Acupuncture vs Dry Needling? What's the deal?

You may be asking yourself, “ what the heck is dry needling?” 

Or, you may be in the other camp that found their way to this post specifically searching dry needling in Newport Beach or Orange County.  

Very simply put, dry needling is a treatment for myofascial dysfunction and/or pain utilizing sterile, single use, stainless steel needles. 

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Acupuncture also employs the same tool to get the job done. Acupuncture is also widely used to treat myofascial conditions that cause acute and chronic pain.

So what’s the difference? 

That is a loaded question if there ever was one! Physical therapists or other health care professionals who provide dry needling will profess that dry needling and acupuncture could not be more different. Acupuncturists will often express the same sentiment.

They’re both right. Acupuncture and dry needling are very different from one another as far as their intent, training, lifetime and theory. However they are extremely similar when you consider the tool, the method of insertion in some cases, treatment outcomes and patient satisfaction.   

Let’s break down the basics and highlight some key features for each. 

First, Acupuncture. 

Acupuncture has been in practice for thousands of years. Diagnosis and treatment are based in traditional forms of medicine that evaluate the function and vitality of organ systems and how those systems may be affecting your overall health. Qi is one of the foundational principles of Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. Qi describes the force that sustains us, animates as and is a functional measure of one’s health and wellbeing. Qi is what distinguishes the living from the non-living. 

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Acupuncture points (often where needles are placed for treatment) reside along meridians. Meridians are invisible highways through which Qi travels. Each meridian has a parent organ to which it belongs. These highways function independently and interdependently with others. Disruption of the movement of Qi of a meridian affects not only that meridian and it’s corresponding organ, but others as well. 

These are some of the features of acupuncture that are drastically different than dry needling. 

Dry needling is relatively new on the scene and relies on orthopedic, neurological and palpatory findings to determine the presence of myofascial pain and/or trigger points. There is no Qi and  meridians are not held responsible for a patient’s symptoms. 

Educational requirements vary by state. In California an acupuncturist must hold a Master’s degree from an accredited university. In other states, dry needling is taught in physical therapy programs or may be learned from a variety of continuing education seminars that are made available to health practitioners such as athletic trainers, massage therapists, physical therapists and chiropractors. 

So here is how they are the same (or at least similar); 

Traditional acupuncture employs tender points where trigger points may reside. In TCM the theory is that these points may be where blood and qi have become stagnant and cause pain.  These points are referred to as “Ashi” points rather than “trigger points”. These tender points may be needled superficially, deep, kept stationary and retained for 20+ minutes, pistoned in and out and with or without electrical stimulation…..much like dry needling.  There is sometimes an involutary twitch in the muscle being needed….much like in dry needling. 

So which do you need? Acupuncture or Dry Needling?

This may just come down to your preference. Both treatment modalities can be safe, extremely effective methods for treating myofascial dysfunction and pain. 

If you are in California and you are looking for dry needling, you will have to find a provider who holds a masters degree in acupuncture or a medical physician who performs these treatments. Many acupuncturists prefer to practice acupuncture solely based on traditional methods - and that is great! But others will explore using treatment based on trigger point needling rather than traditional methods - or use a combination of both!

In our Newport Beach office, Dr. Pierce uses all methods and chooses which is best for each patient on a case by case basis. To find out if acupuncture, dry needling or a combination of the two principles is right for you, schedule an appointment! 

Graston Technique Enhances Chiropractic and Acupuncture Treatment Newport Beach

Graston Technique

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Graston Technique is successful in effectively treating all soft tissue conditions, whether they are chronic, acute and even post surgical. The Graston Technique offers many advantages to the patient such as:

  • Decreases overall time of treatment

  • Fosters faster rehabilitation/recovery

  • Reduces need for anti-inflammatory medication

  • Resolves chronic conditions thought to be permanent

Changing the way soft tissue injuries are treated

Graston Technique is an innovative, patented form of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization that enables clinicians to effectively break down scar tissue and fascial restrictions. The technique utilizes specially designed stainless steel instruments to specifically detect and effectively treat areas exhibiting soft tissue fibrosis or chronic inflammation.

Originally developed by athletes, Graston Technique is an interdisciplinary treatment used by more than 9,000 clinicians worldwide—including physical and occupational therapists, hand therapists, chiropractors, and athletic trainers.

GT is utilized at some 830 outpatient facilities and industrial on-sites, by more than 160 professional and amateur sports organizations, and is part of the curriculum at 38 respected colleges and universities.

 

What is Dry Needling and what is the difference between Dry Needling and Acupuncture? 

 

WHAT IS DRY NEEDLING?

