PicturePicture above: Acupuncture combined with Dry Needling for Knee pain (electrical stimulation added)

Acupuncture is an amazing and effective treatment option for many conditions.

Unfortunately, patients do NOT realize the potential of true acupuncture.  Most people have heard of acupuncture for addiction or stress relief, but almost any diagnosis or condition could benefit from acupuncture.  

For those of you following this blog, you understand I practice evidence-based medicine...there is a grey area when it comes to acupuncture.  Although that grey area is becoming much smaller, rather rapidly thanks to researchers.

I focus on the scientific and reproducible effects of acupuncture, but that is difficult because the practice and application of acupuncture (like many other medical treatments) varies greatly. 

There are clinicians that use acupuncture to treat fertility issues and there are clinicians that use it for post-traumatic stress disorder and there are those that use acupuncture for pain management.  From internal medicine disorders to psychological conditions to physical medicine conditions, acupuncture can be applied in many forms.

There are now almost 2 different views of acupuncture, the traditional system (Eastern Medicine) and the scientific system (Western Medicine).  True acupuncture lies in the traditional Chinese medicine realm (Eastern Medicine) and involves meridians and specific points that have been studied for literally thousands of years.  

I do incorporate meridian therapy and other well-known acupuncture points when I use acupuncture for a patient.  HOWEVER, I use acupuncture mainly for pain/symptom reduction or management.  Acupuncture, for my practice, is an amazing tool that can accomplish: analgesia (pain relief), protection of the body against infections, and regulation of various physiologic functions.  

Treatment of chronic pain that has not responded to other forms of treatment...that is probably the biggest group of conditions I use acupuncture for.
The TABLE above demonstrates that the NIH (National Institutes of Health) includes a wide variety of conditions that acupuncture may be beneficial for.  And just so you know I'm not pulling this from preferred sources, the WHO (World Health Organization) has a very similar list of conditions.  My thoughts on this are that: 

1) if other forms of pain reduction have failed (medications/procedures/physical therapy), WHY NOT TRY IT?
2) there are very few side effects (when performed by a qualified professional), WHY NOT TRY IT?
3) with a list such as this from the NIH or WHO, there really isn't a category of conditions that would not benefit fro acupuncture, WHY NOT TRY IT?

I know someone is going to read the caption of the picture at the beginning of this post and think "What the heck is dry needling?  Is there something called wet needling?"  So let me CLEAR THIS UP.

Dry needling is a technique that utilizes acupuncture needles to treat local pain and trigger points in soft tissues.  It is becoming a very popular technique used among physical therapists and chiropractors.  BUT, there is a significant difference between acupuncture and dry needling, there is NO meridian system in dry needling.  

So here is how dry needling works, a clinician will find tender areas and trigger points in certain muscle groups or near joints.  Then, the clinician will insert a number of needles in that area for a certain amount of time and possibly manipulate (move) the needles slightly while they are inserted.  
There it is, a quick run-down on acupuncture and dry needling.  As I have found the greatest benefit, I will almost always combine the 2 techniques for my patients.  Remember, most of my patients seek care for pain conditions and rehabilitation, so using needles to reduce symptoms can be a beneficial conservative option.  There are certain conditions and diagnoses that I am much more cautious and will even have needling as a contraindication, but that is fairly rare.

Please feel free to share this post, comment and continue to follow me.

Be Blessed!
-Anatomy Geek



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    Erik Korzen DC is a chiropractic physician and educator.  He is passionate about re-defining the chiropractic profession and is somewhat of an "Anatomy Geek".


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