What's the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?

Dry Needling vs Acupuncture 🥊


I get several phone calls/emails a day from people asking me about dry needling and how is it different from Acupuncture. So I’m writing this post to clear a couple of things up. 

 

BUSTING THE MYTHS ABOUT ACUPUNCTURE vs DRY NEEDLING

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Acupuncture isn’t mythical

But Unicorns are

The following myth statements are what physical therapists all over this country are telling you about acupuncture. Sadly, these words are being parroted by patients that either email me or call me, over and over again. 

It’s time to bust those myths for once and for all. 

Myth #1 Physical therapists treat PAIN and acupuncturists only treat energy. 

I get it. You probably don’t know much about holistic medicine so you ask your doctor or physical therapist about acupuncture for your pain. But the problem with this is, you’re getting information about a service that they don’t do, and aren’t trained to do, therefore shouldn’t be your source of information about what acupuncture does in regards to physical pain.

So, here we go, you’re going to hear about it from an acupuncturist but first some history…
Over 2,000 years ago a group of people in China figured out that using needles somehow helped them reduce pain/anxiety/insomnia/improved digestion, etc.

I sincerely doubt these people had words like “fascia”, “posterior chain” and “saggital plane” and so on. All they knew was there seemed to be these lines of energy that criss cross and connect and when needled in a certain spot, people felt better. They had to name these lines something so they named them Foot Tai Yang and Hand Yang Ming and so on.

It wasn’t until the 70’s when President Nixon’s VP visited China and had emergency surgery to have his appendix removed, it was discovered he was allergic to general anesthesia. The hospitals in China use acupuncture regularly, so they used it to numb him for the procedure and it worked! Stunned and amazed he set out to bring Chinese Medicine to the states.

At the same time, China being a communist country, didn’t want its “secrets” of Chinese Medicine given freely to the western world. Eastern Medicine practitioners fled China to different parts of the world. One of them went to Canada and took on an apprentice.

This apprentice renamed the Foot Tai Yang, Hand Yang Ming, etc, meridians to Liver, Gallbladder, Kidney, Lung, Large Intestine as a way for western practitioners like myself, to be able to memorize the information. I think this is what leads people to believe that acupuncturists are somehow taught “magic.” It’s not. It’s just primitive. But just because it’s ancient medicine, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. It would be gone if that was the case.

The founder of the school I attended, Tri-State College of Acupuncture, introduced his own style of acupuncture based on the work by Dr. Travell, President JFK’s Doctor. Her work on locating and cataloguing trigger points was combined with Traditional Chinese Medicine and other styles to create Acupuncture Physical Medicine. This is the main style I practice.

Fact:
The fact is, when a needle is inserted into the body, a physiological change happens every single time. The body returns to homeostasis (or yin and yang are back in balance) allowing your body to heal itself. Whether it’s a muscle that releases or your insomnia gets better, there’s always going to be some positive change with acupuncture.


It’s simply a language barrier that differentiates us from physical therapists (when we’re talking about needling).


Myth #2

Physical Therapists study anatomy, Acupuncturists only study meridians

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Fact:
Acupuncturists need to meet certain western biomedical standards in order to practice. Among them are biology, anatomy, myology and pathophysiology along with Eastern Medicine. Acupuncture, after all, is an invasive procedure requiring the insertion of needles. We have to be well versed in what we’re needling into. And yes, of course, we also study meridians.


Myth #3

Dry needling needles into muscle and acupuncture doesn’t.

“X” marks the trigger point that refers pain to the front of the knee.

“X” marks the trigger point that refers pain to the front of the knee.

ST 31 is an acupuncture point on the stomach meridian, used to treat knee pain that occurs in the front of the knee.

ST 31 is an acupuncture point on the stomach meridian, used to treat knee pain that occurs in the front of the knee.

As I mentioned before, hospitals in China utilize acupuncture regularly. I wish I could show you the videos of how deep they needle into the body. I won’t, because I know it’ll just scare you.

I needle all the way down to bone at times. I also release trigger points except that in eastern medicine, we have a different name for trigger points- we call them ashi points.

In these illustrations, you can see how the trigger point (that’s the X mark) that refers pain to the knee is almost identical to acupuncture point 31 on the stomach meridian. Both are indicated to treat knee pain. There are many more points like this on other meridians.

So you see, acupuncture does treat pain and does a great job of it.



Myth #4 Dry needle and acupuncture are not the same thing.

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Fact: That statement is both right and wrong.
Acupuncture can be and is dry needle
-because of the solid filiform needles we use (they are literally dry needles, there isn’t any fluid going in or out of it)
-Acupuncturists needle, at times, deeply into muscle releasing trigger points or stimulating motor points

Dry needle, when performed by physical therapists, could never be acupuncture.

