When I pull out my kit for dry needling, many people look at it and ask if I do acupuncture. Although the needles are the same, dry needling is very different from acupuncture. There are a lot of different articles about each of these types of modalities, but honestly unless you talk to a health care professional who has been trained in these techniques, it is hard to get a clear picture of what they are. Both practices involve the use of tiny, dry stainless steel needles. (Dry meaning there is NO medication involved). They are placed in tissue at strategic points in the body to hopefully stimulate a positive effect. This effect could be a muscle spasm, pain relief, scar tissue mobilization, stress and anxiety management, or the world of acupuncture: help the flow of chi.
Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and originated in traditional Chinese medicine. It has been used to address many different problems such as stress, anxiety, cramping, depression, all sorts of things – through the use of tiny needles being utilized at strategic points in the body, places they would call along “meridian lines” at acupoints. People who practice acupuncture are called Acupuncturists.
Many different types of medical practitioners can become licensed to dry needle, such as physical therapists, chiropractors, occupational therapist, doctors/nurse practitioners and athletic trainers. There are also many different certifying groups who host courses on how to get “certified”, and each group teaches the methods slightly differently. This could mean dry needling techniques that one physical therapist does, could differ from the way that the chiropractor down the street does it.
This blog is written from my perspective of dry needling and how I was personally trained, and how I have found dry needling to be effective for my patients. Dry needling, used appropriately, can be an excellent tool for pain management in joints, excessively tense and tight muscles, osteoarthritis, and even radiculopathy. Many people do not realize that the needles are so tiny and nothing like the needle when you receive a shot or vaccine. The needles are placed on the body based on anatomical and personalized landmarks and structures of YOUR body, and the dosage of needling is varied by number of needles used, gauge of needle, and how long they are left in there.
There are a few cases where dry needling would not be an appropriate treatment method for a patient, and like with any intervention, if you are not seeing results within 3-5 sessions of dry needling it is probably time to change up the intervention. Some of my most successful cases with dry needling has been with cervicogenic headaches, TMJ dysfunction, thoracic and lumbar spine pain, and knee pain. If you are tired of taking pain medicine and would like to try a non invasive, safe alternative method, dry needling is definitely worth trying!