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Acupuncture vs Dry Needling

acupuncture vs dry needling
Acupuncture vs dry needling – what’s the difference?

Keeping it simple, an Acupuncturist helps your body heal from whatever ailment you have by treating the root of the problem using Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncturists insert very fine, sterile, filiform needles into Acupuncture points. The points used are mainly along pathways of energy that were established thousands of years ago. Today, we know that those points exist as they have been found in imaging studies. Acupuncture practitioners use the points to treat a variety of ailments including pain, digestive issues, stress, insomnia, fertility- pretty much everything.

Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine can also release tender points, or trigger points, by carefully placing a needle near or into a point of muscle bundle fibers that has tightened in order to release the tension in the muscle. Needles are generally retained for about 30 minutes and it is a relaxing experience.

Dry needling was created when non-Acupuncturists started placing hypodermic needles into trigger points in aching muscles. It turns out that people did not like that approach very much, as it was painful. Fast-forward about 20 years and dry needling is now performed using Acupuncture needles, making it essentially rudimentary Acupuncture. The root cause of the issue is not at all considered because there is not a system behind dry needling.

Licensing & Education

Worse yet, dry needling requires almost no training, as most dry needling courses are 27 hours or even less. In comparison, Acupuncturists anywhere except Oklahoma and Alabama must complete a Master’s Degree program with a year-long residency, a total of nearly 4,000 hours. Once graduated, they must then pass three National Board Exams in order to practice. This disparity in education requirements has resulted in a high rate of nerve damage and punctured lungs being reported following dry needling. The main malpractice insurance provider for physical therapists has increased its rates based on the high number of claims filed for incidents involving dry needling. Notably, Olympic Skier Torin Yater-Wallace ended up with a collapsed lung after being dry needled by a physical therapist in 2013.

While its true that releasing the trigger points can be helpful, what good is that if the procedure isn’t safe? The lack of licensing and education are two of many reasons why Acupuncture is superior, a point that I believe even those who perform dry needling will agree upon.

acupuncture vs dry needling

So why does someone get dry needling instead of Acupuncture?

Generally, because they look the same, patients do not know the differences of Acupuncture vs dry needling. The role that education plays into a healthcare provider’s ability to safely and effectively place needles into someones body isn’t clear to the general public. Patients are not aware of the innumerable benefits of Acupuncture over dry needling because, although Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture have been around 5000 years, they have only recently gained creditability in America. Study after study proves that Traditional Chinese Medicine modalities, including Acupuncture, are very effective. The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and many other large governing bodies in the healthcare field have spoken up for the effectiveness and safety of Acupuncture over dry needling. Some of those same organizations have spoken out against dry needling, including the AMA with their resolution 223 (

Educate yourself about the educational requirements, efficacy, and safety differences between the two practices of acupuncture vs dry needling. I hope that all of those who have or have not experienced dry needling take the next step and consult a Chinese Medicine expert like me, Toni Twitty, for a painless, safe, and effective treatment for your complaint. Contact me for more information!

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