To the best of my understanding, dry needling, which is practiced by physical therapists, typically involves the insertion of acupuncture needles into and around trigger points. I think trigger points can help a muscle release and decrease local inflammation, but I think treatments are more effective when combined with other acupuncture points. So in my practice, I usually combine local trigger points, hua tuo jia ji points that are located on either side of the spine, and more distal channel points near the hands and feet. By stimulating hua tuo jia ji points I hope to treat the entire dermatome of that particular level of the spine. Distal points along the channel (around wrists and ankles) have been shown on fMRI to have a stronger impact on the central nervous system than local points. Some evidence suggests that acupuncture is more effective than dry needling, perhaps because distal points are not included in dry needling.
I have also been told by some patients and physical therapists that dry needling can be intense and painful. Some styles of acupuncture are more aggressive as well. My needling style is more gentle and not at all painful, yet still completely effective.
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