What is Dry Needling?
By Lieum Fallon, Licensed Acupuncturist, Calm Spirit Acupuncture and Massage
Dry needling is based upon western medical theory. The needle is placed into the muscles or “trigger points” which are the most electrically dense part of the muscle. The needle can trigger the muscle to contract-making it jump or simply have a strong sensation. The purpose is to either relax a muscle that is in spasm or to “reset” a muscle that is not contracting properly. Needles are inserted and then removed as soon as the desired sensation is achieved.
For the past several years Physical Therapists have been able to perform dry needling on their patients in Colorado. Many people question the ifference between dry needling and acupuncture. Is dry needling acupuncture? According to Acupuncturists, dry needling is a form of acupuncture that they call either trigger point acupuncture or orthopedic acupuncture.
Acupuncturists are trained, tested and licensed in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). We use Chinese meridian theory placing needles along these channels to create balance. It is imbalance that creates illness and pain according to TCM. Needles are placed at specific points all over the body that work together to restore balance. There are approximately 400 points on the meridians as well as extra points that have many functions especially for the treatment of pain. In acupuncture there are also points, which are called Ah shi. These often coincide with what practitioners call trigger points. Our training in orthopedic acupuncture concentrates on trigger points. We study anatomy and needle these points in a similar way to dry needling. The most distinct difference between acupuncture and dry needling that I can see is that we may not always use as thick a needle and most often leave the needles in the body for a period of 20 to 30 minutes. We also may add electrical stimulation to these needles which studies show increases the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response.
Why choose an acupuncturist over a physical therapist? To become a licensed acupuncturist it is required to study and train (depending upon the state in which you live) for three to four years and thousands of hours studying and practicing needling. Physical therapists can receive a certificate to perform dry needling after only 50 hours of training. Acupuncturists are trained in both western and eastern medicine. We use needles every day to treat our patients thus giving us far more experience than someone trained to only dry needle. Also, we have numerous choices of how to treat your ailment should the orthopedic approach not be effective. We often combine orthopedic acupuncture with traditional Chinese acupuncture to restore balance treating the underlying issue that lead to the pain in the first place. It is my personal opinion that dry needling or trigger point acupuncture tends to be very effective in providing short-term relief of pain due to muscle spasm and or tightness. Other forms of acupuncture such as TCM, Five Element and Balance Method can lead to longer-term relief by restoring your body’s energetic balance. These approaches also help manage stress, which can often aggravate painful conditions. Overall, an Acupuncturist can give you will get a much more rounded treatment that helps more than just your pain.