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Acupuncture vs Dry Needling. Which one and why.

What’s the difference between dry needling and acupuncture? Which one will help my recovery more?

Often new patients that walk into our clinic ask the question, “Do you use Acupuncture as part of your treatment?” The obvious answer is yes we do! However, Dry Needling is a sub type of Acupuncture which aims to release the myofascial trigger point that has built up between the fascia and the muscle itself. In lay terms, the muscles are like a bunch of hairs. If you don’t take care of hair, it often knots up. ‘Dry Needling’ is unpicking the knot. The practice of Dry Needling is aimed at reducing myofascial tension and increasing muscular function.

Acupuncture, on the other hand, is a Traditional Chinese Medicine tool that uses the theory of meridians and the placement of needles is targeted at restoring the body’s qi flow.  Qi is the flow of yin and yang and by restoring this balance, Acupuncturists aim to improve systemic medical pathologies.  Acupuncture is most commonly used for pain management with chronic conditions.

In a systematic review, The effectiveness of trigger point dry needling for musculoskeletal conditions by Physical Therapists (Gattie, 2017), illustrated superior outcomes associated with dry needling for functional outcomes when compared with no treatment or sham treatment. Dry Needling is an effective tool in our treatment protocols for muscular tension and rehabilitation, especially when used alongside our other proven treatment modalities such as flexibility, strength and motor control re-training.

What does this mean for you?

Let’s say an avid participant of regular exercise was to present in our clinic and are looking for tension relief, reduced muscle tightness and an increase in flexibility – for example runners, cyclists, soccer players and regular gym practitioners. The recommendation of ‘Dry Needling’ would be put forward in conjunction with active release massage, joint mobilisations, technique assessment and specific strengthening and flexibility training. This will ensure a speedy return to their desired activity.

It is crucial that a thorough assessment be conducted by a trained physiotherapist or podiatrist to assess the reason for both dry needling and acupuncture. For example, a chronic knee will benefit, from acupuncture on certain meridian points for the purpose of swelling reduction. Whereas an acutely injured patient may require acupuncture in the initial stages to help with pain and swelling management – as he/she progressed into advanced exercises, increase in stiffness/tightness may occur as you are re-introducing load. Thus the of use dry needling to release the trigger points would be more effective.

If you are still sitting on the fence be sure to watch the videos below and hopefully they will inspire you to try this form of rehabilitation.

To further help improve your technique be sure to schedule an appointment with our team of Physiotherapists today and together we can work to get you training at your best. Get in and get assessed today! You can contact our practice on (02) 7226 3432 or book an appointment online.

Thanks for reading,
Insync Physiotherapy Team