- It is well known in Western medical practice that brief, intense stimulation of trigger points by dry needling, intense cold, or injection of normal pain. This type of pain relief, which may be generally labeled as hyperstimulation analgesia, is one of the oldest methods used for the control of pain. Ih is somethimes known as "counter-irritation," and includes such methods of folk medicine as application of mustard plasters, ice packs, hot cups, or blistering agents to parts of the body. Some of these methods are still frequently used although there has not been (until recently) any theoretical or physiological explanation for their effectiveness. Suggestion and distraction of attention are the usual mechanisms invoked, but neither seems capable of explaining the power of the methods or the long duration of the relief they may afford.
- This interest in folk medicine gained enormous impetus in recent years by the rediscovery of the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture - inserting needles into specific body sites and twirling them manually. More recently, the Chinese have practiced electroacupunture, in which electrical pulses are passed through the needles. We now know that the original claims that acupunture can produce surgical analgesia (or anesthesia) have not been borne out by later investigation. However, acupuncture stimulation has recently been shown in several well-controlled clinical and experimental investigations to provide substantial relief of pain. This is not surprising because it is now evident that there is nothing mysterious or magical about acupuncture; it is a form of hyperstimulation analgesia comparable to cupping or blistering the skin.
- On the basis of thexe considerations, Melzack developed the hypothesis that transcutaneous electrical stimulation could be administered the same way as acupuncture - for brief periods of time at moderate-to-high stimulation intensities. Consequently, th and hes colleagues carried out three studies to determine whether acupuncture and transcutaneous electrical stimulation are comparable procedures.