A few weeks back we posted a blog discussing three reasons why you should declare yourself as a dry needling (DN) practitioner and not an acupuncturist. This drew some interesting comments. So here is a little more on the issue…


Is dry needling a branch of acupuncture?

We think not. DN developed from the pioneering work of Travell. It shares no historical link with traditional chinese acupuncture or even the so-called ’western medicine acupuncture’ tradition.


Is the use of the acupuncture needle not a clear indicator that DN has ’borrowed’ from acupuncure?

We think not. Acupuncture needles just happened to be the most widely available cheap filiform needles at the time that DN really started gaining momentum. Today, custom dry needling needles are available that are far more suited to the requirement of the intervention.


So, if the practice tradition, technique and more recently tools used are different, are the effects different?

We think so. A number of investigations have pointed towards meaningful differences in the effect of acupuncture as opposed to dry needling. Of course there are bound to be commonalities, just the same as Aspirin and Paracetamol tablets both reduce pain. Time will tell though whether mechanisms of action are different as more basic science studies emerge to illuminate how needles influence physiological/pathophysiological processes.


So what then is the real debate?

In our opinion its about practitioners wanting to take short cuts. At the moment the legislation governing the practice of dry needling is fairly loose. Thus, most anybody can take a short course and call themselves a dry needler. However, its much tougher with acupuncture, which is a recognized profession as well as intervention form.


Educational standards in DN must be formalised, so that dry needling ’cowboys’ can be held accountable.