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07 Tue

Dry Needling is NOT Acupuncture

Dry Needling is NOT Acupuncture

Michelle Millner, PT, DPT, OCS


Dr. Kochoa recently wrote an article on trigger point dry needling, pointing out the benefits of using this technique.  I’ve been using it for a few years to treat trigger points that cause pain and movement dysfunction. The most common question “How is this different than acupuncture?”

Dry needling is different from acupuncture, mainly in the intent. Acupuncture is a part of Eastern Medicine that works on energy flow and meridians, an area which I am not qualified to discuss.  It has been around for thousands of years.  There are many sub types of acupuncture, which I, again, am not qualified to report on here.  It is complex and requires a great deal of knowledge to implement.

Physical therapists started using dry needling decades ago as a specific treatment technique to treat trigger points within the muscloskeletal system.  Dry needling does use the same tool (a solid filament needle), but the intention is entirely different.  An acupuncturist may be treating allergies, addiction, or anxiety for example.  Physical therapists are only using the needling to treat the musculoskeletal system and dry needling is only a piece of the treatment plan.

In order to restore normal movement and function each patient also needs to be evaluated for movement pattern dysfunctions, weakness, impaired motor control, and any other factors that impact the musculoskeletal system.  Physical therapists are uniquely qualified to add dry needling to their training, as we undergo extensive training in anatomy using cadaver dissection, pathology, medical screening, and functional movement analysis.

Since adding dry needling to my tool kit to help my clients, I have been able to treat injury and chronic pain much faster and get people moving and doing the things they love much faster.  It’s one of the most effective ways to treat those stubborn trigger points.

If you have any questions about dry needling or think you may benefit from a thorough movement assessment, feel free to contact us and set up an appointment for a thorough evaluation to determine where your dysfunctions are and how we can help you move better.  Please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices are located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit with us.


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