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  • Writer's pictureJessica Sylvanson

Dry Needling

Updated: Apr 20, 2018

Does Jessica do "dry needling"? Yes! Actually, Dry needling is acupuncture in which an acupuncture point that has become exquisitely tender, commonly known in the West as a trigger point, is punctured with an acupuncture needle to cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent disease or other conditions, especially musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders, including musculoskeletal pain [1]. An acupuncture point that has become exquisitely tender is identified by a flinch reaction on palpation [1]. Dry needling is not new. It was described in the first century BCE in the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic (黃帝內經 [Huáng Dì nèi jīng]), the foundational text of Chinese medicine [1].

Eight years ago I began to hear about "dry needling" and thought it sounded a lot like what I did as an acupuncturist. So, I searched around for a "dry needling" class to attend. Here's what I learned from attending the class:

  • Dry needling is acupuncture. The course taught the use of acupuncture needles to puncture acupuncture points (specific muscle or connective tissue sites) for therapeutic purpose. Nothing that was taught in the course was new in any way to me as an acupuncturist.

  • The other course attendees (mostly physical therapists) had no formal training in the use of acupuncture needles, which meant they started the weekend course on Friday and by Monday were inserting acupuncture needles as deep as five inches into patients who had no understanding of the risks of such limited training.

  • The course did not teach clean needle technique. Shockingly, I witnessed unclean and unsafe needling practices, and grossly inadequate safety standards. To be clear, the course failed to teach the course attendees infection control and prevention measures

So, yes, Jessica does "dry needling" but she'd just rather call it what it is; acupuncture! Acupuncture can release tight muscle knots, help to loosen fascial adhesions, and help to heal damaged soft tissue. Moreover, Jessica can do so with less pain and more safely than someone with only three days of training in the use of acupuncture needles.

Some of the propaganda these courses and the physical therapists they are certifying are spreading says that dry needling is based on anatomy, physiology, and pathology whereas acupuncture is based on "energy". This is simply not true. Acupuncture is based on anatomy, physiology, and pathology. It is only because of poor translations that the "energy" myth has been spread in the West.

When you put a filiform needle into the connective tissue and/or muscle there is both a local and a systemic response. This is true no matter where on the body the needle is placed. The acupuncture insertion sites and channel maps just show the most effective points in the body for promoting communication of physiological systems by facilitating interstitial fluid flow and circulation. It's not surprising then that all the "trigger points" found in the west associated with certain muscles are also acupuncture points that have been used for thousands of years.

To protect patient safety and the integrity of acupuncture training please report any injuries from unqualified practitioners of acupuncture to DORA and to the website below which is a non-profit patient advocacy group.

1. Yellow Emperor’s inner classic (黃帝內經 [Huáng Dì nèi jīng]). (China); compiled in the first century BCE.

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