Depending on who you ask, you will get very different answers. The only thing most professionals can agree on is that both acupuncture and dry needling uses a filament needle that is inserted into the body to elicit a change. In traditional eastern acupuncture, this change involves the balance and flow of energy, or chi, in the body and the needle is an instrument used to augment and manipulate this balance and flow. Western acupuncture is based on a neuro-anatomical framework. Many needles are placed into the body and left in for around 30 minutes.
Dry needling approaches this change from a neurophysiological perspective. The general concept is that there are bands of taut muscle bands known as trigger points throughout the body. These trigger points cause biochemical changes to the local tissue environment which can lead to soreness, pain, and muscle “tension”. In addition to this, there are changes in the nerves which connect the brain to the trigger points which can increase the body’s sensitivity to painful stimuli. Together, this creates a vicious painful cycle that is the basis behind any abnormal or chronic pain. Dry needling employs filament needles to decrease muscle spasm and reset the neural hardwiring of a painful area. This can be done physically by manually manipulating the needle in the tissue or electrically through the use of an electrical-stim unit. Dry needling typically doesn’t require needles to be left in the body, and usually only one needle is in the body at a time.
Not sure which is best for you? Come talk to one of our clinicians about how acupuncture or dry needling can help you!