How Does Dry Needling Differ from Acupuncture?
More formally known as myofascial trigger point dry needling, this is a form of treatment employed by some physiotherapists for the alleviation of pain and impaired movement. The inclusion of the qualifying adjective, dry, serves to underline the fact that no pain medication is injected during the process. In this procedure, either hollow-core hypodermic or filiform (thread-like) needles, not unlike those employed in acupuncture, are inserted into appropriately selected sites on the patient’s body.
However, while the overall goals of both these forms of treatment are essentially the same, the techniques they employ, and the underlying philosophies of the physiotherapist and the acupuncturist, differ quite widely. For example, acupuncture treatments aim to stimulate the release of endorphins that act to sooth nerves, more traditionally perceived as aligning the subject’s chi, while the much newer practice of dry needling targets pressure points and knots in a subject’s muscles in an attempt to reduce tension.
The two techniques differ also in their scope. As an ancient Chinese art, practiced for millennia, acupuncture has gained quite a number of applications over time. In addition to its use to provide pain relief from muscular aches and pains, migraines, and nausea, acupuncturists commonly advocate treatments as a means to assist with an addiction, such as smoking, alcoholism, and various forms of drug abuse, as well as depression.
By contrast, although seen as effective for their intended purpose, the circumstances in which the use of this newer option is applicable are rather more limited. In practice, the relief of muscle and joint pain, and the improvement of mobility continue to be the main focus of dry needling treatments.
The obvious similarity between these two forms of treatment is no coincidence. The founder of the more recent option, Yun-Tao Ma, was himself a practitioner of acupuncture and well-versed in the art of Chines medicine. While this westernised version has its own techniques, and is founded on theoretical concepts more in keeping with those of western medicine, the common roots are quite evident. In fact, some physiotherapists actually use acupuncture needles to perform this modern version.
While some medical doctors choose to discredit the practice, neurophysiological research has established sufficient evidence to support the use of dry needling for selected purposes. Providing the treatment is preceded by a thorough manual assessment of the patient’s neuromuscular system, and applied as indicated by its findings, it offers an effective option for the reduction of muscular tension, and any associated pain through the restoration of normal, electrical, and biochemical activities in the motor end-plates of affected nerves.
Justine Mokgoatjana Physiotherapy offers these treatments in conjunction with other manual interventions for pain control and rehabilitation.