The traditional model of acupuncture is based in the Chinese philosophy that health and disease may be related to energy systems in the human body, called meridians.
This theory is yet to be substantiated by scientific evidence; yet its popularity prevails.
The ancient concept of acupuncture is focussed on imbalance in the body systems and the release of blockages in the meridians, with the modern medical approach largely ignoring these ancient beliefs in favour of stimulation of the immune and neurological systems to promote healing.
New studies are constantly being undertaken to investigate the traditional meridian acupuncture approach, with little evidence existing to support its routine use for treating common medical problems. The evidence that does exist shows that it is of some use in certain areas, mainly musculoskeletal medicine, and that is how it is used at Allied Therapies.
Dry needling uses acupuncture needles to release trigger points in muscles, which is what makes it different to acupuncture. The concept is based on the work of Travell & Symmonds , who routinely studied the behaviour of muscles throughout the human body.
There are some common pain referral patterns that can indicate which muscles may be a source of pain in the human body. The treatment approach aims to de-activate the most active trigger points within these pathological muscles, meaning any muscle in the human body may be treated with the dry needling approach.
Mechanically, the acupuncture needle enters the trigger point and disrupts its contractile behaviour.
There is no actual medicine associated with the needle: it is just sterilized stainless steel. Since muscles operate via neuro-electrical impulses, the use of electrical stimulation can also alter this spontaneous electrical activity behaviour. In layman’s terms: the knot in the muscle is released.
Sometimes, the point is felt to release on first entering the needle into the muscle. However, the trigger point often needs to be invaded several times before sufficient release is achieved. This process can be painful for the patient, which is why we are careful to use this approach sparingly, and we always respect patients’ concerns if they do not want to try it.
The ancient view of acupuncture is that the energy systems of the body can become blocked, which is related to disease. The idea is that appropriately placed acupuncture needles can release these blockages and heal the body.
However, the scientific studies to date do not really support this, so we don’t really promote acupuncture as a primary treatment over contemporary medical interventions for most common illnesses.
Primarily, acupuncture is used in conjunction with dry needling to target musculoskeletal complaints, and the principle of releasing tight muscles is the main focus of treatment, including:
Shoulder impingement syndromes
The dry needling approach is most effective in conditions that involve persistent tight muscle activity. This treatment is often used in conjunction with osteopathy & acupuncture, as the needling itself can be unpleasant for the un-initiated.
The same basic acupuncture needles are used for this procedure, and they are used directly in the offending tight areas, which disturbs the contractile state of the muscle by inducing a local ‘twitch’ response. This can then reduce the overall tightness of the muscle. So it’s a great technique to use as an adjunct to massage.
The more common problems treated with dry needling include:
Epicondylalgia (tennis elbow & golfer’s elbow)
Hip pain associated with osteoarthritis
Muscle strains in sport