As the awareness and interest of alternative healthcare continues to grow, so do questions surrounding it. Some questions that have been popping up frequently in my world are about dry needling. What is it? Is it different from acupuncture? Where can I go to get it? Well, let’s dive into it.
First things first, if there is dry needling, does that mean there is “wet” needling? Yes! “Wet” needling uses a hollow needle to inject a substance into the body. “Dry” needling uses a thin, solid, stainless steel needle, and nothing is injected. This is where the term “dry” comes from. Dry needling and Acupuncture are very similar from a procedural standpoint. The needles used for dry needling are actually the same needles used for acupuncture. It’s sort of an “all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares” situation. Acupuncture is technically dry needling, but not all dry needling is acupuncture.
Acupuncture is an ancient medicine, used literally thousands of years ago. It’s based on a system of meridians that are mapped throughout the body. Acupuncture is used to treat pain, disease, and general maintenance of health in all of the body’s systems. The eastern philosophy behind acupuncture focuses on the flow of energy in the body.
Dry needling on the other hand focuses specifically on the neuromuscular system and treats muscular tension and pain. The location of needle insertion is centered around trigger points or motor points. Needling close to these points can engage the nervous system, sometimes creating a twitch response within the muscle, theoretically releasing the trigger point and relieving the tension and pain it’s causing. Both acupuncture and dry needling can be used to manage inflammation as well.
While many of the insertion points used during acupuncture treatments fall on the body’s meridian pathways mentioned earlier, there is a style of acupuncture that uses “ashi” style locations. “Ashi” basically means “tender spots” or “by feel”. This style is very similar to dry needling and commonly used to treat muscular pain syndromes. This creates a gray area that complicates who is allowed to perform dry needling.
The scope of medical procedures are regulated by the state. In states like Oregon (where I live), acupuncture AND dry needling are only within the scope of a state licensed acupuncturist or a medical professional licensed in medicine and surgery. Other states in the US allow dry needling to be performed by physical therapists and chiropractors as well. Keep in mind that all clinics and practitioners are individuals. Treatment and needling styles can vary from clinician to clinician. It’s important to find someone that you trust, getting a referral from someone within your circle is always a great place to start.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Hello@pointofactionpdx.com