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Dry Needling vs Acupuncture: Things you need to know

You may have heard of a treatment called dry needling and wondered what exactly it is. Is it the same as acupuncture? Is it safe? Why is it called dry needling? Is there a wet one? Who are qualified to do the procedure? Is it this the right treatment for you? Looking at the photo, you might be stumped to differentiate dry needling and acupuncture, that's because both procedures use thin, stainless steel needles which are inserted into the skin and is both known to treat pain.

While the name of the procedure may sound overawing, dry needling is safe, minimally discomforting and is known to alleviate pain.

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a treatment performed by skilled, trained physical therapists, some chiropractors, medical doctors certified in the procedure to treat myofascial pain. A thin monofilament needle penetrates the skin and treats underlying muscular trigger points for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement

The technique uses a "dry" needle, one without medication or injection, inserted through the skin into areas of the muscle. The needles may be placed deeply or superficially, for shorter or longer periods of time, depending on what type of pain is being treated and how long it has lasted. Shorter periods of time would mean that needle would stay in the muscle for seconds, while longer periods could mean 10 to 15 minutes.

Dry needling is NOT Acupuncture,which is a practice based on traditional Chinese medicine and performed by acupuncturists. Dry needling is a part of modern Western medicine principles.

What are the benefits of dry needling?

Research supports that dry needling improves pain control, reduces muscle tension, and normalizes dysfunctions of the motor end plates which help speed up the patient's return to active rehabilitation.

What kinds of condition does dry needling treat?

When physical therapists use dry needling, it is typically 1 technique that's part of a larger treatment plan.It is always used as a part of an overall program that often includes exercise, manual therapy, electrotherapy, and education. It is mainly used to address pain caused by trigger points and increase range of motion that may be limited due to muscle tightness or scar tissue. Dry needling is also used to address:

  • Joint and Disk problems

  • Tendinitis

  • Migraine and tension-type headaches

  • Jaw and mouth problems (such as temporomandibular joint disorders or TMD)

  • Repetitive motion disorders (like carpal tunnel syndrome)

  • Spinal problems

  • Pelvic pain

  • Chronic Pain

Are there side effects or risks to dry needling?

A patient may experience different sensations when being needled, such as muscle soreness, aching and a muscle twitch which are considered to be a good sign.

The most common side effects around the injection site include:

  • bruising

  • bleeding

  • temporary soreness

  • formation of bumps around the injections site

If non-sterile needles are used, you may be at risk for contracting bloodborne illnesses, infection, and diseases. Be sure your practitioner uses sterile needles and disposes of them after each use.

Who are not allowed to have dry needling?

As dry needling is known to be safe to majority of people there are some cases wherein performing this technique is contraindicated, such as:

  • Pregnant women (1st Trimester)

  • Patient with needle phobia

  • Patient unwilling - fear, patient belief

  • Unable to give consent - communication, cognitive, age-related factors.

  • Medical emergency or acute medical condition.

  • Over an area or limb with lymphedema as this may increase the risk of infection/cellulitis and the difficulty of fighting the infection if one should occur.

  • Inappropriate for any other reason.

Cases where Precautions are needed:

  • Abnormal bleeding tendency (people taking blood thinners and people who are only recently recovering from surgery)

  • Compromised immune system

  • Vascular disease

  • Hypertension

  • Diabetes

  • Pregnancy (2nd and 3rd Trimester)

  • Children

  • Frail patients

  • Patients with epilepsy

  • Phychological status

  • Patient allergies

  • Patient medication

  • Unsuitable patient for any reason

What does research say about dry needling?

Most study shows that inclusion of dry needling into a program of manual therapy and exercise is more effective for improving pain, function and related-disability for patients with plantar fascitiis, low back pain and other pain related cases.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of medical treatment that’s been used for hundreds — even thousands — of years. This technique originated in Asian medical practices and is classified as “Oriental Medicine” by licensure boards.

Acupuncture is practiced by tens of thousands of licensed acupuncturists. Expert acupuncturists train for three to four years where and study instruction in the use of needles and instruction in diagnosing conditions.

In addition to this training, acupuncturists must undergo testing from a national board of examiners and continue to take instructional courses each year to maintain their license.

What are the benefits of acupuncture?

The fundamental belief of acupuncture is that illness is the result of blocked or interrupted chi. Chi provides your body with healing energy. Acupuncture seeks to remove these blockages and return your energy flow to a state of balance.

Acupuncture is used to treats hundreds of conditions and symptoms, including but not limited to:

  • pain

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • headache

  • menstrual cramps

  • allergies

Are there side effects or risks to Acupuncture?

Side effects and risks are very rare if performed by a trained and licensed acupuncturist. Occasionally, someone may experience:

  • pain at injection site

  • bruising

  • bleeding

In addition, some people may develop complications if non-sterile needles are used.

Wrap Up!

One is designed to relieve pain, discomfort, or issues by opening up a person’s energy flow or chi. The other is designed to stimulate trigger points, or muscles that are irritable. Dry needling is rather new, if you’re weighing whether dry needling is the right treatment for you and you’re willing to try something new that shows promising results, then this is the best option for you!

If you have more questions about dry needling feel free to contact us!

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