Acupuncture includes dry needling, dry needling does not include acupuncture
So what’s the difference?
Dry Needling originated with the discovery of trigger points in the 40’s… You probably know trigger points as “knots”. You know those annoying little suckers that cause you pain. Well the doctors who discovered trigger points realised if they took a hypodermic needle without any fluids in it (hence Dry Needling) and stuck it into a trigger point that the knot would dissolve. Over the years with the integration of Acupuncture into western culture hypodermic needles were exchanged for Acupuncture needles, coz you know, no one wants someone coming at them with an empty needle.
Dry Needling works great for muscle issues. Here’s the issue with it. Anyone can do it. Everyone from personal trainers, to massage therapists, chiropractors, GP’s and physio’s can do it. Some have amazing training, some have none. It’s literally taught in a weekend course.
In 2006 I learned Dry Needling, in a 6 week weekend course. As a personal trainer and massage therapist. With literally 9 months of prior education. So I can tell you straight up how easy it is to learn. Find the point, stick the needle in.
I learned dry needling, because I wanted to learn acupuncture, but at the time there was no possibility of me doing a uni degree. What I found interesting was the person teaching the dry needling course was a Chinese medicine practitioner. At the time he said to me that acupuncture doesn’t work and dry needling works better. At the time I believed him.
As any good researcher does, I researched and learned.
Then I finally went to Uni and studied Acupuncture.
And I realised how deep the subject really is.
Acupuncture has a written history of about 2000 years. There is archealogical evidence that it’s possibly even older. And trust me, the original needles were way bigger and brutal than a hypodermic needle, and you’d much rather an untrained massage therapist coming at you than an ancient Chinese doctor hitting you up with a stone needle!
But here’s the thing, Acupuncture has been around so long it’s evolved, the needles are amazingly thin (that’s why the chiro’s and physios want to use them), and with the amount of training a Chinese medicine Practitioner has to go through you can barely feel them go in, especially if the Acupuncturist continues their on going training. And that’s just the needling.
Chinese Medicine has a very thorough diagnostic process including pulse diagnosis, tongue diagnosis, full body palpation, to name just a few. This gives an overall pattern to what’s happening in the body, from the structural systems to the functional systems. This allows Chinese Medicine Practitioners to see other ailments you may not think related.
Now here’s where Dry Needling comes into Acupuncture. In Chinese Medicine there are extra points know as Ah Shi points… Or Ah Shit that hurts. Pain points. Or knots. Same same. But dry needling misses out on all the other diagnosis.
So if your Chiro or Massage Therapist are telling you they do Acupuncture, they don’t. If they don’t have a degree in Acupuncture or Chinese Medicine, they do dry needling. If they advertise Accupuncture, Yin Yang Needling, Akupuncture, Chakrapuncture, they’re dodgey AF, and you should probably just stay away…
Authors Bias & Notes: I must confess I am an Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner, I’m also a trained Dry Needler… I’d like to make it crystal clear, I’m not having a crack at any other therapies, I love all of the modalities out there, there’s good practitioners and bad ones, I’m genuinely just trying to educate the general public about the difference between dry needling and acupuncture, using facts and humour.
If you’ve been butchered with Dry needling, please don’t be afraid to get acupuncture because they are completely different entities.
Second note: if you’re an acupuncturist and you have a massive problem with dry needling go lobby to get dry needlers using dry needles again…