By Cleo Wolf, L.Ac.
This is a hot topic these days and a very common question. Acupuncture as a profession in the US was only born in the 1970s. Since then it has been growing like a puppy, asleep most of the time and tripping over our own feet the rest of it. Business acumen is not a strength of acupuncture school curriculums. Because of this we have not been able to respond quickly or with clarity when other medical specialties encroach onto our scope of practice.
According to the state of Maine: “Acupuncture is the insertion of fine metal needles through the skin ... to normalize physiological function, treat certain diseases and dysfunctions of the body, prevent or modify the perception of pain and promote health and well-being. It is based on traditional oriental theories.”
The term Dry Needling was coined by an MD in the mid twentieth century who used hypodermic needles to inject trigger points to relieve pain. With experimentation it was discovered that no injection was needed, acupuncture needles work better to relieve pain at trigger points, hence “dry” needling. Trigger points have been shown to coincide with traditionally identified acupoints. Acupoints are locations known to access Qi at the surface of the body. Dry needling is acupuncture with different terminology and limited application.
Qi is a term that has no direct equivalent in western languages. Qi is what animates us, so is often called simply ‘energy.” Manipulating Qi is the mechanism underlying the effectiveness of acupuncture. However the restoration of balance to the complex system that is our body-mind is what relieves pain and restores function.
Traditional oriental theory does not isolate pain from the rest of the being’s experience, recognizing that the causes lay in imbalances that should be clarified and corrected. Without doing this the problem will likely arise somewhere else or simply re-occur. Balance can be restored by many means: movement, diet, emotional/mental hygiene, lifestyle changes, and acupuncture. Understanding traditional theory guides the way.
At Jade the Acupuncturists do the Dry Needling for the Physical Therapists. This means the patient has the provider with the most training bringing their expertise to the situation. Even without full assessment the constitution is evident to the trained acupuncturist who can then adjust the needling to provide safe relief of local pain without contributing to the problem. Acupuncturists do not needle like other allied health professionals - why should they? Acupuncturists employ traditional understanding and point manipulation to achieve results.
Bottom line: You can expect better results from an acupuncturist.
Licensed Acupuncturist, RN, Former Buddhist monk
"The pursuit of health is invariably a spiritual quest."