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Acupuncture treatment

Acupuncture Versus Dry Needling

Acupuncture Versus Dry Needling: The Finer Points

Many people mistakenly assume that dry needling is simply an alternative labeling term for acupuncture, as they both involve the insertion of thin needles into the skin. The difference between the two is actually more complex. If you have been debating whether to pursue acupuncture or dry needling for treatment of a painful physical condition, it’s important to understand what sets them apart and how your choice of one over the other could result in serious health consequences.

A Difference in Approach

Both acupuncture and dry needling can be used to treat chronic pain, but these treatment methods approach the body differently.

Acupuncture has been around for over 2000 years and is known for treating a broad range of health conditions.  An acupuncturist will treat physical pain by using needles (as well as other modalities) to help move/release an individual’s healing energy, or qi. The needles are strategically placed on the body according to a patient’s symptoms; placement may occur at trigger points (knots in the muscles of the body that feel tight) or along meridians (the energy pathways within the body).

Dry Needling appeared in the late 1940s and was originally done with empty hypodermic needles (a “dry” needle meant that no medication was injected into the body). Dry needling today is done with acupuncture needles. Dry needling is specifically intended to treat musculoskeletal and myofascial pain via muscle trigger points. The needles are used to directly stimulate these trigger points, with the aim of alleviating pain and cramping, improving range of motion, and reducing muscle tension. Needles may also be inserted in the tissue surrounding the primary pain point.

Compared to acupuncture, dry needling has only been around for a very short period of time. Limited research has been done in regard to its safety and health benefits. Some studies even suggest that stretching and massage therapy may be just as effective as dry needling.

A Difference in Opinion

Dry needling here in the U.S. is promoted as a stand-alone treatment modality performed by physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, and athletic trainers. These practitioners often claim that dry needling is not acupuncture because it is not based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, yet they sometimes use acupuncture studies to support the argument that their treatment is effective. It should be noted that dry needling is actually a well-established treatment method that is recognized by the World Health Organization as a subtype of acupuncture.

Training and Regulation Issues

There are no standard guidelines or licensing requirements for dry needling as a therapeutic treatment, which means that it can be performed with minimal training. It is not uncommon for a non-acupuncturist to receive as little as 20 hours of training during a weekend workshop. This is in contrast to a licensed acupuncturist, who receives more than 1300 hours of combined acupuncture training, hands-on training, and supervised clinical training. Acupuncturists also receive over 400 hours of training in diagnosis and biomedicine—all through an accredited program of study that requires a national board examination followed by continuing education.

Safety Issues and the Patient Experience

Acupuncturists are highly skilled and educated practitioners. Because they have had extensive training, their patients experience little (if any) discomfort during treatment. Practitioners of dry needling do not have the same level of training and proficiency. They can sometimes be too aggressive with needle insertion or inadvertently contaminate the needles; this often results in additional pain for the patient and potential bleeding, bruising, and infection. Needles up to 4 inches in length may be required to reach muscle tissue located deep within the body, leading to more serious complications, such as pneumothorax/collapsed lung and nerve injury.

Dry needling is widely recognized as an invasive procedure. Several national acupuncture associations and organizations, as well as the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and the American Medical Association, have voiced strong concern about patient safety. In 2011, The American Association of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine issued the following Position Statement:

The U.S. Department of Education recognizes ACAOM as the sole accrediting agency for Acupuncture training institutions as well as their Master’s and Doctoral Degree programs. Training in Acupuncture, which has been rigorously refined over the course of hundreds of years internationally and forty years domestically, is well established and designed to support safe and effective practice. Attempts to circumvent Acupuncture training standards, licensing or regulatory laws by administratively re-titling acupuncture as “dry needling” or any other name is confusing to the public, misleading and creates a significant endangerment to public welfare.

Acupuncture Versus Dry Needling: Choosing a Practitioner

If you are interested in acupuncture or dry needling as a treatment option for pain, please take the time to investigate options in your area.  Here in the U.S., you can easily search for board-certified acupuncturists through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). You can also check with your state’s Acupuncture Licensing Board. If you are searching online for the credentials of a dry needling practitioner, you likely won’t find much. Ask questions about their background and training before you agree to any kind of treatment plan. Be safe out there.

