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Dry Needling? A perspective from Portugal.

By Bruno Custódio

Have you ever wondered what Dry Needling is?

Astonishingly or not, many colleagues do not know what it is.

Simply put, as Physiotherapists (PTs) noticed the therapeutic potential of Acupuncture on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), in order to be able to perform it, but also avoid any potential confrontations (or lawsuits) from other health professionals, namely MDs and L.Ac., they felt the need to give Acupuncture another name: Dry Needling was born.

So, Dry Needling is Acupuncture! Only with another name and without the deep knowledge of its intricacy, complexity and therapeutic potential.

It is a common fact that “simple” techniques that have proven to be of great value, in terms of patient benefits, tend to be adopted by a wide array of health practitioners.

If we think about it, sticking a needle in an Ashi point, in a trigger point or right on top of a muscular contracture it is maybe the simplest technique of them all. To see consistent positive results the practitioner only as to identify the spot, puncture it with an acupuncture needle and it is done.

As we know, acupuncture needles are sold all over, and to anyone. Here rises the first question: in a highly regulated reality should acupuncture needles be sold like this or just to licenced professionals? We will postpone this debate for another occasion.

MSDs are one of the areas where Acupuncture has immediate results (and where we found a large part of studies already conducted).

In western societies, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs and physiotherapy are the most prescribed forms to deal with MSDs and pain. Portugal is no exception to this.

I believe that with the ongoing awareness concerning opioid dependence and its related problems, the demand for non-drug approaches to MSDs, namely with pain will only increase. Along with this increase, we will also see a growing demand for Dry Needling.

I do not think that Dry Needling is a bad thing per se. If it means benefits to patients, it is great! But, we should think why. Why call it Dry Needling or Invasive PT (another name for this procedure)?

In my point of view, Dry Needling is Acupuncture period! Therefore, it should be dealt with for what it is, Acupuncture. This means that every practioner, nonmatter the background, should attend a complete Acupuncture course and get is degree accordingly with his country legislations.

In Portugal, as in other European countries, nowadays we are seeing that there is a substantial offer of flash training courses. In this courses, in 20, 30 or 40 hours (practice included) practioners become able to perform Acupuncture. These courses assume various names according with target professional groups. They also have an aggressive marketing behind them, often with false promises.  

This subject, all its implications and nuances, should be object of a deep discussion as it concerns all of us either Acupuncturists or TCM practioners.

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