Dry Needling VS Acupuncture, all you need to know

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an alternative medicine modality which originated from China approximately 2,000 years ago. Originally, it is based on an ancient theory that the application of very fine needles in the specific parts of the body can improve the flow of the Chi. Chi is an energy or a life force which is believed to be flowing through everything including us. When the flow is disrupted, people can start having health problems including muscle and joint pains or aches as well as other issues.

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is another alternative medicine modality which uses the application of fine needles. However, it is different from acupuncture in many ways. For example, the depth of insertion, the number of needles applied in one area, stimulation technique and theory behind it. Although the research on understanding exactly how dry needling works and its physiology is lacking, it is suggested that dry needling focuses on releasing the myofascial trigger points by applying needles directly into them in order to elicit a ‘twitch’ response. The ‘twitch’ response is a mild contraction of the muscle in the affected area which helps to release it, resulting in decreased levels of pain and discomfort.

What can acupuncture help with?

It is believed that acupuncture can help with a variety of different conditions. Those can include musculoskeletal presentations such as lower back and neck and shoulder pains and aches, headaches, arthritis, tennis elbow, Achilles tendinitis and to promote recovery after an injury. Also, acupuncture can be used to help with more complex conditions such as asthma, hay fever, digestive disorders, anxiety, fatigue, menstrual disorder, tinnitus and diarrhea. This list is not extensive, however, these are most likely to be the most common conditions which can be treated with acupuncture.

What can dry needling help with?

Dry needling is much more focused on helping with musculoskeletal issues such as myofascial pain syndrome (which basically means pain in a muscle or a muscle group), various tendinitis, lower back and neck pain, headaches, manage inflammation and promote recovery after an injury.  

What to expect during the acupuncture treatment?

Firstly, your acupuncturist will ask you questions about your presenting complaint. After enough information is gathered, your acupuncturist will do an extensive physical examination/observation. This can include observing the colour, coating and shape of your tongue, checking the rhythm, quality and strength of your pulse. The acupuncturist may also palpate (feel) the areas associated with your complaint to find any tender spots. This may indicate the needle insertion point.

Needles are very fine and they do not feel like having an injection or having your blood taken at all. The time you will be laying with needles varies. In most cases it could take anywhere between 10 – 30 minutes. Also, when the needles are inserted they can also be stimulated by twirling them manually or by using a very light electric current. Technique used depends on your acupuncturist.

During the treatment you might feel soreness, numbness or heaviness in the needle application areas. This is totally normal and is to be expected as it suggests that the stimulation of the insertion point is correct. Most people find acupuncture very relaxing, hence, this is something you may also expect.

What are the side effects of acupuncture?

Side effects of acupuncture vary, but generally they are not concerning. In the vast majority of cases you might expect some soreness where needles were inserted, feel lightheaded, faint or dizzy, and the condition you came to see an acupuncturist might worsen before it gets better.

What to expect during the dry needling treatment?

Just like with acupuncture, the needles used are very fine, hence, they are not as painful as when you are giving blood or having an injection. 

At the beginning of the treatment your practitioner will ask questions about your presenting complaint which in most cases will be followed by a physical examination. Questioning and physical examination may vary between practitioners. This depends on the severity and complexity of the complaint, but also on the qualifications of the practitioner as dry needling is widely used by physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, sports therapists and massage therapists. Each professional can have a slightly different examination approach.

After the examination is completed, your practitioner will decide on the number of needles and area in which they will be applied. Application may also vary depending on the training of the practitioner. Some might use just one needle, inserting it in one area, and stimulating it by moving it in and out. Others may apply a number of needles and allow them to stay in for 10 – 20 minutes with some stimulation of the needle during the treatment time.

What are the side effects of dry needling?

Side effects of dry needling are the same or very similar to acupuncture. You might feel soreness where the needles were inserted, aggravation of the symptoms you originally presented with, bruising or bleeding, faint or fatigue.

Are you dealing with pain, aches or injuries? Maybe it is time to try new treatments like acupuncture or dry needling!

We hope this information is useful for you. If you need advice or have any questions about our treatments, please contact us. You can find us in Mill Hill Broadway and Islington. We are always happy to help. If you like this blog, please share!





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