What does Acupuncture and Dry Needling have in common with Vultures?
You might not have come across, but in professional circles, the difference between acupuncture and dry needling is a hot and ongoing debate. Before you get your next dry needling done by an allied health professional, you might consider the information provided below.
I want to shed some light on the difference between these two needle therapies. Most people don’t know the difference. Needles are needles, right? For many people getting Dry needling offers the convenience of a one-stop-shop for pain relief. While they receive a massage or an adjustment or other manipulations they also can have some Dry needling from the same practitioner.
To make the difference a little clearer, I would like to use an analogy I came across at a seminar.
Let’s talk about an analogy with vultures. Yes, you read correctly: vultures! They are quite fascinating creatures. The point I want to make is this: Not all vultures are the same. In the two photos below are two representatives of 2 vulture species:
On the right side, you see an Old World vulture and the left side a New World vulture: Despite their similar looks they are not closely related at all.
The New World vulture lives in North and South America, the Old World vulture resides in Asia, Africa and Europe. They are both scavengers and clean up the environment. They both have featherless faces with bald heads. Also, they have both strong stomach acids to allow them to eat rotten food. That’s where the similarities end.
Old World vultures have a voice box and can make vocal sounds, and they build nests, can’t run very well and hop instead. They locate their food with excellent sight.
New World vultures, on the other hand, have no voice box and can therefore only hiss. They don’t build nests but can run like chickens. They locate their food with their highly developed sense of smell. I could go on, but this is possibly enough to make my point.
Acupuncture and Dry needling look the same at first sight. In both modalities, health practitioners apply filiform needles and insert them into the skin. In both cases, the aim is to alleviate pain. That’s where the similarities end. Keeping the analogy, you could say: Acupuncture is from the Old World, Dry needling is from the New World.
What is Dry Needling?
The term Dry needling was invented in the 1940s by Western medical practitioners to distinguish it from needling with injections or so-called Wet needling. Any associations to the practice of acupuncture were entirely avoided in those days and dismissed as mystical and unscientific practice.
What are the Needle Techniques used in Dry Needling?
The needles are inserted into myofascial trigger points; they are localized, irritated muscle fibres that often appear in the body as painful knots. The treatments consist either of deep needling into the sore spot or involve repetitive and rapid needle insertions into the myofascial trigger points to relieve the pain in a symptomatic way.
What are the Qualifications needed for Dry Needling?
The training for Dry needling is generally short. A health practitioner could obtain the certificate of completion already after 12 hours of online and 8 hours of hands-on training. Recently it has changed to 60 hours of training. Dry Needling is mainly performed as an adjunct to other health modalities.
There is no regulatory agency and no legal requirements for Dry needling. In other words, there is no regulation for training, licensure or supervision for this practice. Therefore, there is no way to find out if someone’s training is legitimate and satisfactory.
In summary, Dry needling is neither regulated nor controlled and does not need to follow a certain standard of conduct.
What are the Indications for Dry Needling?
Dry needling is mainly applied for musculoskeletal issues such as:
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Low back pain
- Knee pain
- Tennis elbow
- Headaches & migraines
- Plantar fasciitis
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture belongs to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is part of a comprehensive medical, holistic health system, which is more than 2000 years old. It is based on the concept of Qi, the energy which flows in our body and can be influenced by acupuncture. Every treatment aims to get a person back into a re-balance of Qi, which is disrupted when health problems occur. Pain is only one part of the whole picture.
What are the Indications for Acupuncture?
Acupuncture has been practised all over the world for muscular-skeletal problems (see above), pain management as well as for a whole range of other health conditions such as:
- Stress and fatigue
- Fatigue and nausea related to many chronic diseases
- Pregnancy-related aches and pain
- Fertility as an adjunct to IVF treatment
- and many more.
While the so-called trigger point therapy has always been a part of acupuncture as a tool to alleviate pain, an acupuncturist considers much more when he or she treats. The knowledge of this comprehensive ancient medical system allows tailoring for individualised treatment protocols in an integrated way. The aim is not only symptomatic relief but a holistic approach according to the constitution and specific condition of the person.
What are the Needle Techniques used in Acupuncture?
Practitioners of TCM have to be very skilled in their needle techniques and have to undergo a significant amount of training to ensure safe and pain-free Acupuncture. They generally undertake a four-year university degree (Bachelor’s degree), which includes over 700 hours of needle training and supervised clinical practice.
In the last 20 years since 1990, acupuncture has experienced rapid growth. Today about 4000 acupuncturists are registered with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia (CMBA) following its codes and guidelines. Since 2012 acupuncturists are also registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). It is responsible for monitoring medical doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other health professionals. By closely overseeing its members, AHPRA ensures that patients receive the best and safest possible care.
Acupuncture is generally not studied as an adjunct to another health modality but is executed as a profession in its own right.
With this knowledge at hand, do you still believe Dry needling and Acupuncture are the same? To know about the differences allows you to make an informed decision which modality to choose for your condition.
If you would like some more information, please give us a call on 07 3371 0100 or go on our website ondol.com.au for more details.
Dry needling vs. acupuncture: What the research says: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321989.php
Evidence and expert opinions: Dry needling versus acupuncture (II) : The American Alliance for Professional Acupuncture Safety (AAPAS) White Paper 2016.: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28265852
Dry Needling in the Management of Musculoskeletal Pain: https://www.jabfm.org/content/23/5/640.full