DRY VS WET, ACUPUNCTURE VS SPORTS THERAPY
—Kami Semick, The North Face Ultrarunner
“Dry needling” means that the therapist is not using any fluid for injections. The needle is dry. If the needle was a vehicle for transporting anything into the body (i.e. flu shot), it would be a “wet” needle.
How does dry needling differ from acupuncture? Acupuncture works on a meridian system where needles are inserted into the body along meridians that tie to energy pathways in the body as well as organs (i.e. Kidney, Liver, Spleen). The goal of acupuncture is to move your qi (pronounced “chi”), and to stimulate different organs that may be in a depleted state. I have used acupuncture for helping with sleep, digestion, as well as to help recover energetically.
Dry needling for sports therapy differs significantly in two ways: 1) The needle is placed where the “pain” or tightness is; and 2) Needles are typically longer/larger and are inserted deeper than acupuncture needles. Often dry needles for sports injuries will be inserted at an angle until the therapist hits some resistance which may signal an adhesion or a locked up muscle. The needle is then just slightly drawn back and possibly reinserted deeper.
There is an art to dry needling. If you want to try it, make sure you find someone who is trained and well practiced in dry needling for sports therapy. When I was living in Bend, Oregon I couldn’t find anyone who practiced dry needling, so I asked an acupuncturist to try the dry needling technique. Unfortunately, I never experienced the degree of muscle release that I was looking for. Once I moved to Hong Kong, I sought out a therapist who used dry needles, thinking HK was a place where I could find this East meets West type therapy. Here in Hong Kong, I see Liam Fitzpatrick at Myoactive Therapy. Liam has been using dry needling along with other modalities on athletes here in Hong Kong for the past 6+years. He has been instrumental in getting me back on my feet after a hip and hamstring injury left over from tripping on a run shortly after Western States last year. It’s only been in the last six weeks of consistent dry needling of my hamstring, hip and back that I have been able to get back to running without any pain.
Running without pain is all we ask for, right? Then we can add in the mileage and the quality that enables us to do what we love - - run on the edge.