Class Schedules & Locations
We now offer our courses and programs in partnership with schools, colleges, and professional organizations. If you or your organization is interested in partnering with us to offer a course in your area, please get in touch.
The Next Trigger Point Acupuncture Course is scheduled for April 5, 6, & 7, 2019, in the New England Area, in partnership with the Vermont Chiropractic Association. Please Contact Us for more specific information
Acupuncture vs Dry Needling
What is the Difference Between Acupuncture and Dry Needling?
A common question patients ask their acupuncture or dry needle provider is: “What’s the difference between acupuncture and dry needling?” Many providers have training with only one or the other, and have insufficient training to be able to answer this question with authority.
What is the difference? The dominant opinion expressed by State’s Attorneys General, which is often cited as the legal precedent for dry needling regulations, recognizes that the procedures, tools, and techniques used in the practice of dry needling are identical to the procedures, tools, and techniques used in the practice of acupuncture.
The actual acupuncture or dry needling treatments may be identical. The only substantial (and legal) difference between acupuncture and dry needling is the provider’s rationale for choosing which points to needle, and the language permitted for documentation. Acupuncture providers are legally allowed to include both traditional Oriental and contemporary Western medical theories and terminology in choosing and documenting diagnoses, points, and treatments. However, in most jurisdictions, dry needle providers are legally limited to using only Western medical theories and terminology.
Acupuncture and dry needling are more similar than not. However, they are generally practiced in slightly different ways, so each has developed its own set of strengths.
We Can Translate One Practice to the Other and Learn from Both
Until recently, a somewhat arbitrary legal divide- together with political prejudices- has prevented providers of both systems from learning from one another and integrating the best practices of each system. But this is changing.
In recent years, research and clinical experience have brought to light clear relationships between many traditional acupuncture points and meridians used in the treatment of pain, and various types of trigger points, myofascial chains, nerve pathways, dermatomes, motor points, and other physical structures, making it possible to translate much of traditional acupuncture theory into Western terms and vice versa.
This translation allows dry needling practitioners to legally and ethically choose highly effective points and techniques that have traditionally been used by acupuncture providers, while allowing them to continue to rely on Western medical rationale for making these choices.
At the same time, we teach acupuncture providers some of the best diagnostic and treatment practices dry needling has to offer, and how best to integrate them with traditional theories and practices acupuncture providers already know.
Here’s an example of how we accomplish this translation and cross-training: In explaining and demonstrating how to treat hip pain we begin by reviewing the condition using the language of dry needling-that is, the various common presentations causes and diagnoses, which muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves may be involved and how to differentiate and, in some cases, palpate them; how to combine collected data to arrive at an appropriate diagnosis and finally, how to eliminate erroneous diagnoses. We then practice how best to palpate for active, latent, diffuse, ligamentous, local, adjacent, distal, and proximal trigger points, motor points, and best palpation techniques to discover which myofascial planes or chains may be involved. After hands-on practice, we might discuss what exercises, stretches, chiropractic techniques, physical therapy, IASTM, or other treatments might best complement the needling, or even comprise a more appropriate treatment. Throughout this process we translate this discussion into the language traditional acupuncture employs, pointing out the significant relationships between traditional acupuncture points and meridians, and the myofascial chains, planes, nerve pathways, and various trigger points, motor points, muscle-tendon junctions and the like. In addition we compare and contrast traditional treatment techniques with their contemporary Western counterparts, such as the relationships between moxibustion and infrared, or guasha and IASTM.
Why And How to Learn Both
Being at least a little cross-trained in both modalities is analogous to a chiropractor studying pharmacology in school. She studies pharmacology not to prescribe drugs, but to better understand the treatment her patients are receiving from other providers, and to be in a position to offer well-informed advice and opinions.
While it is helpful to know the difference between acupuncture and dry needling, it is more helpful to have a facile ability to incorporate the strengths of both into a clinical practice. Providers who practice either acupuncture or dry needling can improve clinical results for the treatment of pain, by understanding the thought processes and techniques commonly used by each other.
Given that the techniques are identical, it follows that any course on needling techniques should be clinically applicable to both dry needle and acupuncture providers.
About Our Courses
After more than 30 years each, of practicing and teaching acupuncture and dry needling techniques, my brother, Dr. Chuck Ventresca DC, LcAc, and I include our best material in Trigger Point Acupuncture
. We teach this course as a team, so you can benefit from our combined 60 plus years of experience.
- for providers who already practice either dry needling or acupuncture, as an advanced needling course that teaches highly effective techniques from both systems.
- for healthcare providers who practice only non-invasive techniques including manual trigger point release, laser, IASTM, and electro-therapies, offering relevant, clinically useful, and applicable information from both systems.
We do not mean to suggest or imply that providers may practice acupuncture or dry needling after taking our course, if it is not in their scope of practice or doesn’t meet their state’s educational requirements. However, Trigger Point Acupuncture
does qualify providers to incorporate dry needling into their practices in many jurisdictions. For example: Chiropractors, Medical Doctors, and Osteopaths licensed in Virginia can incorporate dry needling in their practices after taking this course.
In short, providers who would like to add acupuncture or dry needling to their practices may choose to begin, supplement or complete their required educational hours by taking this course.