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What is the difference between traditional acupuncture and the dry needling I receive from my doctor, physiotherapist or chiropractor?

Traditional acupuncture works with combinations of established acupuncture points on 12 main traditional meridians or energy paths in response to the traditional Chinese medicine body patterns that the patient is displaying at that particular time. It can also work by treating local areas of pain, using what the Chinese name ‘ah-shi’ or ‘sore’ points.

Generally, acupuncturists select points that address local pain within the broader context of the individual’s constitution and body pattern. They will create a point formula that acts locally and distally in relation to the ‘problem area’.

Dry needling as it is taught today in post-graduate courses typically takes place over six weekends. It does not necessarily acknowledge traditional Chinese acupoints and meridians, the existence of ‘qi’, nor does it diagnose or treat according to traditional Chinese medicine physiology and diagnostic patterns. It sometimes seems to suggest that ancient Chinese doctors ‘stumbled on something’ that Western medicine can now explain and utilise more effectively in terms of Western physiology.

Dry needling practitioners therefore study nerve and muscle anatomy and physiology, theories of pain, ‘myofascial trigger points’, ‘intramuscular stimulation’ and particular conditions such as ‘spinal segmental sensitization’. In general dry needling focuses on the treatment of musculo-skeletal problems.