Dry needling vs. acupuncture

Dry needling vs. acupuncture

A history of dry needling

Dry needling is a term that evolved from “wet needling,” where various substances like lidocaine, corticosteroids, or saline were injected into trigger points to relieve muscle tension and decrease musculoskeletal pain. Wet needling became dry needling when Dr. Janet Travell and Dr. David Simons realized the therapeutic effects were nearly the same, if not better, when using a solid, non-hypodermic needle without injecting anything. The needles used in dry needling are very similar to those used by acupuncturists.

The practice of dry needling is still used today, largely by physical therapists but also by M.D.s, D.O.s, chiropractors, and occupational therapists with the intention of relieving muscle stress indicated by the presence of trigger points. Like with acupuncture, thin needles are inserted into these points where the body’s neurological system interacts with the needle and ‘resets’ the muscle and fascia that surrounds it.

What is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?

In a practical sense, acupuncturists do dry needling. Sensitive, ropey, or bound-up tissue in the muscles are often referred to as “A Shi” [pronounced Ah Sure] points in Chinese medicine. It’s often indicated to needle into these areas for therapeutic relief in musculoskeletal injuries.

The main difference lies in who is performing the needling. Professionals who use dry needling have typically gone through a course that requires roughly 45–50 hours of training. Acupuncturists will have had roughly 3–4 years of training in not only anatomy but also traditional acupuncture point location and function, and theory.

This is something that dry needling education simply does not contain. Those who dry needle are not taught about acupuncture points, which have specific functions other than releasing a tight muscle. Acupuncturists are taught about both.

If you encounter an acupuncturist that offers dry needling, they have either had additional dry needling training to their practice or are appealing to this widely recognized term because it is already within their scope of practice anyway.

Will you encounter a health professional who does dry needling?

Whether or not a health practitioner can perform dry needling is state-specific. In California, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Oregon, and Washington, dry needling does not fall under the physical therapist’s scope of practice. If you live in one of these states, or any other state for that matter, and are interested in trigger point needling as a therapy, I recommend finding an acupuncturist near you, especially one who specializes in musculoskeletal disorders.

I hope this information was helpful. If you have any questions about acupuncture and where you can get it, feel free to contact our clinic. [Link: https://drcallisonih.com/contact/] Stay healthy!

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