Acupuncture and dry needling are techniques in which fine needles are inserted into the body for therapeutic purposes. Although there are some similarities between these two practices, there are important differences.
Origin and Philosophy:
Acupuncture is a Chinese treatment method with a history of thousands of years. It is based on the concept of balancing the flow of energy, known as qi, through meridians or pathways in the body. Small, thin needles are inserted at specific points along these meridians to restore energy balance and promote healing.
Dry needling is a relatively new technique that originated in Western medicine. It is primarily based on understanding the anatomy and neurophysiology of the musculoskeletal system. Needles are inserted into trigger points or taut muscle bands to release tension, relieve pain, and improve muscle function.
Technique and Needle Placement:
Acupuncture usually involves inserting needles at different depths into specific acupuncture points along the meridians. Depth and point selection of insertion will depend on the individual condition and desired treatment outcome. The needle can be manually operated or stimulated with an electric current.
In dry needling, needles are inserted into trigger points, which are localized areas of muscle tension or stiffness. The goal is to create a “spasmodic response,” which is a brief, involuntary contraction of muscles that helps release tension. Depending on the specific condition being treated, dry needling may also target other tissues such as tendons and ligaments.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) describes the effects of acupuncture by regulating the flow of qi, balancing yin and yang, and promoting the body’s ability to heal itself. It looks at the whole person and takes into account the physical, mental and emotional aspects.
Dry needling is primarily based on an understanding of neurophysiology and the concept of “neuromuscular trigger points”. The focus is on the local effects of needles. It relieves muscle tension, improves blood circulation and relieves pain by stimulating sensory nerves and regulating the nervous system.
Training and regulation:
Acupuncture is a regulated profession in many countries, including China, the United States and various European countries. Acupuncturists typically have completed extensive training in acupuncture theory, diagnosis, and insertion techniques. They may be licensed or certified to practice acupuncture.
Dry needling is often performed by medical professionals such as physical therapists and doctors with special training in this technique. Regulations and training requirements for dry needling vary by country and jurisdiction.
It is important to note that most insurance companies will cover acupuncture, but not dry needling. It’s best to contact your insurance provider to find out if there is coverage. Our office is happy to provide that information upon request.