Resources:

Dry Needling Controversy and Background

Relationship Between Acupuncture and Dry Needling: Clarifying Myths and Misinformation

Position Statements on Dry Needling

Evaluating the International Standards Gap for the Use of Acupuncture Needles

Love is in the Air Balloons

Heart-Qi: Love and Health are in the Air

Today is Valentine’s Day and love is in the air! Whether you plan to acknowledge someone special with a box of chocolates, a dozen roses, or a stuffed pink teddy bear, don’t forget to lavish a little extra attention on your Heart-Qi! It’s easy to get swept up in the range of emotions surrounding romantic love, but protecting our hearts involves more than just protecting our feelings. We also need to protect the connection between our emotional state and our Qi.

The Heart-Qi Connection

Healthy Heart-Qi: Love is in the Air Balloons

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has long recognized that physical health and emotional well-being are closely connected. This connection is based on Qi, which can be defined as both “life force energy” and “air/breath”. The energy (Qi) of the emotions you experience fall into seven distinct categories and correspond with one or more major organs (heart, liver, lung, spleen, and kidney).

An emotional imbalance might express itself as a physical ailment, or a physical ailment (linked to a specific organ) might express itself as a heightened or intense emotion. Keep in mind that the heart oversees all of the emotions. Any Qi imbalance within the organs of the body will ultimately affect the heart.

The Key Emotions of TCM

  • Joy (a negative state of agitation) affects the heart and may cause palpitations, spontaneous sweating, mood swings, and insomnia.
  • Anger affects the liver and may cause dizziness, migraines, high blood pressure, and depression.
  • Grief (sadness) affects the lungs and may cause chest tightness, asthma, and allergies.
  • Pensiveness (worry) affects the spleen and may cause loss of appetite, fatigue, and bleeding disorders.
  • Fear affects the kidneys and may cause night sweats, incontinence, and infertility.
  • Shock and fright can affect both the heart and kidneys and may cause headaches, constipation, and shoulder pain.

Preventing Emotional Turbulence

Strengthening the Heart-Qi makes it easier to resolve other Qi deficiencies that may be present in the body. If you are dealing with chronic physical ailments or you feel mentally and emotionally out of sorts, practicing self-care is a great place to start. Be mindful of what you eat. Exercise regularly. Get a good night’s sleep. Visit with cherished friends and loved ones.

And remember to schedule an acupuncture treatment! Detoxifying with acupuncture and herbal supplements can help relieve the physical and/or mental disharmony you may be experiencing. We’ll help you come up with a flight plan to maintain and support a healthy Heart-Qi!

Resources:

http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/principles/sevenemotions.html

https://www.verywellmind.com/emotions-in-traditional-chinese-medicine-88196

https://holosapiens.com/physiology/deficiency-of-heart-energy

https://www.sakara.com/blogs/mag/116573893-the-root-of-emotional-imbalance-according-to-your-organs

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Acupuncture- Is it working for me? 

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I was talking to a patient the other day (she is being treated with acupuncture for fertility issues) and she said to me, “I know I am not pregnant yet, but I can tell the acupuncture is working.” She mentioned to me that she is sleeping better, her energy is up and she is more focused at work. I was so pleased to hear this. I thought to myself, “Yes! She gets it. She understands!”

Acupuncture works to guide the body back to its natural state of balance so it can heal itself. It is a process. Depending on the severity, nature and duration of time that the patient has had the condition it can take a while to become fully balanced.

I have had patients come in and tell me that they’ve had acupuncture before and it didn’t work. “I’ve had back pain for 30 years. I went to see an acupuncturist for one treatment and my back pain didn’t improve.”

We live in a fast paced society. We desire immediate results and want instant gratification. Unfortunately, most things don’t work that way and acupuncture is one of them. That is not to say that after one treatment someone won’t feel better, but especially if it is a chronic long standing issue it may take much longer.

Below is an article that talks about 6 signs that acupuncture is working for you. Be patient with the process. Your body has taken a while to become unbalanced it needs time to be able to reestablish that balance.

http://acutakehealth.com/how-to-know-when-acupuncture-is-working