Dry Needling as Mistaken Practice for Acupuncture

Dry Needling as Mistaken Practice for Acupuncture

As an acupuncturist I have been asked, “do you do dry needling?”  The short answer is yes however, it doesn’t make me feel very proficient at my job. Although there are some similarities between these two practices, they shouldn’t be confused as they use different methods and different training is required.


Acupuncture is Chinese medicine, an ancient model of healing that was developed thousands of years ago.  The theory is that symptoms, conditions, illnesses and disease are indicative that the body is out of balance. Chinese medicine aims to return the body back to its original form with individual symptoms being the centre of focus.

An acupuncturist will design a bespoke treatment plan choosing specific points to return the body back to its original state.

If you want to learn more about acupuncture, see our blog for Acupuncture as Complementary and Alternative Medicine.


Dry needling encompasses 1 week training to allow certain health professionals to insert needles into a specific area of the body.

A practitioner using needles and inserting them into areas of the body, specifically into trigger points, is not considered an acupuncturist in its truest form.  Specific trigger points are needled with the aim to improve mobility and relieve pain and hence referred to as dry needling or even medical acupuncture as this particular model is not following meridian theory.


It’s fantastic that the results achieved using acupuncture have reached other professionals such as Doctors, Physio Therapists, Chiropractors who are now using dry needling to support their own therapy.

Dry needling consists of 1 week training.

A genuine acupuncturist, on the other hand, trains for a minimum of 3 years in the form of a university degree as the very basic.  A degree has to be obtained before being eligible to join the British Acupuncture Council (the UK’s largest governing body).

Some acupuncturists choose to study further and embark on a herbs degree for a further 2- 3 years before they are eligible to apply for membership of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine (RCHM) or Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ATCM).

Other practitioners may also choose to study to qualify as a TuiNa practitioner (a physical massage therapy) which involves a further year of training.  Therefore approximately 7 years in training in total is required as the very basic in understanding Chinese medicine.  There are 3 branches to Chinese medicine.  1) Acupuncture, 2) Herbal medicine. 3) TuiNa. An acupuncturist, herbalist, tui na practitioner (Chinese medicine) sees the body as a map.

By comparison a doctor or general practitioner (GP) will train for approximately 6 years.

If we take look at the maths, a model of healing that is thousands of years old cannot be learned in 1 week, 3 years or even a lifetime for that matter, that’s because the system is rather complex, coupled with the fact that we are always learning more about health. A Chinese medicine practitioner will have at least developed a wide understanding of the basics.

Whether it is acupuncture or dry needling, always choose practitioners that have received training, have previous experience or even hold a licence. You can find your local degree trained Chinese medicine acupuncturists on the British Acupuncture Council or Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

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