Traditional Acupuncture versus Dry Needling?

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Great item on the BBC Radio 2 Chris Evans Breakfast show recently, which proved very interesting. Chris Evans - who has regular sessions of Traditional Acupuncture himself - was chatting to Dr. Carolyn Ruben as she treated Chris's 'sidekick' Vassos to an acupuncture session. They discussed the difference between Medical Acupuncture which is administered by Doctors, nurses, chiropractors, or physiotherapists, etc, that may have studied on a short course; and Traditional Acupuncture that is administered by professional, licensed Acupuncturists who have studied almost 4 years of Chinese Medicine to degree level. 

There is a very important distinction to make here, especially for people who do not know that much about acupuncture. The acupuncture that you might receive from a Doctor, nurse, chiropractor or physiotherapist, etc, is only a very small part of Acupuncture which has been adopted by the West, and is more commonly known as dry needling.


Dry needling basically means that a needle is inserted into a point of pain/discomfort known as a Trigger Point. A trigger point is often a taut band/knot of skeletal muscle located within a larger muscle group. Trigger points can be tender to the touch, and may often cause referred pain to other areas of the body. This type of treatment does not treat the person as an 'individual' or 'whole' and just targets the specific symptoms, ie a tight, sore and painful muscle, and only offers a short term relief. The intention behind dry needling treatment is to stimulate the muscle and release the tension. From a Chinese Medical perspective this is called an 'Ashi' point, but this is however, only a very small part of Acupuncture as a whole.


A British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) member who has studied Chinese Medicine for almost 4 years to degree level - meeting standards laid down by the World Health Organisation (WHO) - will be treating the individual in a much more comprehensive way.

Traditional Acupuncturists take a holistic approach to diagnosing, preventing and treating
diseases by identifying the underlying 'pattern' or root cause of the illness and treating that, not just the signs and symptoms. Treatment may combine acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, cupping, Chinese herbal medicine, moxibustion, Tui na massage and dietary and lifestyle advice. It is underpinned by concepts such as Qi and Yin/ Yang. This is the style still practised in China today.

Therefore, the focus in Traditional Acupuncture is on the individual, not just their illness, and all the symptoms are seen in relation to each other. What makes this system so uniquely suited to modern life is that physical, emotional and mental are seen as interdependent, and reflect what many people perceive as the connection between the different aspects their lives.

For this reason, one would expect the results of Traditional Acupuncture and a following course of treatment to be far reaching and longer lasting. For more information on this please feel free to contact us.

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