Functional Dry Needling Vs. Acupuncture

by Specialized Orthopedics January 23, 2017


The new scientific based treatment called functional dry needling or trigger point dry needling is a method used to treat myofascial pain. It is termed “Dry” needling because there is no solution injected into the muscle. The needle alone is the treatment. When it is inserted into a trigger point it produces a local twitch response and initiates a biochemical process to help reduce pain and improve range of motion in a specific area.

What is a trigger point?

A trigger point is a taut band of tissue found in a muscle. They usually are tender to touch and may cause both local and referred pain to other parts of the body. For example, a trigger point in your gluteus medius muscle has been shown to refer pain all the way down to your foot. Trigger points tend to occur when a muscle is weak, when there is a faulty movement pattern going on in a joint, or if the muscle has been overworked. The goal of dry needling is to reduce or inactivate the trigger point. Following dry needling intervention, your therapist will then have you perform appropriate exercises to help improve your range of motion and strength in the areas where the needling was done. This will help prevent painful trigger points reappearing.

The difference between Acupuncture and Dry Needling.

Many people assume dry needling is the same as acupuncture. They are different. Acupuncture is a practice based off of Chinese medicine, using certain meridian or acupuncture points to treat someone’s specific symptoms. The needles are not inserted intramuscularly like the dry needling practice is. Dry needling is part of Western Medicine principles that are supported by research. The one similarity is that we both use thin filament needles to perform the treatment.

The big difference between acupuncture and dry needling is dry needling is not the only part of the treatment plan. It is followed up with specific exercises or manual techniques to prevent the trigger points from constantly re-occurring. As mentioned before, there is usually a reason why trigger points occur and if that part of the equation is not addressed, the trigger points will return, leading to more pain. At Specialized Orthopedic Physical Therapy, we have 2 therapists who are certified in dry needling. We have found great results with those who are appropriate candidates for dry needling and it has helped speed up their rehabilitation.
Call us today if you are experiencing myofascial related pain. Dry needling may help you recover quicker and significantly reduce your pain!

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