It is simplistic and misleading to say that PTs attempt to learn all they need to know in a single weekend course. Dry needling courses are necessary for a PT, but are supplemented with substantial masters and doctoral-level education. Acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese medicine and the concept of balance and restoring proper flow of energy throughout the body, he added, whereas physical therapists insert the needles to break up muscle knots and release muscular tension. With all the professional bickering, patients can be forgiven for wondering what, exactly, is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture. Stephen Cina, an assistant professor of acupuncture at MCPHS, formerly the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, said that an onlooker would not be able to distinguish dry needling from acupuncture. The difference, he said, is that dry needling targets trigger points to treat muscle pain, while acupuncture treats not only muscle pain but many other symptoms. But, he added, we are seeing [non-acupuncture] practitioners being trained to treat conditions relating to womens health, headaches, digestive disorders, and emotional issues which are normally in the realm of what acupuncturists treat. Leahy, of the physical therapy association, says he hasnt seen physical therapists treating anything but muscle pain. As matters now stand in Massachusetts, physical therapists are neither explicitly allowed nor prohibited from dry needling, a gray area thats led to a growth in the number of physical therapists offering dry needling services. With increased interest in non-opioid treatments for pain, and big money at stake, the sides are divided except over one issue: If the other side gets its way, each profession says, its the patients who will suffer. I was at a bar mitzvah, and a woman came up to me crying because shed seen a physical therapist for tennis elbow, and that person gave her dry needling and she has nerve damage, said Mager. David Fishkin, founder of the Maryland-based Dry Needling Institute, says acupuncturists are preventing people from getting needed therapy. They think they own the needle, he said.
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