Dry needling is increasing in popularity. In 2016, dry needling by physical therapist in Montana became legal. So, more and more, I come across individuals confused about the difference between acupuncture and dry needling.
Here’s the difference:
Acupuncture is performed by licensed acupuncturists with a minimum of 3 years of training and at least a Master’s level education. Training includes Eastern philosophy and sciences as well as Western sciences like anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and Western clinical sciences. In addition, acupuncturist typically graduate with 1,000 hours of clinical training treating patients with acupuncture.
Dry needling is performed by physical therapists or other health care practitioners. Typically, these individuals are also highly trained and educated in their field. However, the training in regards to needling usually comes from a weekend course.
Acupuncture aims to treat the whole person, creating balance in the body so it can function optimally, heal, and repair. Acupuncturists may perform dry needling, but often combine dry needling techniques with a full body treatment. Acupuncture targets symptoms like pain, digestive issues, or fertility while also improving the overall function of the body. Treatment takes into account the person’s overall constitution from an Eastern perspective while also considering related structure, musculature, Western diagnoses, and neuroanatomy.
Dry needling focuses on pain conditions by releasing tight muscles. Treatments typically revolve around releasing trigger points in one specific body part that may be contributing to pain. Many patients experience soreness after treatment due to the focus on trigger point release, but ultimately experience muscle release and relief.
Here’s the similarities:
Both use thin, filiform needles to encourage change in the body.
Both are based on science and backed by research.
Acupuncturists can work hand in hand with other healthcare providers such as physical therapists, chiropractors, MDs, PAs, and NPs in order to create an integrated treatment plan. Each practitioner can focus on their specialty, while providing optimal outcomes and results for patients.