I often get asked what the difference is between acupuncture and dry needling. The commonality is the use of small needles in the body to elicit a response. The application and responses are however vastly different.
To answer the question of differences between Acupuncture and Dry Needling I will initially talk about the duration of training required for each field, its benefits and briefly describe how it works in the body.
My Knowledge in Acupuncture as Your Cairns Physio
As a Physio that has trained in acupuncture I have the basic level of knowledge in this field. My training was mostly targeted for treatment of sports injuries, pain and some basic ailments. This level of knowledge does not utilise the full spectrum of skills within acupuncture, but rather diagnoses and treats through the subjective examination and musculoskeletal assessment.
An acupuncturist has the full scope of the practice in terms of diagnostic tools and all understanding of the balance of energies. The acupuncturist is likely to look at your tongue and feel your pulses to have an understanding of your needs.
It takes mostly 4 years of training to become a fully qualified acupuncturist. The acupuncturist often up-skills through their entire career as there is much to learn on this subject. I took my Acupuncture course in Canada, it was offered to Practitioners such as Physios, Osteopaths and Doctors. To obtain this basic level of skill the course ran over 1 year for Level one and 2 years to get to a Level 2 certification.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture has been in practice for thousands of years and originated in China. It works through meridians. These meridians are channels where energies flow and communication of important structures such as organs can move around the body. Placing a needle into a specific area (often this is an area of low resistance) elicits a specific response in your system.
These points can help with swelling, energy, pain, addictions and much more. The point is often located in areas where there is a convergence of blood vessels and nerves therefore a local effect as well as systemic effect can be achieved. These effects can include ease of tension, increased blood and communication to the area, heightened healing response and decrease pain and swelling. Acupuncture is not painful for most part and the needles will stay in place for 20 minutes to have the full effect.
Physiotherapy and Dry Needling
Throughout my career as a physiotherapist, I have also trained in Dry Needling. This technique is called dry needling because the needle is not injecting anything into the body. I find this modality helpful to quickly and effectively ease spasm or tension in the muscles and bring more blood and nutrients to an area to assist in a healing process.
I have used this to great effect on knee ligaments that are slow to knit together or still painful. The needles can help bring more attention to the area and therefore healing. Using a needle to a tensioned muscle is like turning your computer on and off when it freezes, it can be what is needed for a quick reset.
The sensation can be described as odd and sometimes painful. The needle is placed into the body and moved to activate the muscle or tissue of concern and generally taken out within minutes. To train in dry needling you will need to be a qualified practitioner such as Physio, Osteo or Chiropractor and skills can be gained over a weekend course.
Integrating Treatment Technique as Your Cairns Physio
Both techniques have their benefits. I personally am a fan of acupuncture over dry needling but have had great relief from both. I find use of both techniques are excellent tools to have as required, and on majority of occasions I use a combination of both, even in sports physiotherapy.