There is a lot more going on in an acupuncture treatment than just releasing tight muscles. Acupuncturists, treat the whole person, not just a leg or an arm.

I blame insurance companies in America for how our healthcare system is set up. PTs have a lot to offer their patients but they have their hands tied by the insurance companies forcing them to have to see a lot of people per hour. If you feel you need or want help with a structural issue, seek out a PT in private practice, they’re worth the investment.

I highly doubt that physical therapists are going to stop needling, they’re doing it because it works. But, I do believe the amount of hours they spend learning dry needling is about to get a lot more regulated. Acupuncturists have thousands of hours invested in education versus PT’s taking a weekend course. Just recently, a Florida court ruled that PTs are not allowed to do dry needling, it’s currently illegal in NYS and NJ.


There is so much more that acupuncture can do for you than just releasing a trigger point. There’s a reason that trigger points happen in the first place, stress, overuse of a muscle or joint, a traumatic event, blood or yin deficiency (which is basically how eastern medicine views tights muscles- as a lack of fluids in the body). Receiving treatment by an acupuncturist, is also a better experience all together. The environment is usually very relaxing, the practitioner isn’t in a rush to treat 5 other patients in the same hour, they aren’t passing you off to a bunch of staff members that don’t even know you’re name as well as some other stuff like herbs, cupping, gua sha and tui na- all part of a wholistic way of treating you since you are a whole person and not just a body part. 

I hope this information was useful and helped you, as a person in pain, to understand why seeing an acupuncturist, especially one like me that specializes in sports medicine, is a much better choice (when it comes to needles).Comments I get 100% of the time when it comes to comparing my needle work to that of a physical therapist, is usually along the lines of “I get so much more out this than seeing the physical therapist” (regarding needling) or “This was a much better experience than getting dry needling by my pt”

My goal here was just to inform you of the differences between the two so that you can make the best decision about needling for yourself and when talking about it to your friends and family.

If you’re reading this and you’re not in NYC and can’t see me, but want this kind of needling, I recommend you search for an acupuncturist in your area and call them and simply ask, ‘Do you do trigger point or motor point work?’, because if they do, they are the right acupuncturist for you to see, they are pain specialists.

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Eastern Medicine is WHOLEistic and

acupuncture is the original dry needle.

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Should I be foam rolling?

To foam roll or not to foam roll, that is the question.

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As an expert in myofascial conditions such as neck, upper/lower back pain, knee and foot pain, I say everyone should be doing some sort of myofascial release on themselves regardless of activity level.

Have you ever noticed an elderly person walk? Sometimes they’ll shuffle their feet instead of taking full steps, or they’re really hunched over.

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You don’t want this to be you, trust me. Not only is it uncomfortable for a young person to be injured, add on being elderly to the mix and that makes for one life of misery.

WHAT’S The solution?

Of course, you already know I’m going to say get acupuncture regularly. I recommend acupuncture not only as a practitioner, but as a patient. There’s is such sweet relief in having tight muscles released with acupuncture. It’s better at this than any other modality out there.

ACUPUNCTURE

  • Improves circulation

  • Releases trigger points in muscles

  • Improves range of motion and flexibility

  • Encourages the body to heal itself

All of these elements are necessary to grow old comfortably. Barring a medical condition, like spinal stenosis for example, you will age comfortably if you take the time for self care and get body work done regularly.

Some other options are massage balls and foam rollers. I highly encourage my clients to get massages whenever they feel it’s appropriate, but my go to foam roller is by Intelliroll. (I don’t get any money from them if you buy one, I just really like it). The reason I like it is because it has that space in the center for the spine to settle into.

Whether you’re a CrossFit fanatic or a desk jockey that doesn’t get to do much because of work, it’s always a good idea to end the day with a little self massage using the foam roller of your choice.

A foam roller can help relieve neck tightness from staring at your phone and computer all day long, tight hamstrings from sitting all day and more.

My only advice is, DO NOT FOAM ROLL HARD! I literally have to treat people who have wrecked their bodies foam rolling too hard. AND NEVER FOAM ROLL THE IT BAND. It does NOT need it. You can foam roll the hip and gently roll it down the side of your thigh but there is no need to press the IT band into the foam roller.

You’ll get more out of foam rolling if you let your body settle into the roller naturally and breathe.

For a great example on how to foam roll, check out this YouTube video. She does go over the IT band but you’ll notice, she’s not digging into it. Now get to working on your fascia!






Skincare for dry winter skin

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5 tips for dry winter skin by a holistic esthetician

Serums

If you don’t already use one, add a hyaluronic acid serum to your skincare routine. It should be the first thing you apply after cleansing you face. Then layer your oil, if you use one, then your moisturizer and end with your SPF cream.

