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How does Sports Medicine Acupuncture® Compare to Dry Needling?

By: Cybil Kendrick, L. AC.M

If you ask acupuncturists, physical therapists and chiropractors about Dry Needling, you are certain to get polarized, varied answers on certifications, training and results. As an experienced, Sports Medicine Acupuncturist® it is important to me that patients explore the difference between Sports Medicine Acupuncture and Dry Needling. So let’s look at the facts...

First, all acupuncturists with their Master’s degree in Oriental medicine have completed 3,000 hours of intense training, including 600 hours of training in needling technique, point location, anatomy and clinical practice. The Sports Medicine Acupuncture® certification requires an additional 238 hours of training focused on diagnosing and treating injuries - from postural imbalances to more technical sports-related injuries and trauma. By comparison, the minimum amount of training required for physical therapists to practice dry needling on patients is just 27 hours.

It may be called Sports Medicine Acupuncture®, but its application transcends sports; in addition to traumatic and overuse injuries from sports, it is a system that can help with repetitive injuries and postural imbalances that are so prevalent in our society with the amount of time spent at desks or on mobile devices in a hunched over posture. Diagnosis is conducted through postural analysis, manual muscle assessment and orthopedic testing, on top of addressing the person holistically through our Traditional Chinese Medical diagnosis. For example, in Sports Medicine Acupuncture®, the knees are often considered the “middle child” of the feet/ankles and the hips so we always take into consideration the relationship between all three in order to address any muscular imbalances that could be causing pain and/or the knees to be tracking incorrectly.

So how does Sports Medicine Acupuncture compare to Dry Needling? The simple answer is that it IS dry needling… and so much more. According to the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA) Dry needling, like acupuncture, involves the use of solid needles (contrasted with the use of hollow hypodermic needles that are used for injections) to treat muscle pain by stimulating and breaking muscular knots and bands. Most acupuncture styles of needling require a detailed knowledge, not only of western anatomy, but also of the channel networks and connections. Thus, while some forms of acupuncture are not at all the same as dry needling, the term dry needling can refer quite specifically to what is now called Myofascial Acupuncture, Tendinomuscular Acupuncture, or some version of Sports Acupuncture. Dry needling has recently been adopted by physical therapists and chiropractors to describe trigger point needling that does not entail taking the time to learn about the background, theories and fundamentals of Oriental medicine. The AAMA’s stance on dry needling is as follows:Regardless of the theory, it is incontrovertible that dry needling is an invasive procedure. Needle length can range up to 4 inches in order to reach the affected muscles. It is critical to understand that dry needling, in the hands of minimally educated practitioners can cause extreme harm. Any invasive procedure has associated and potentially serious medical risks and is safe only if performed by a properly educated, trained and experienced health professional.

Sports Medicine Acupuncture® is a comprehensive and safe way to treat common sports injuries such as sprains/strains, overuse injuries such as ITB syndrome/Plantar Fasciitis, as well as complex issues including disc herniation and pre- and post-surgical rehabilitation.

Washington Park Chiropractic is the only practice in Denver, Colorado specializing in Sports Chiropractic, Prenatal Chiropractic and Pediatric Chiropractic. Our Wash Park Doctors are expert certified and trained in Sports, Pediatrics and Prenatal Care including massage, acupuncture, Webster Technique, Graston Technique, Laser, K-Laser, Kinesiology Tape, RockTape and Normatec.

Cybil Kendrick, L.Ac.,MSOM, C.SMA, RMT is a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) with her masters in Oriental medicine (MSOM) and is certified in Sports Medicine Acupuncture® (C.SMA) and massage therapy (RMT).


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