PureInsight | May 25, 2008
Acupuncture and myofascial trigger therapy treat same pain areas, Mayo specialist says
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Ancient acupuncture and modern myofascial pain
therapy each focus on hundreds of similar points on the body to treat
pain, although they do it differently, says a physician at Mayo Clinic
in Jacksonville who analyzed the two techniques.
Results of the study, published May 10 in the Journal of Complementary
and Alternative Medicine, suggest that people who want relief from
chronic musculoskeletal pain may benefit from either therapy, says
chronic pain specialist Dr. Peter Dorsher of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Mayo Clinic.
"This may come as a surprise to those who perform the two different
techniques, because the notion has been that these are exclusive
therapies separated by thousands of years," he says. "But this study
shows that in the treatment of pain disorders, acupuncture and
myofascial techniques are fundamentally similar - and this is good news
for anyone looking for relief."
Classic Chinese acupuncture treats pain and a variety of health
disorders using fine needles to "reset" nerve transmission, Dorsher
says. Needles are inserted in one or several of 361 classical acupoints
to target specific organs or pain problems. "This is a very safe and
effective technique," he says.
Myofascial trigger-point therapy, which has evolved since the
mid-1800s, focuses on tender muscle or "trigger point" regions. There
are about 255 such regions described by the Trigger Point Manual, the
seminal textbook on myofascial pain. These are believed to be sensitive
and painful areas of muscle and fascia, the web of soft tissue that
surrounds muscle, bones, organs and other body structures. To relieve
pain at these trigger points, practitioners use injections, deep
pressure, massage, mechanical vibration, electrical stimulation and
stretching, among other techniques.
In the study, Dorsher analyzed studies published on both techniques and
demonstrated that acupuncture points and trigger points are
anatomically and clinically similar in their uses for treatment of pain
In another recent study, he found that at least 92 percent of common
trigger points anatomically corresponded with acupoints, and that their
clinical correspondence in treating pain was more than 95 percent.
"That means that the classical acupoint was in the same body region as
the trigger point, was used for the same type of pain problem, and the
trigger point referred pain pattern followed the meridian pathway of
that acupoint described by the Chinese more than 2,000 years before,"
Dorsher says. Myofascial pain therapy has lately incorporated the use
of acupuncture needles in a treatment called "dry needling" to treat
muscle trigger points. "I think it is fair to say that the myofascial
pain tradition represents an independent rediscovery of the healing
principles of traditional Chinese medicine," Dorsher says. "What likely
unites these two disciplines is the nervous system, which transmits
The study was funded by Mayo Clinic.