I get asked about the difference between Acupuncture and Myofascial Dry Needling often, below I explain the differences as I see them.
Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) philosophy based on the persons life force and having harmony in the body leading towards good health. It is said that each person has many meridian pathways (energy channels in the body) by which the body’s energy or Chi flows. Where there are blockages within the meridians, the chi will not flow and thus dis-ease may be created. The whole TCM method involves not only acupuncture (the application of very fine needles into the meridian channels), but also moxa, herbs and massage.
Acupuncture itself (after a thorough assessment by the therapist) is the application of very fine needles into the acupuncture points within specific meridians in order to bring balance back to the body.
There is more and more scientific evidence supporting the benefits of acupuncture and most importantly supporting the empircal evidence that the Chinese have been using for many thousands of years!
Myofascial Dry Needling involves the use of the same very fine needles used in acupuncture, however the theory behind why they are used and where they are placed is quite different. Myofascial Dry needling was developed as a treatment method for trigger point pain. Trigger points are tight bundles located within the muscles. They have common sites across all people (making them relatively easy to find) and can be classified quite simply as active or latent.
The pioneers of trigger point therapy Dr Travell and Dr Simmons classified numerous pain points within the body and were able to identify where these points commonly lay within muscles and also their corresponding referral patterns. Travell and Simmons later went on to identify different ways to treat these trigger points; with pressure, with stretching, with the application of “dry” needles and also the application of “wet” needles (by injecting a solution into the trigger point).
Within their research Travell and Simmons were able to find a link between the western developed trigger points and the eastern identified “pain” points. There was over a 70% correlation of these points within the body!
Dry needling has since gone on to be developed and integrated into western medical and especially sports practice. With a very good result on reduction of inflammation and reducing pain quickly, as well as improving recovery times. MDN now can be applied to muscles, tendons and ligaments all incredibly safely and with exceptional results.
It is important not to confuse the application of acupuncture needles to the application of needles for blood testing or for injecting “wet” solutions such as cortisone. The commonly used size of an acupuncture needle is 0.2mm- definitely not large enough to do any damage to any muscle, tendon or ligament. Where the misconception can lie is with cortisone where repeated use has been shown by research to make tendons or ligaments more brittle.