Time and time again we are asked in our clinics ‘what is the actual difference between Acupuncture and Dry Needling?’ In general most people don’t know the difference between them. This article has been co-written by Niamh an Acupuncturist and Lisa a Physiotherapist to explain the difference between Acupuncture and Dry Needling.
How they are common:
Acupuncturists and Physiotherapists do use the same style needles but that is where the similarity between the two treatments ends.
What Acupuncture is all about?
To keep it simple, Acupuncture involves needles being inserted at certain acupuncture points, that are found all over the body meridian lines. These lines represent organs of the body and have their origins in ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine practices. Acupuncture achieves pain relief through the release of natural endorphins and the release of cortisol can have an anti-inflammatory effect. The underlying treatment philosophy is based on the concept of restoring balance to the body’s energy levels and maintaining free flow of Qi and blood while boosting the body’s immune system. Treating the symptoms and the underlying cause.
Needles are inserted, and are generally retained for 20 to 45 minutes. Acupuncture is subtle, gentle and is usually used more for internal conditions, such as digestive issues, stress, insomnia, fertility and pregnancy, and in cases of chronic or ongoing pain. The needles sometimes elicit a slight dull or achy sensation on insertion, which quickly goes away and the treatment is relaxing, sometimes people even fall asleep while being treated.
What Dry Needling is all about?
It is an invasive procedure whereby a solid filament needle is inserted into the skin and muscle directly at a myofascial trigger point. A myofascial trigger point (sometimes known as a knot) consists of multiple contraction knots, which are related to the production and maintenance of the pain cycle. A spasmed muscle becomes a damaged muscle. Spasm reduces blood flow in the muscle. This means less oxygen and nutrients to the muscle. Muscle fibres die off and get replaced by fibrous scar tissue. This in turn holds the muscle tight, prevents muscle metabolites from leaving the muscle and causes continued spasm and pain. Putting a needle into a spasmed muscle causes the muscle to relax, and reverting this pain cycle. The approach is strictly based upon Western medicine principles of treating myofascial trigger points researched by (Travell & Simons 1999) which are different to traditional Acupuncture points.
We know that one technique might be more appropriate than the other, or more preferable than another, so let us help you to decide which would be more suitable for you and your condition. For more information on Acupuncture treatments, please feel free to contact Niamh at Anam Mai Acupuncture and for Dry Needling contact Lisa at Stamullen Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic.
Niamh Muldowney, owner, Anam Mai Acupuncture