The mastery of acupuncture vs dry needling


art of acupuncture

The process of inserting a 'pin' into the skin of a person or animal, in order to have a positive physiological effect on the internal workings of that individual's system, regardless of the theory or methodology used to determine a rationale for point selection is the process of acupuncture. But acupuncture is more than simply inserting a pin into the body to affect some relief. Acupuncture is one skill set within a diagnostic and philosophical framework that seeks to redress imbalance in the body, physically, emotionally, psychologically. In effect the energetic design of an individual's inner landscape is understood and treated through the meridians. Knowing how to do it skillfully, painlessly, with intention and an understanding of the intricate interconnections of the inner body, this requires mastery.

What is dry needling then?

The injecting of Traumeel or saline into trigger points (wet needling) was a practice that some health practitioners did years ago. Then they found just stimulating the point with an thin, filiform needle worked just as well or better and didn't hurt (unlike the hypodermics) so instead of 'wet' needling trigger points, the term 'dry needling' became a term to differentiate the practice of Trigger Point therapy, from the more sophiscated acupuncture framework.
A kind of Western medical reinvention of acupuncture but stripped bare of the historical, philosophical and medical context developed and expanded by many hands, hearts and minds over many centuries. 

What it is important to realise is that what our modern body mechanics call Trigger Point therapy is understood in oriental medicine as Ahshi-shui. It is a totally valid form of therapy, one that existed with another name before the west 'discovered' it, and a therapy that doesn't rely on much subtlety. No there really is nothing new under the sun. Although we can still marvel at our amazing abilities as humans to market and delude ourselves that ice is not frozen water, but something completely different.

Dry needling is a term used by practitioners of modalities other than Oriental or Chinese medicine to try to differentiate what they do and how they practice from the practice of acupuncture. In part because Acupuncture and its associated terms are considered the registered domain (AHPRA) of Acupuncturists and TCM practitioners.
This terminology, like all language, has an intention and an agenda. We really do feel there is something different between ice and frozen water, I don't know, maybe it tastes different. Terminology is a way of co-opting the practice.

Even the co-opting of the practice isn't my main concern here. In the interests of patient health; techniques that are effective at reducing pain, increasing mobility, enabling better health and wellbeing should be freely available for all to use and master (call me old fashioned). It's the inevitable contraction of the practice of the medicine that has me concerned.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio than is dreamt of in your philosophy.
— William Shakespeare (Hamlet)

Acupuncture is a practice of medicine that with so little can do so much. But this requires skilled hands and a deep and enquiring mind. Somewhat ironically it is a 'surface' modality, applied to the skin and superficial layers of the human body but can be used to affect change at the deepest levels, whether we are talking the blood or the psyche. The scope is vast and deep and yet most of us only know it as a musculoskeletal therapy, or at best something that might help us with woman's fertility.

Dry needling is akin to what the barefoot doctors do. It's good work. But it's not even a fraction of the medicine. And when it 'doesn't work' or 'it's really painful' the suggestion in the patient's mind is that the medicine doesn't work. And for the purposes of consciousness, the 'patient's mind informs our collective mind.
And perhaps in instances it doesn't work, there is afterall a scope to the practice and it won't fix everything. There are less excuses for it to be painful. But if the level of skill and understanding in the practitioner is so poor, how can we even begin to know or assess properly the full and proper majesty of the medicine and what it can do?

We can go and see a properly trained, qualified and experienced practitioner of acupuncture, to see whether they might be able to assist in our other health matters.