Dry Needling – What’s all the buzz about?

Recently there has been a lot of buzz around the term dry needling.  What is dry needling and how does it compare to the practice of acupuncture?  Let me lay out some of the facts:

  • Acupuncture is a technique with a 5,000 year history.
  • Written in the 4th Century, the Huang Di Nei Jin, one of the earliest texts on Chinese medicine and Acupuncture, includes a reference to a technique of needling directly into a painful area, called an Ah Shi point.
  • Licensed and Certified Acupuncturists complete over 3,000 hours of training to obtain a Masters. This includes over 600 hours of clinical hands-on training and 700 hours covering theory and treatment techniques. 
  • Dry needling is performed by Chiropractors and Physical Therapists who complete continuing education workshops. The training varies, but in many instances, dry needling can be practiced after the completion of a single 4 day course (36 hours). 
  • Dry needling is a technique that was developed by a physician in the 1970’s who discovered that injections into a painful muscle relieved pain. The physician evolved into using an empty syringe and hypodermic needle to perform what he called ‘dry needling’.
  • Dry needling is now performed using the same exact thin, solid filament needles as used by Acupuncturists.
  • Dry needling utilizes trigger points, which in many instances, match up with traditional Acupuncture points (without knowledge of how these points work).
  • Dry needling focuses on the symptom of pain by exciting the knotted muscle into twitching to relieve pain. The process is usually painful. 
  • Acupuncture not only addresses the pain, but the underlying cause of the pain. Acupuncture is generally less painful, more relaxing and the effects are longer lasting.
  • Acupuncture treats pain, and many other health conditions including headaches, digestive problems, stress, allergies, colds and insomnia; just to name a few.

I am a Licensed and Certified Acupuncturist, and am probably a little biased on the subject, so I am not sure what the hype around dry needling is all about.  Dry needling is really just the most basic form of Acupuncture, being performed by someone who specializes in something else.  Dry needling is usually practiced with minimal training, as an add-on service.  Due to the lack of training coupled with aggressive needling techniques there is a concern for the potential of causing harm to the patient.  I’m not saying that these other professionals are not well trained for the field they are licensed in; they are, but they are not necessarily trained well to practice dry needling or acupuncture.  

I don’t know how you decide what professionals you are using, but I would think most people want to choose a highly trained specialist to perform the services they are receiving.  I know I would! (and do). I have a whole address book filled with contacts of choice professionals for my personal needs. 

My specialty is Acupuncture.  As a fully trained Acupuncturist, there are many pain issues that I can help resolve quickly with just a couple of needles in a distal area of the body, away from where the pain actually is.  This is beneficial because it can resolve pain without a painful treatment or resulting in an inflammation flare-up. And I can also help resolve many other health complaints.   I love working with patients that are seeing other licensed professionals – Chiropractor, Physical Therapist and Massage Therapist, and I often refer patients to utilize these services to assist the patient with issues beyond my training and abilities.    

Our lives are busy so it might seem easier to see just one professional for all of your needs; but is it the best decision?  I hope that I have helped you understand what the buzz is all about when it comes to dry needling and Acupuncture.  All I ask is that you make educated and informed decisions when choosing your services. 

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