Acupuncture and Dry Needling


What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest healing methods in the world with evidence dating back to around 6,000 BC, which is almost 8,000 years of continuous use.  Developed over time and refined over thousands of year, acupuncture can help the body find balance and homeostasis to help heal almost every human ailment known.  Acupuncture is the most used method of healing in the world as a primary or adjunct treatment for almost every condition; although highly underutilized and often misunderstood in the United States and by Western Medicine.

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is also called trigger point dry needling or myofascial trigger point dry needling. It is done to treat myofascial pain. Clinicians push thin solid needles through the skin into trigger points. The needles are used to stimulate the tissue, not to inject medication.

 How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture affects every system of the body; including pulmonary, cardiac, nervous, endocrine, immune and genitourinary systems.  Acupuncture has three major effects on the body; it relieves pain, it reduces inflammation and it helps restore homeostasis.  Acupuncture does this primarily by stimulating the peripheral nervous system (chiropractic by contrast affects the body by stimulating the central nervous system).  Acupuncture does that by stimulating specific areas or ‘nodes’ of  high concentration of neurovascular bundles.  Stimulation of these areas (of which there are over 400 identified) helps promote blood flow, releases natural pain killers, relaxes shortened muscles thus reducing pain and stimulating the innate healing process by reducing stress on the body.

How does Dry Needling work?

Muscles sometimes develop knotted areas called trigger points. These trigger points are highly sensitive and can be painful when touched. They are also often the cause of referred pain (or pain that affects another part of the body).

Pain affects how your body moves. It is thought that dry needling changes the way the brain and muscles talk to each other to let the system return to a more normal movement pattern.

What can it treat?

Acupuncture or dry needling can be used to treat pain or aid in treating all diseases and conditions because it does not target a precise issue; rather it facilitates your body in its healing by stimulation of neurovascular ‘nodes’ (acupuncture points). Specific nodes are activated according to each patient’s condition.  Acupuncture treats the whole person and although it is not directed at a particular disease process, it can very effectively be used to aid the body in healing disease on its own. Regular or even semi-regular use of acupuncture can help keep you free of disease by keeping your body in peak condition.

Dry needling is a shorter treatment duration and is specifically used to reduce myofascial pain and treat persisitant trigger points.  Dry needling does not treat the whole person but can be very effective at reducing pain and balancing movement.

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Does it hurt?

Many people in the US are initially skeptical of acupuncture because it is not well understood or there is a perception of pain with the process of treatment.  Acupuncture is relatively painless and the practitioner and patient are in constant communication during the insertion of the very thin needles.  Many times the patient does not even know the procedure is happening and often will fall asleep during treatment. Even those with an aversion to needles will find they have little to no issue with acupuncture treatment.

Dry needling should not hurt but sometimes can be mildly painful.  The amount of pain is usually due to the experience of the practitioner doing the dry needling and the technique used.  Chiropractors trained as acupuncturists tend to have a softer touch and perform a more comfortable needling due to training and experience.

 What to expect?

Results with acupuncture can vary from immediate to gradual depending on the person and the condition of the patient and since no patient is the same there is no way to know how quickly each person will respond.  If you interested in acupuncture or have any questions give our West Des Moines office a call and one of our doctors can answer your concerns?

What conditions respond well to acupuncture?

The World Health Organization  (WHO) lists over 100 pain and organ conditions which respond well to acupuncture.  The following is a small list of those that acupuncture is proven to be effective through controlled clinical trials.  There are many more not listed that have been shown to be effective but for which controlled clinical trials are lacking.

There is an entire 96 page white paper detailing the effectiveness of acupuncture and clinical trials, but here is a short list.

  • Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
  • Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
  • Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
  • Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
  • Headache
  • Knee pain
  • Low back pain
  • Morning sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck pain Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
  • Periarthritis of shoulder
  • Postoperative pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Sprain
  • Tennis elbow

What kinds of pain does dry needling treat?

Dry needling is almost always used as a part of an overall plan that will likely include some type of exercise, manual therapy, heat therapy, and education. Dry needling is used to increase range of motion that may be limited due to muscle tightness or scar tissue. Dry needling may also treat:

  • Joint problems
  • Disk problems
  • Tendinitis
  • Migraine and tension-type headaches
  • Jaw and mouth problems (such as temporomandibular joint disorders or TMD)
  • Whiplash
  • Repetitive motion disorders (like carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Spinal problems
  • Pelvic pain
  • Night cramps
  • Phantom pain
  • Post-herpetic neuralgia (pain left behind by shingles)