Just this week I had three patients ask me what the difference between Acupuncture and Dry Needling is, so I thought I would share my response with everyone! 

Acupuncture and dry needling are both effective treatments modalities we have offered patients here at Central Ohio Spine and Joint over the last five years. 

While there are crossovers in both treatments there are also distinct differences, so let’s take a look! 

What is Acupuncture? 

Acupuncture or Medical Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese treatment modality used to treat a wide variety of ailments such as musculoskeletal pain and headaches/migraines. Acupuncture therapy works with the body to promote recovery in a natural, safe way with no side effects.

The Process

Acupuncture therapy is safe and not painful. The needles used are sterile, single-use, and made of stainless steel. They are approximately as thin as a human hair and painless upon insertion. When inserted, the needles stimulate the energy pathways inside the body to begin the healing process. Research has shown that when stimulated, acupuncture needles also prompt the release of various chemicals (ex. serotonin) in the brain that produces a feeling of relaxation.

When should you choose acupuncture? 

Here at Central Ohio Spine and Joint we use acupuncture for a few specific conditions/situations. In the case of chronic musculoskeletal pain, we see exceptional results with minimizing the overall pain perception. Also, migraines and headaches are two conditions we see excellent results with acupuncture. 

What is Dry Needling? 

Dry needling is a very effective therapeutic intervention used in combination with other interventions here at Central Ohio Spine and Joint. Dry needling is a skilled intervention that uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular, and connective tissues for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments.

The Process

Again the most common condition we manage with dry needling is a muscular trigger point. When this area of dysfunctional micro-environment is stimulated by a dry filament needle it is inoculated and the peripheral nerves secrete cytokines locally and send pulse signals to the spinal cord, brain stem, pons, thalamus, hypothalamus, and the cortices. These mechanisms of the central nervous system react and synthesize both the needling signals and the pathological signals from the affected area and the body will respond favorably by producing homeostatic reactions to restore the area to normative health. Ultimately this response alleviates the pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms thus indirectly decreasing compression about symptomatic joints.

When should you use dry needling? 

Here at our clinic, we typically use dry needling in combination with other services like manipulation and exercise. When deciding is dry needling is an option, we evaluate our patients for tight and tender muscles. If a patient has a trigger point or “knot” in the muscle, dry needling is an excellent option. So if you experience muscle pain, knots, and or tension, dry needling is a great option to manage your pain.