Traditional Acupuncture, Dry Needling & Medical Acupuncture

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In very basic terms, both treat muscular pain, but traditional acupuncture is shown to be effective for more than just your muscles. A wide research base shows effectiveness for digestion, fertility, gynaecological conditions, asthma, headaches, auto-immune conditions, reducing the side effects of chemo and radiation therapy, mental health, and more, with the WHO recognising more than 80 conditions benefited by traditional acupuncture.

Fundamentally both involve the insertion of fine needles into the body for the purpose of improving health.

But from there the differences start to appear, Chinese acupuncture includes the use of dry needling in its skill set, but dry needling does not encompass acupuncture or the wider techniques used in Chinese medicine.

The term “Dry Needling” (also known as myofascial trigger point dry needling, or medical acupuncturecomes from Janet G. Travell, in her book, Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: Trigger Point Manual. The term was used to differentiate between injecting a substance into a trigger point, and not injecting into the trigger point, hence the term “Dry” needling, originally this was done with an empty hypodermic needle but fortunately they now use acupuncture needles which are much much thinner and more comfortable. The theory is based in western science and typically focuses on the insertion of needles into muscular tissue or tendons to help reduce muscle tone, spasm & pain.

Acupuncture is part of the wider practice of Chinese Medicine, and based on the principles of balancing Yin, Yang, Qi, Blood, and Jing to re-establish the body’s natural healing response and restore balance. This practice has been developed, tried, tested, and refined, over thousands of years (and continues to develop through case studies and clinical trials). Acupuncturists use fine needles to help manage the flow of Qi and substances throughout the body, using specific points to release, unblock or increase the flow through a network of channels (meridians), which follow muscle groups, sinews, joints, and organs. The principle is to treat the underlying cause of the dysfunction as well as the symptoms, making it a holistic approach to treatment.

When treating musculo-skeletal pain and dysfunction, an important part of acupuncture is the inclusion of trigger points, known in Chinese medicine as Ah shi points (roughly translated as “ouch” points), which have been part of Chinese medicine treatment since its very beginnings.

So whats the difference? Both will help your pain, both insert fine needles into the body, and both use trigger points. But, Chinese acupuncture uses additional channel points to treat you as a whole, and benefit your overall health, as well as the site of your pain.

Which ever you choose make sure that your practitioner is registered with a governing body and the local environmental health. Also take a look at the training requirements, most traditional acupuncturists will be registered with the BAcC who require degree level training and 3500 hours, where as most physios, osteopaths, and massage therapists (not all) will take a course like the one BMAS offer which requires only 30 hours of training.