Most of us probably wouldn’t say we’re fans of needles. The recent frequency of flu and COVID vaccines aside, needles aren’t on most folks’ want-to-do list. So who’s signing-up for more needles in the form of acupuncture or dry needling? The short answer: athletes of all types, and even everyday folks, in search of drug-free relief, routine body maintenance, and general well-being.
The Team at Greenapple Sports and Wellness provides both types of therapy – acupuncture and dry needling. We asked Doctors Doug Bradberry and Eric Goodman five questions to satisfy the interested, skeptical, or just plain curious.
- For starters, how are dry needling and acupuncture similar?
The application of both is very similar. Both techniques use the same needles and may even target the same spots. Using needles is a much different way of stimulating tissues compared to other techniques that may use tools or someone’s hands. This specific type of stimulation, deep into the muscle, can make a stubborn problem spot disappear. It’s a way to trigger the body to respond to an area that just can’t be accomplished any other way.
- How do these therapies differ?
Acupuncture treats the body as a whole by balancing the body’s energy levels. Energy, or Qi, is responsible for life and can become stagnant or too excited. If it’s stagnant, it needs be tonified, or sped up. If it’s too excited, it needs to be sedated, or slowed down. Different diseases or dysfunctions in our bodies may be caused by these different states of energy. Acupuncture helps to establish a balance in our Qi.
Dry needling is a form of myofascial release, with similar effects as massage, Active Release Technique (ART), Graston Technique, or cupping. The goal of dry needling is to release a tight muscle or trigger point and promote blood flow which can assist in the healing process. It does not necessarily correct the cause of muscle tightness (which can be discussed in a separate conversation) but can be a powerful tool in providing relief for over worked, tight, sore muscles.
- When is dry needling used v acupuncture?
We recommend acupuncture when a patient is suffering from a systemic issue, such as insomnia, stress, anxiety, allergies, etc. We use dry needling more for musculoskeletal conditions like sprains, strains, muscle pain, tightness, trigger points, etc.
Acupuncture and dry needling may stimulate the same spot on the body with the same needle, but the reason to stick the needle there is different. Dry needling is driven by symptoms and more modern exam finding. Dry needling practitioners will also manipulate the needle during the treatment by either twisting the needle in the muscle or “pistoning” the needle up and down to get more stimulation to the area.
- Are there any risks associated with this type of therapy?
There is very little risk when acupuncture and dry needling are applied appropriately by a skilled provider. Knowing the anatomy and using the right length of needle is important, as is using a sterile needles to minimize the risk of infection at the site. Some patients may experience some bruising, which typically subsides in just a few days.
- What does it feel like to undergo one of these therapies?
There is very little, if any, pain with these treatments. The anticipation of needles being used is typically the worst part. When you do feel anything, it is usually a small pinch when the needle is set in the skin. When the needle is pushed deep into the muscle there can be an achy sensation. When a therapeutic point is stimulated, there can be a twitch response or a small spam of the muscle.