Dry needling is a technique where small solid needles which do not contain any medication (hence the term "dry") are inserted into the body at various points. The idea behind dry needling is that the small needles stimulate certain trigger points in the muscles, and help the muscles to relax. For most Acupuncture practitioners and patients who get Acupuncture on a regular basis, the practice of dry needling sounds disturbingly familiar.
In recent years, the western medicine community has more and more been embracing the practice of dry needling, especially from certain doctors and physical therapists. Most of the time, the needles used in dry needling are exactly the same as those used in Acupuncture. Physicians and physical therapists who practice this technique claim that it is very effective for the treatment of certain musculoskeletal pain issues.
If you think about it, when the exact same types of needles are used, for the same type of practice, inserted into the same types of points on the body, for the purpose of treating the same types of conditions, wouldn't you say they are pretty much the same? Most Acupuncturists agree.
Who is actually allowed to perform Dry Needling?
Depending on your state, some physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors, and even some massage therapists may be allowed to do dry needling, but they have to undergo some form of training. However, this training could be as little as 24 hours, depending on the laws in your state. Medical Doctors are not even actually required by law to take any sort of training before performing dry needling, as the insertion of Acupuncture needles into the body is technically within their scope of practice. Admittedly, most MDs who want to incorporate "medical acupuncture" or dry needling into their practice do go through some weekends courses of training, but it pales in comparison with the minimum of 4 years of training, plus more postgraduate work and specialization that most Acupuncturists go through in order to become a licensed practitioner of skill.
Most non-Acupuncturist practitioners of dry needling claim that it is a completely different treatment from Acupuncture. My take is, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's a duck! Dry needling not only uses Acupuncture needles, it also uses Acupuncture points. The difference is the people performing the service are not only NON-Acupuncturists, but sometimes they have had almost no training in Acupuncture at all.
Who should NOT be allowed to perform Dry Needling?
Ask yourself this, if you need surgery, would you let someone who only had no training, or only up to 100 hours of training perform it for you, no matter how minor the surgical procedure? If you need pharmaceutical medicine, would you let an untrained person or a person who has only had a few weekends of pharmaceutical classes tell you which drug to use? Scratch that, actually we already have that system, those people are called Pharmaceutical Reps.
The point is, whatever you want to call it, Dry needling is a form of Acupuncture. The state of California agrees, and is one of the few remaining states that do not allow the practice of dry needling / Acupuncture by anyone other than a licensed Acupuncturist. I agree with the current state laws. I think that if anyone wants to perform Acupuncture or add acupuncture to their existing medical practice, then they should dedicate the time and effort it takes to become a fully trained and licensed Acupuncturist.
The ironic thing is that the western medicine world has spent years trying to deny the efficacy of Acupuncture. But now, everyone wants to hop on the dry needling bandwagon, and not always with great results. In fact, there have been some serious injuries reported by patients who have had dry needling from practitioners who were not Acupuncturists, with devastating results.
● In 2006, a massage therapist in Ontario Canada punctured the left lung of a former Olympic athlete, Kim Ribble-Orr, during a botched dry needling treatment, causing life-threatening infections and permanent loss of lung function on the patient.
● In 2012, a physical therapist in Maryland punctured through a major nerve in the left leg of one Emily Kuykendall, a highschool teacher, resulting in debilitating pain.
● In 2013, a physical therapist in Colorado punctured the right lung of a high-school student during a dry needling treatment, resulting in surgery and hospitalization of the patient.
If you would like additional information regarding the safe practice of acupuncture, or for concerns regarding the safety of dry needling, you can visit www.acupuncturesafety.org.