The term “Dry Needling”

The term “Dry Needling”, has been recently gaining popularity as a procedure to reduce pain and improve recovery time from injuries.  This needling technique more accurately is not new to a practitioner who has been trained to practice Traditional Chinese Medicine (including acupuncture). It actually is a time-tested ancient technique that has been proven affective (The Western Medical Profession has worked to make  this term  popular for the past 25 years). It is great that the Western Health care Professions (including PT, MD, DC’s) are recognizing the efficacy of acupuncture, that is a part of the Traditional Chinese Medicine System. They have taken it upon themselves to redefine a common physical acupuncture technique, that they named “Dry Needling”. Maybe attempting to make it their own for marketing it to the public. They are implying that they are practicing a different modality merely because they are using different terminology. Different terminology does not equate to different modality when describing identical techniques used by acupuncturists. It demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding and perhaps a desire to undermine the scientific validity of traditional acupuncture. In my opinion, it really is  professional plagiarism and lacks integrity.

Traditional acupuncturists use specific names for needling technique based on depth, for example: 1. Xing(structure; DeQi); 2. Qi(energy); 3. Yi(intention); 4. Shen(spirit); 5. Kong(space). “Dry needling”, would be performed at the Xing (structure) level only! This has been performed over centuries, by acupuncturists. (Wei Liu; Differentiating qi under the needle).

It is interesting to note that the term “Trigger Point”, was coined by the famous myofascial researcher Janet Travell, MD, in 1942. Also it is believed she may have used, ‘Dry Needling”, techniques.  This physiological phenomenon, “Trigger Point”, has been long known by acupuncturists and Chinese Medicine Practitioners as “Ashi Points”.  Even though Dr. Travell was a medical doctor researcher in the earlier 1900’s she had contact with acupuncturists and was very interested in Chinese Medicine. It is obvious to me she learned from them.

 Furthermore, western practitioners are using a filiform needle the same used by traditional acupuncturists. Acupuncture works by placing a needle in the body which elicits a cerebral response, wherein blood rushes to the site of the needle insertion in order to improve bodily functions.  The moment the needle is inserted into the body, the practitioner (regardless of what title their license states) is performing acupuncture. Dry needling is supposed to be used to specifically release trigger points. Acupuncture has been performing this as one of its function much longer, than even Dr. Travell. In addition acupuncture can improve internal functions. Acupuncture’s inclusion in the improvement of internal functions, does not exclude the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.

In conclusion, I feel the terms above should not deny the validity of a lineage that has endured millennia because it works. Also, the advantage of acupuncture should not be denied, because it is profitable for other Western professionals to claim it as their own by naming it something else. The same has been done with other modalities that fall under the scope of Chinese Medicine: Gua sha (termed “Graston technique” by chiropractors) and cupping. Even though, it is a remarkable compliment to Chinese Medicine that other professions are using Chinese Medicine Techniques, because they work and because there is nothing metaphysical or abstract about what an acupuncturist performs.