The Pointless Comparison of Dry Needling and Acupuncture

Dry needling has its own theoretical concepts, terminology, and clinical application:

Comparing dry needling with acupuncture is pointless. The only similarity the two treatments have is that they both use monofilament needles. The actual placement, the reasons they’re placed and the training behind that reasoning come from different hemispheres of the globe and completely different histories with no overlap whatsoever.

Any easy distinction is that of the practitioners and their training. Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncturists have hours of training, while Western-trained Doctors of Physical Therapy have 7-8 years of undergraduate and post-graduate training total before obtaining the title of “Physical Therapist”, and additional training in manual therapy and dry needling to become Manual Therapists. We treat primarily nueromusculoskeletal conditions, where a Chinese medicine practitioner works on balancing whole body systems.

The dry needling technique is a modern, Western medical modality that is not based on traditional Chinese acupuncture. The purpose of dry needling is not to alter the flow of Qi or energy along traditional Chinese meridians.

Dry needling is based on a modern comprehensive understanding of human neuromusculoskeletal anatomy, patho-physiology and pain models. Scientific research has produced evidence-based support found in medical literature for the use of dry needling in the treatment of conditions related to nerves, muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones and joints.

As Physical Therapists:

  • We do not claim to practice acupuncture, and it would be incorrect to refer to a practitioner of dry needling as an “acupuncturist” since dry needling practitioners do not use traditional chinese medicine concepts (TCM).
  • We do not use acupuncture theories, meridian acupoints, and terminology.
  • We do not use ancient meridian systems, such as Qi (Chi) or energy channels.
  • We do not use acupuncture diagnostic techniques like tongue and pulse assessments.

Is dry needling within the scope of practice of a Physical Therapist?

The Manual Therapists at One Accord who perform dry needling have been through various training courses in dry needling, and carry dual credentials. We always put patient safety first. Our certifications are through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy, in addition to the American Dry Needling Institute. We have a thorough understanding of the scientific literature; we are involved in ongoing research; and we practice evidence-based medicine.