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Dry Needling is a treatment technique where thin filiform needles are inserted through the skin into pathological areas of the muscle known as "trigger points" for the purpose of relieving myofascial pain and muscle spasm. These are the same needles used in traditional acupuncture therapy, they are solid rather than hollow, and no medication is injected.

Dry needling is used in conjunction with other manual therapy techniques and therapeutic exercise.

When performing dry needling, there may be a "twitch response" where the specific band of muscle involuntarily contracts in response to insertion of the needle.  Beneficial effects can occur without elicitation of the twitch response.  Sometimes electrotherapy is also applied with the trigger point needling technique, this is referred to as electroacupuncture. If electroacupuncture is considered appropriate, small clips are attached to specific needling locations and a mild electrical current is applied. Electrical muscle stimulation aids in stimulating blood flow, reducing pain and relieving muscular spasm. 

In the State of California, the only providers who can legally perform these types of needling techniques are licensed acupuncturists and medical doctors. A licensed acupuncturist's education and training in needling techniques requires a Master's degree obtained after 3 years of education and training. 

Compared to Dry Needling, Acupuncture, when applied as a form of traditional Chinese medicine, uses acupuncture points on the surface of the body that are located along "meridians" that correspond with the internal organs and the energies associated with those organs. Traditional acupuncture techniques aim to relieve congestion of energy and blood, thereby restoring circulation and reducing symptoms associated with said qi (energy) stagnation. 

Graston Technique Enhances Chiropractic and Acupuncture Treatment Newport Beach

Graston Technique

Graston Technique is successful in effectively treating all soft tissue conditions, whether they are chronic, acute and even post surgical. The Graston Technique offers many advantages to the patient such as:

  • Decreases overall time of treatment

  • Fosters faster rehabilitation/recovery

  • Reduces need for anti-inflammatory medication

  • Resolves chronic conditions thought to be permanent

Changing the way soft tissue injuries are treated

Graston Technique is an innovative, patented form of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization that enables clinicians to effectively break down scar tissue and fascial restrictions. The technique utilizes specially designed stainless steel instruments to specifically detect and effectively treat areas exhibiting soft tissue fibrosis or chronic inflammation.

Originally developed by athletes, Graston Technique is an interdisciplinary treatment used by more than 9,000 clinicians worldwide—including physical and occupational therapists, hand therapists, chiropractors, and athletic trainers.

GT is utilized at some 830 outpatient facilities and industrial on-sites, by more than 160 professional and amateur sports organizations, and is part of the curriculum at 38 respected colleges and universities.

 

Weekend Warriors: Are you a FOOSHER?..

We are instinctively drawn to escape the safety of the cubicle or corner office once the 5 o'clock hour rings in the weekend every Friday afternoon.  For some of us that means 2 days of rest and relaxation, while others crave a different type of escape.  Mountain biking, sky diving, hiking, running and the like.

I personally prefer the first option... But, for you adventurous types, here's some advise to keep you moving and out of my office on Monday, or worse, the emergency room.

Common mistake #1: FOOSHING  (What-ing?...)

FOOSH-ING.  Falling On Out-Stretched Hand.  This is a common cause of wrist fracture, ligament damage and all-around bummers.

The Solution:  Roll with it.  If you find yourself on the wrong end of your handlebars fight the instinct to put out your hands in order to break your fall.  Tuck and roll with it if possible.  Tuck your chin to your chest and use your hands instead to protect your head and neck.

Common Mistake #2: Achilles Tendon Tear



Kobe Bryant fans, don't follow in your idol's footsteps.  You may not have the means and the team to get you back in action as quickly as Mr. Bryant.

The Solution:  Warm up and stay hydrated! Throughout the day it is important to drink enough water and replace electrolytes as you sweat them out. Additionally, prior to playing a sport like basketball take a light jog and/or stretch out your calves and hamstrings before you play!

Common Mistake #3: Concussions

Making the mistake of not wearing proper head gear can not only be dangerous, but have long term irreversible consequences.  One severe concussion or multiple small concussions over time can lead to depression or dementia.

The Solution:   Protect your head! If you are biking or playing tackle football, wear a helmet.  During the winter months wear a helmet while snowboarding or skiing.  It could not only save you from a headache, but from becoming paralyzed or even death.

If you do succumb to a rolled ankle, shoulder ouchie or other minor injury we are here for you! Dr. Pierce doesn't just treat spines! With chiropractic care, acupuncture or both, your injuries can heal faster and with fewer long-term problems.  Providing chiropractic and acupuncture care for injuries ranging from headaches, sciatica, knee sprains and ankle sprains, TMJ dysfunction and more to the Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine and surrounding areas of Orange County.