Look, this might come as a surprise to most - but I am not an anti-dry needle Acupuncturist. It doesn’t bother me much that other practitioners are seeing the epic results from the needles that TCM has been on about for thousands of years. The only problem I really have about it is when I find out that someone doesn't “do” needles because of a bad dry needling experience. I can totally emphasis with my fellow Acupuncturists - it is frustrating to know that while we studied over 4 years full time for our profession - other health professions, although very educated in their scope, only need to take a weekend course to insert needles into their clients.
But then on the other hand - if some practitioners practice great technique with dry needling, it can be helpful. I have other cases when clients come in and already have the ease of treatment down and are looking forward to trying this lens of needle work. It makes my job a little easier knowing that our practice isn’t so unfamiliar with my client - and often lets me explore a better treatment if the patient is already open to the needles without so much concern.
Basically, when searching for the primary difference between acupuncture and dry needling, what you find is the basics in theory:
- acupuncture treats for the purpose of altering the flow of Qi (or energy) along traditional Chinese meridians
- dry needling follows recommended“point locations, and dosages for the treatment of specific conditions.
Although these are true distinctions - I think many don’t realize that trigger point therapy is in classical TCM literature as well. Ashi points are discussed in tequniques. These Ashi points are places that have muscular tension and are tender to touch. These points - not following any meridian line at all - are points needled to create a response to release the muscle - the arriving of “De Qi”. Trigger points are defined in these texts as ‘Ashi Points’. The first reference of ashi points – which literally translates as ‘Ah yes!’ – was by Sun Simiao in his book Qian Jin Yao Fang (Thousand Ducat Formulas) in 652A.D.. over 1300 years ago.
So when comparing the two - yes Acupuncture has meridian theory involved - but also includes trigger point! Trigger point is one of the most basic ways to treat pain in Chinese medicine - but along with distal point, meridian theory. I am all for other practitioners coming on board to help elevate our practice. But I am over people believing that dry needling is some sort of advanced practice to Acupuncture. It absolutely is not! It is a very simple form of needle work. What I love about acupuncture is that it is a combination treatment for the individual. Why not have a treatment that includes both? As a holistic practitioner -that’s the only way I can look at it.
For the more curious, here is an excellent article I found online for anyone that is craving a little more education on the subject!