The question I am asked more than any other is what is the difference between acupuncture and dry needling?
Most people think of acupuncture as inserting acupuncture needles in areas of pain or areas that influence the pathway that relates to the pain.
There is so much more that we can do with acupuncture. Outside of pain, I treat nervous system disorders like neurasthenia/ anxiety/ stress the most, but acupuncture is also incredibly effective in treating so much more. When treating internal medicine conditions like fatigue, IBS, or high blood pressure the needles are often placed in acupoints that are located in the periphery of the body. Arms and legs contain many acupoints that stimulate the nervous system and organs of our body. Once the needles are in I like to have patients relax with the needles for about 20 minutes. It takes about that long for the needles to work their magic and take effect on the body. I find this time critical for the body as acupuncture calms the nervous system, loosens our muscles, and gives a nice dopamine release. It also gives us a moment to put our minds into a meditative state and reset from our often chaotic lives. If you are feeling overwhelmed, acupuncture is a great fix.
When I’m using acupuncture on my patients it can be for a wide range of goals. When I’m performing dry needling it is specifically to treat pain and tension.
First, I would like to be clear that dry needling is an acupuncture technique. When I was trained in dry needling it was taught to me as Ashi acupuncture and some will call it orthopedic acupuncture. I was trained in this and many other acupuncture techniques years ago in my post-graduate studies. There are so many acupuncture techniques in the world and dry needling is only one of them.
Technically speaking dry needling is a technique that uses an acupuncture needle to create a trigger point response, but the technique is profoundly different from what most patients consider acupuncture. It’s a very hands-on process. We look for trigger points where you are experiencing pain and sometimes in areas that influence or exacerbate the pain.
We insert the needle and with this technique, you will feel a muscle twitch response or fasciculation. I don’t find it painful, but it is a very strange sensation and most people take a couple of visits to get used to it. It does sometimes feel like e-stim acupuncture or a tens unit, but it is much more specific and overall more powerful to treat pain conditions. The muscle twitch releases the tension at the moment and helps the muscle to rehabilitate from the tension and/or trauma that it has experienced. The number of visits varies based on many different factors. Typically, I expect at least a month of weekly visits to get a decent response, especially for those in chronic pain. But for most of us, it’s an ongoing effort to keep our bodies healthy. It’s also important to realize that if you have been experiencing pain for over a year it’s going to take effort and patience to reverse the cycle.
I’ve used dry needling over the years to treat pain all over the body as it is incredibly effective and works well in conjunction with acupuncture and cupping.
Keep an eye out for my next blog on dry needling next month!