB40 (qiu xu), etc, etc. OPERATION: After routine sterilisation, gentle tapping is used once every two to three days and ten treatments make a course. NURSING AND PREVENTION: 1) Have a quiet, clean and comfortable environment. Avoid over-strain, stress and emotional excitation. 2) Have low salt, low fat, nutritious diet…
I would have liked to see references made to specific uses of dermal needling, when it would be preferable to use dermal needling over acupuncture, what the specific advantages are of dermal needling, how it could be performed by the patient at home in-between treatment sessions, etc., but nothing of this kind is forthcoming in this book.
I’m afraid I have to give this book the thumbs down in respect of enlightening me about dermal needling. It might be a useful reference volume added to one’s treatment room bookshelf on locations of acupuncture points and treatment prescriptions of common conditions, but it doesn’t begin to teach me enough about dermal needling therapy.
Friedrich Staebler Friedrich Staebler is a medical doctor who worked as a surgeon in Germany, then came to London to study acupuncture and TCM, followed by postgraduate studies in China and a degree in Chinese herbal medicine. Since 1983 he has been practising as an acupuncturist and Integrated Medical Practitioner in London, using acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, homeopathy, reiki style healing and counselling. The aim is to help patients to help themselves, and to help the body to heal itself.