within the scope of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The goal is to promote
and restore the balance of energy, which flows throughout the body. The
benefits can extend to a wide variety of conditions ranging from
musculoskeletal problems to nausea, migraine headaches, anxiety, depression,
insomnia, arthritis and infertility.
Dry needling, developed in the late 1970's, involves injections into painful muscles relieving pain irrespective of the analgesic used. Although the insertion of the needle and local twitch response can be quite painful, the goal is to allow the muscle to relax to lessen pain. Dry needling is performed by practitioners like physical therapists and chiropractors, depending on state laws. (Example: SC allows it but CA does not) To lessen the pain of insertion, often ‘acupuncture needles’ are used but it should not be confused with traditional acupuncture. Dry needling represents, at best, the crudest and most elementary form of acupuncture and, at worst, non-acupuncturists attempting to re-brand an ancient medical technique for modern insurance billing purposes.
Advantages of acupuncture over dry needling:
- Dry needling aims for trigger points and knotted muscle fibers. Acupuncture is based on the meridian system which maps out the flow of Qi throughout the body to organ systems and body tissues. An acupuncturist is able to relieve pain by stimulating points along specific meridians, and often the site of the needling is far away from the painful area. Dry needling does not take into account this fundamental aspect of Chinese medicine.
- Dry needling treats symptoms while acupuncture addresses underlying causes of pain. Dry needling cannot be used as preventative medicine, and often never addresses the root cause of the problem. The effects of acupuncture tend to be stronger and longer-lasting.
- Dry needling is only used for orthopedic complaints. Acupuncture is effective for pain, digestive problems, high blood pressure, infertility, anxiety, and flu, to name a few.
- Dry needling tries to excite the muscles into twitching, which can be uncomfortable or painful. Acupuncture is generally painless and very relaxing.
- The level and quality of training is very different. Dry needling can be performed by someone with as few as 24 hours of training.
A licensed acupuncturist has undertaken an extensive 4+ year program including about 3,000 hours of education and practical experience before ever touching a patient. With a full understanding of traditional Chinese medicine theory, they develop a diagnosis and treatment plan which can also incorporate herbal medicine.
Only Acupuncturists sit for a clean needle technique and national board exam which tests proficiency of knowing tissue depths, insertion angles and needling care. Non-acupuncture practitioners are not held accountable to these standards of practice and don’t take any proficiency state or nationally recognized exams.
Often the patient doesn’t know the distinction. If they have a painful experience with dry needling, may never experience healing by a qualified acupuncturist. Dry needling is an acupuncture technique, not a separate modality, and is best performed by a licensed Acupuncturist.