Recently, one of our patients asked us this question - what is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?
Here are some basic concepts that you might want to know.
Dry needling is a term often used by physical therapists and chiropractors to describe the technique of using needles to stimulate muscles.
It is called dry needling because the needle is not injected into the body.
Dry needling and acupuncture use the same tools. Both practices use acupuncture needles, which are solid filament needles.
However, dry needling and acupuncture differ in the technique and theory of how and where the needles are placed.
Acupuncture is more than 365 acupuncture points on 12 meridians.
What's called dry needling was first described in China's earliest medical text, the ‘Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic,’ it describes using tender or painful points, including trigger/motor points to rotate, lift and thrust needles causing muscle contractions.
Needling painful points is one of acupuncture's earliest forms of point selection. China's preeminent physician, Sun Si-Miao (581-682 C.E.), called these points "ashi's." Any ashi point is technically an acupuncture point.
How did the phrase "Dry Needling" come into existence?
Western Scientists needled “ashi” and trigger/motor points using empty hypodermic needles for pain research, thus termed "dry needling." A number of the formal meridian acupuncture points are also trigger/motor points.
Physical Therapists (PT's) and allied professions lobbied to add "dry needling," to their scope of practice utilizing acupuncture needles, however there is no difference between “dry needling” and acupuncture.
A treatment for pain/injury by a licensed acupuncturist includes formal diagnosis using acupuncture meridian points plus ashi and trigger/motor points making acupuncture treatments personalized and full body focused including organ function, fluid physiology and not just needling into pain/dysfunction.
Acupuncture School is a 4 year full-time medical masters degree averaging 3,500 hours, similar Bio-Science classes to Western Medical School and in-depth mastery of Chinese Medicine. Acupuncturist’s also have National Board Licensing exams and doctorate programs.
PT's often take a weekend course to be able to "dry needle.”
Western research into acupuncture shows it restores blood flow, modulates fluid physiology, innervates nerves and fascia, stimulates changes in the release of immunological modulators, neurotransmitters, and hormones.