Exfoliate

Most of us get lazy about exfoliating over the summer so come fall/winter, we have to get really good about that. Exfoliate 1-2 times per weeks using, an enzyme exfoliant, to remove dead skin cells, which allows your products to penetrate and absorb better. If you’re doing it twice a week and notice you skin is a little irritated, scale back to once a week.

Oil

DO NOT be afraid of oil! It’s the number one thing I recommend to hydrate your skin, giving it that youthful glow and bounce. Oils are great for everyone, my favorite is Dr. Alkaitis’ Organic Nourishing Oil. It protects your skin from cold dry air and bacteria, it strengthens the lipid barrier (which means it maintains the hydration better) and just so happens to be great for healing acne.

Humidifier

Every winter, I sleep with both a heater on and a humidifier in my bedroom. Heat in our homes and apartments can really zap all the moisture out of our skin. There are so many options on the market, I like this one by Pure.

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Even your office can get dry, so keep a hydrating mist like this one by Josh Rosebrook and spray your face sporadically throughout the day. Also, moisturize both in the morning and the evening.

As with anything else, consistency is key. The more often you hydrate, the less chances of your skin drying out.

Does Acupuncture work for TMJ?

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Never fear, acupuncture is here and you can smile again without it hurting. :) 

Acupuncture and TMJ

What is TMJ?

TMJ is short for temporalmandibular joint dysfunction. It's literally a mouthful. 

Signs and symptoms of TMJ are:

Clicking and popping of the jaw

Ear aches

Headaches

Facial pain

A feeling of the jaw unhinging and popping back in again

I actually have TMJ thanks to a crappy orthodontist I had as a kid. Add on the stress of being an adult and voila I have TMJ. I joke around that I can unhinge my jaw like a snake, but it's actually not funny and quite frankly scares the crap out of me when my jaw locks when I try to yawn. So, trust me, I get the concern about this when it happens to you. 

Enter acupuncture. 

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TMJ is actually a pretty easy fix as it's caused by tightness in the muscles we use to chew. The cause is almost always stress, some of us are just natural jaw clenchers especially in our sleep.  

The red areas are usually where you'll feel pain or discomfort when you have knots in those muscles (which is what the X marks are). As you can see, sometimes you'll get an ear ache or tooth aches which when examined by your doctor or dentist, turns up nothing. That's because the knots in your jaw muscles are causing the ear or tooth ache. This is also why using a mouth guard isn't helpful in my opinion. I just don't see how biting down on something is going to provide any sort of release of the jaw, instead it makes it tighter and tighter. 

I treat TMJ a lot in my practice and get acupuncture for it myself. It's a godsend.  It requires releasing muscles of the jaw, neck and sometimes scalp along with points to reduce stress overall. I highly recommend developing some sort of breathing/meditation practice to help you decompress daily. 

Here's what one of my facial clients (who also books acupuncture along with her facial appointment) has to say:

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If you're ready to get relief from your TMJ pain schedule here:

HOW TO HEAL VERTIGO

WHAT IS VERTIGO?

First, let's go over what vertigo is. It's a feeling of dizziness, all the time. It's triggered by certain positioning of your head and probably gets worse when you move your head.

Effects of vertigo are:

A sense of spinning        Dizziness      Headache     Imbalance    Fatigue

Causes of vertigo are:

Meniere's disease      Inner Ear Infection    Head or Neck Injury   Stroke or Tumor

Medicines that cause ear damage

CAN ACUPUNCTURE HELP VERTIGO?

There is one super common cause that I haven't mentioned above because, quite frankly, doctors just aren't trained to look for it. 

It's called a trigger point. A pathogenic knot in a muscle causing discomfort, pain and dysfunction. In the case of vertigo, if you're sure that your vertigo isn't caused by any of the above (except for the head/neck injury) then acupuncture absolutely can help you. 

In the illustration below, the black X's mark the spots where these knots are. These trigger points cause the muscle to get so tight that it compresses against your aorta, cutting off the oxygen supply to your brain, making you dizzy. It sounds scary, but it's actually not, it's an easy fix!

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Don't suffer a minute longer than you have to, book your appointment below now.

5 ways you're creating back pain without realizing it.

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One of the things that makes me stand out as a healer is my strong knowledge of anatomy and how our muscles work, especially when you're in pain. I've treated so many cases of back pain and I've noticed that they all have a few causes in common. Below, I share them with you so that you can be a little more conscious of how you move your body throughout the day. 

1.  Being a slave to your phone

Constantly looking down at your phone when you're on the subway, at your desk, in bed (which is the worst) is a huge culprit in neck and upper back pain. Fascia (our connective tissue) gets hardened with repetitive motion like constantly scrolling and typing on your phone. 

2.  Sleeping face down

Sleeping on your belly is the worst position for your neck and spine to be in. Lying on your back or on your side with a pillow between your legs is the best way to sleep for your spine to be in neutral position. 

