“What is the difference between acupuncture and dry needling?” is a question I get asked a lot in clinic. Most people have heard of acupuncture performed by eastern medical practitioners but rarely have they heard the term dry needling. What does dry needling even mean? There must be wet needling…well yes…wet needling is when you have fluid injected in to your body through a hollow needle. And as the needles used in dry needling are solid and don’t do this they are called dry needles.
Now that is cleared up let’s get to some more juicy stuff.
Acupuncture is an 5000 year old eastern medical practice where they believe that a life force (Chi) runs through every living being and a good flow of this ensures a healthy body. They believe that this life-force flows around the body on meridian lines connected to the organs of the body and wherever there is congestion in the flow there will be ill health. They use the needles to clear the Chi by placing the needles along the meridian lines in the body wherever the practitioner has assessed it to be blocked. Acupuncture is usually used alongside other eastern medicine practices dependant on what you are being assessed for and typically a number of needles are inserted in various places around the body and left for a period of time. Acupuncture can be used to treat:
Muscle and joint pain
Dry needling is a western medicine practice that uses a number of different gauge needles to work on intra muscular stimulation. The most common use of this type of needling is to treat trigger points in the muscle to relieve any tension there may be and is a lot more effective than manual therapy or massage. The research has shown that some of the Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture points have helped with specific problems like knee pain or menopause symptoms and therefore the same points are used in dry needling. Dry needling is also used in a segmental manor where by needles are placed closer to the spine to elicit changes along the neural pathway. A lot of research has been carried out on pain in birth and the effects of dry needling with outcomes. Dry needling is often used as an adjunct to other therapies and is commonly used to treat:
Pelvic floor dysfunctions
Trigger point release
Glut med tendonopathy/greater trochanteric bursitis
Pain in pregnancy and birth
A course of 6 – 12 weeks with 1 – 2 sessions per week is usually prescribed. The sessions last for around 30 minutes and the needles stay in for 20 minutes.