From the patient’s perspective, there’s not much difference between the two modalities. Essentially, both practices involve very thin needles being skilfully driven into different regions of the body. The main difference between acupuncture and dry needling is that acupuncture follows an eastern paradigm and dry needling follows a western paradigm.
In traditional Chinese medicine practitioners are concerned with “Qi energy” (pronounced chee), which constantly flows within the body around ‘energy highways’ known as meridians. An acupuncturist determines which energy meridians have been most compromised in a patient, then needles specific points along those meridian lines in an effort to restore homeostasis within the body.
Irrespective of whether you believe in energy meridians or not, to date, the existence of them within the human body is yet to be scientifically proven. Acupuncture has been practiced around the world for centuries. At some point in history, western doctors could no longer ignore the results of the modality and so began their quest to uncover the mysteries of how it worked.
Today, current best evidence suggests that dry needling has two main effects on the body:
- Increases blood flow
- Decreases muscle tone
Similar to if you had cut your finger when preparing food in the kitchen, dry needling also causing bleeding. The difference is the macro-trauma of cutting yourself, versus the micro-trauma of being needled. When a needle penetrates the muscle tissue, bleeding within the tissue occurs but at a much smaller scale. This bleeding initiates the ‘humoral immune response’, or, the body’s natural defence mechanism against injury and disease. Simply put, needling a muscle causes bleeding within the tissue which effectively kick starts the body’s natural healing system.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of tight, or stressed muscle tissue. It has been shown through the use of real time ultrasound, that the introduction of a needle into muscle tissue has an effect on muscle tone. All tissues within the body will demonstrate rhythmical movement at rest. In the case of a spasmodic muscle (hypertonic), the tissue can be observed to move at a higher than usual rate. Upon the introduction of a needle into this spasmodic muscle, we can observe a reduction in the rate of movement of the tissue. This phenomenon has come to be interpreted as a ‘relaxation response’ of the muscle tissue, restoring it to normal tone.
The concept of sticking needles into the body is, understandably, puzzling to a first-timer. The most obvious question is, “why would one ever do this?” There are also many other strange methods used by practitioners to heal musculoskeletal injuries. Some of those might include gua sha, cupping, rolfing or shock-wave therapy. In the same way that people perform different exercises in the gym on various muscle groups to stimulate growth, practitioners will use different modalities to stimulate healing within targeted tissues. The technique of dry needling is just one of many effective ways to bring about a desired healing response within tissues of the body.
If you’re curious to experience the positive results dry needling may have on your particular condition, call The Physicaltherapy Centre today on 02 9922 6116 or BOOK ONLINE and schedule an appointment with one of our highly experienced practitioners.