I get asked all the time, what is the difference between Dry Needling and traditional acupuncture? We do use the same type of needles, but the way we use the needles can be quite different and is explained below.
Dry needling or Western Medical Acupuncture (WMA) is an adaption of Chinese acupuncture using the current knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pathology and principles of evidence based medicine. An important distinction for WMA is it doesn’t use the yin/yang or ‘qi’ ideology within the reasoning for treatment. WMA has continues to be integrated into the western medical framework and currently is not considered an alternative medicine. As far as the techniques used there are little differences, but the areas of application and the aims and claims are varied.
WMA focuses mainly on the application of acupuncture needles to both active and latent musculoskeletal trigger points (MTrP’s) which are area’s of decreased blood flow and oxygenation within the muscle. Active MTrP’s are thought to refer pain from the MTrP site to other areas in the body, usually distal to the MTrP site (Mense, 2010). All of you who have a love hate relationship with the twitch – this is why we need it – the effectiveness is greater when a local twitch response is elicited (Hong, 1994). When we inactivation of MTrP’s via the use of WMA it may prevent development of further active MTrP’s, remove their nociceptive (pain) input and reduce central and peripheral sensitisation (Ge & Arendt-Nielsen, 2011) Globally this means there are impacts range of movement, pain and physical outcomes (Aridici et al., 2016; Boyles, Fowler, Ramsey, & Burrows, 2015; Lewit, 1979; Lucas, Polus, & Rich, 2004; Rodriguez-Mansilla et al., 2016).
We can also use WMA on ligaments, tendons and bones. Depending on the type of needling done it can be used to excite and to dampen the response of a muscle. There is a lot of reasoning that goes into the use of Dry Needling which only assists with the better outcomes. Although the evidence behind Dry Needling is still growing, clinically I see the differences that it makes to my clients all the time. It is something that I will always consider as a treatment technique.
Although a lot of people love Dry Needling – it is something that isn’t for everyone. Some people don’t like needles and there are people that don’t respond as well as others. Although I find it really effective with some people, there are some that I don’t feel get the same benefits and I will use other treatment techniques.
While this is not an exhaustive list, I hope this helps with breaking down the confusion between Dry Needling (WMA) and traditional acupuncture. Happy Monday!
Aridici, R., Yetisgin, A., Boyaci, A., Tutoglu, A., Bozdogan, E., Sen-Dokumaci, D., . . . Boyaci, N. (2016). Comparison of the efficacy fo dry needling and high-power pain threshold ultrasound therapy with clinical status and sonoelastography in myofascial pain syndrome. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 22.
Boyles, R., Fowler, R., Ramsey, D., & Burrows, E. (2015). Effectiveness of trigger point dry needling for multiple body regions: a systematic review. The journal of manual & manipulative therapy, 23(5), 276-293.
Ge, H. Y., & Arendt-Nielsen, L. (2011). Latent myofascial trigger points. Current Pain Headache Reports, 15(5), 386-392.
Hong, C. Z. (1994). Lidocaine injection versus dry needling to myofascial triffer point. The importance of the local twitch response. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 73, 256-263.
Lewit, K. (1979). The needle effect in the relief of myofascial pain. Pain, 6(1), 83-90.
Lucas, K. R., Polus, B. I., & Rich, P. S. (2004). Latent myofascial trigger points: their effects on muscle activation and movement efficiency. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 8, 160-166.
Mense, S. (2010). How do muscle lesions such as latent and active trigger points influence central nociceptive neurons? Journal of musculoskeletal pain, 18, 348-353.
Rodriguez-Mansilla, J., Gonzalez-sanchez, B., De Toro Garcia, A., Valera-donoso, E., Garrido-Ardila, E. M., Jimenez-Palomares, M., & Gonzalez Lopez-Arza, M. V. (2016). Effectiveness of dry needling on reducin pain intensity in patients with myofascial pain syndrome: a Meta-analysis. Journal of traditional chinese medicine, 36(1), 1-13.