3.  Your purse, laptop bag, gym bag and tote

I know it can feel super awkward to carry your bag on the other shoulder than what you're used to, but it should be done for balance. Better yet, if you're a bag lady, you're better off getting a chic backpack and save your back from pain. 

4.  Shifting your weight to one side

I see it all the time on train platforms, men and women shifting their weight from side to side as they're waiting for their train. Standing tall with your weight evenly distributed between both feet is the best way to not throw your hips out of alignment keeping your back pain free. 

5.  Sitting

Fascia, our connective tissue, follows a certain pattern on different parts of our bodies. In the front, theres a criss-cross sling on the upper body. The back is completely different, the muscles and connective tissue lay on us as if someone took a paint roller and painted our muscles on us from the heels to the top of our head-it's all one long connected sheath. 

Sitting for long periods of time, squashes the hamstrings and tightens the calves leading to a tight lower back. Ignore the tightness long enough, and eventually it'll lead to muscle cramping and pain. 

What helps back pain best?

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My #1 recommendation for any kind of pain is acupuncture. It gets to the root of what is causing the problem, rather than just band aid it.

If needles scare you, then my second recommendation is cupping. Cupping does a great job of relieving tension, pain and loosening fascia.  Tight fascia is the problem to begin with, so loosen the fascia and you're going to feel better. 

Ready to work out your back pain? Schedule your session online now

How to use Kinesiolgy tape for injuries

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Does Kinesiology tape really work for injuries?

The short answer is yes and no. 

It all depends on how you use it, or more importantly, what your intentions or goals are with your injury. 

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Taping is very popular amongst pro-athletes and oddly in CrossFit enthusiasts specifically, which is why I'm writing about this today. I don't have anything against Kinesiology tape (K Tape), I use it in my own practice on my patients, but very rarely do I ever feel the need for it. 

For some reason CrossFitters, and other athletes that work out just as hard, are covered in this stuff. My question is...are you doing ANYTHING ELSE to actually treat and recover from your injuries?

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Here is what K Tape can do for you:

Support muscles and joints 

Help reduce pain momentarily

Prevent further injury and muscle fatigue (which is why I use it with my clients)

Here is what it can't do for you:

Treat injuries 

Enhance performance 

ANYONE with a body needs to actually treat their injuries if they are going to make serious demands on their body like in CrossFit (I'm not anti-CrosssFit either, I did it for 2 years with the help of my acupuncturist and lots of massages and stretching --in other words I practiced self care along with my workouts)

Is Kinesiology tape enough to treat an injury?

If you're relying on K-tape to manage your pain, you'll regret it one day. Try acupuncture instead and treat the root of your problem. 

If you're relying on K-tape to manage your pain, you'll regret it one day. Try acupuncture instead and treat the root of your problem. 

No. In my professional opinion, as someone who specializes in treating pain successfully, absolutely not. 

"Self care" is a term severely lacking in the CrossFit world. I hear about taping and eating Paleo but I don't hear enough about actual self care that goes outside of someone buying a cream, a lotion or tape and seeing an actual professional to treat their injuries.  Continuing your workouts while injured isn't a badge of honor, it's simply not smart and you'll regret it one day. 

I became an acupuncturist because I was in chronic pain and saw several health professionals in desperate attempts to heal my pain. It wasn't until I started getting acupuncture that my pain was finally resolved. This is what drives me to heal other people. I would never tell you not to follow your doctor's or Physical Therapists advice, but understand that K Tape is literally a band aid for your pain. 

Acupuncture, treats what is causing your pain, your PT can then help you develop better body mechanics so that you move better preventing the same injury from reoccuring. And of course, if your injury is serious enough that you need surgery, acupuncture can help you recover faster. 


Kinesiology Taping for Achilles Tendonitis 

Case Study

I had a patient with achilles tendonitis. Male, 28yrs old, a former Rugby player who currently stays fit by doing HIT workouts and lifting heavy weights along with some rowing for cardio because it hurt too much to run.  Tendonitis is treatable but takes a few sessions because it's most likely a chronic case of it. I've never had anyone come in with tendonitis of any kind as a first inquiry to fix it, they usually see a sports medicine doctor and physical therapist first. The acupuncturist is sadly, usually the last hope in cases of tendonitis which is too bad because we are the ones that do the best job of resolving it.

I treated the trigger points responsible for causing the achilles tendon pain and this was a perfect time to use K Tape. I taped his calf so that the muscles remained supported and stretched until I could treat him again. We did this every time I saw him and after 4 sessions he no longer needed the tape and his Achilles Tendonitis was resolved for good. Can it come back again? Yes I think it can if he doesn't take the time to properly warm up and do hamstring and calf stretches after his workouts. As of today, it's been over 6 months and he hasn't needed to treat it again. 

He can now run comfortably. 


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