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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 for Depression

shutterstock_130152032We have all felt sad or depressed at one time or another in our lives, but it tends to quickly pass. For those who are clinically depressed, this feeling tends to last for a much longer period of time and not only does it affect their lives, but the lives of those around them as well. Depression is a mental illness that if left untreated can lead to more emotional problems and also manifest into physical problems. It is characterized by prolonged feelings of hopelessness, sadness, worthlessness and thoughts of death/suicide. Depression affects physical health as well in that a person who suffers from depression may have trouble sleeping, eating, and working. It is estimated that there are 20 million Americans who are affected by depression and it is on the rise. The World Health Organization believes that depression will be the second highest medical cause of disability by the year 2030, second only to HIV/AIDS.

Today, the most common form of treatment for depression is medication. However, more than 60% of patients on anti-depressants are responding with below satisfactory results. They are receiving partial temporary benefit or no benefit at all. Those who do respond to medication only receive temporary benefit/relief from the symptoms. Anti-depressants don’t treat the cause, they only mask the symptoms, and the side effects of depression medication have been reported to sometimes be worse than the depression itself.  Even knowing all of this, 11.3 billion dollars a year is spent on anti-depressant medications in the United States.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) does not see depression as a specific illness for everyone who experiences it.  Chinese Medicine focuses on each individual and customizes the treatments specific to that particular person. Acupuncture is seen as an alternative treatment to reduce the severity of depression. Acupuncture can alleviate the signs and symptoms the person is experiencing as well as address the root cause and underlying imbalances.

Many studies have been done to support acupuncture as a treatment to alleviate depression.  Recently, a randomized controlled study was done. The results showed that the brain chemistry that is changed due to depression can be altered with acupuncture. Electro-acupuncture was performed on points Baihui and Yintang. At the end of the trial, the genes that were imbalanced from depression had become normalized. Acupuncture provides a safe, natural, drug-free way to treat depression.

You can read more about the study here: http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1363-acupuncture-relieves-depression-regulates-gene-expression

“The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated.” -Plato