The scoop on “Dry Needling”.
Let me set the record straight…the core issue is a political one regarding laws and the scope of practice of physical therapists. By calling the practice of putting an acupuncture needle into the body to bring about a therapeutic result something other than acupuncture, physical therapists can now go through the legal process to add “dry needling” to their scope of practice. Period. End of story. All other debates as to whether dry needling is different from acupuncture are hair splitting affairs done by people with little knowledge of the subject.
Many of my patients at Acupuncture and Healing Arts Medical Group have asked me about dry needling. They want to know what the differences are and if it is the same as acupuncture. The short answer is that dry needling is really just a basic form of acupuncture. A senior acupuncturist, Mark Seem, has been teaching this form of acupuncture including the muscle twitch response for probably 15 years. In fact he wrote a book entitled Acupuncture Physical Medicine that I have read many many times. He thoroughly researched the roots of Travel and Simons work on tender points and developed an integrated model of treatment with acupuncture long before PT’s thought about Dry Needling. It is not a new form of physical therapy. An acupuncturist can dry needle but dry needling does not fully represent the strength of acupuncture as a whole.
Unlike my colleagues, I have no beef with physical therapists practicing dry needling in the context of physical therapy. They have training in a very limited use of acupuncture. Most PT’s are extremely knowledgeable, compassionate and professional. I do not see them as competition. I find that I receive patients who have had dry needling for pain management from a PT and then want to explore other uses of this ancient and comprehensive modality. The difference is that they have received limited training to use on a very specific pattern of disharmony in the body. Whereas an acupuncturist receives comprehensive training that address a wide variety of health issues other than just pain.
With in the next few days I will write a follow up post giving a brief history on dry needling and how it came by it’s name.