What Is Medical Acupuncture?

Posted: 1/3/2019

    Medical Acupuncture is a technique physical therapists use for the treatment of pain, spasm and movement impairments. The technique uses a needle (without medication or injection) inserted through the skin into areas of the muscle, myofascial trigger point, connective tissues, onto bone and into some joint spaces.

    Medical Acupuncture is different from Chinese Acupuncture in that Chinese Acupuncture is focused on energy lines and Medical Acupuncture is part of modern Western medicine principles, and supported by research.

    What Kind of Needles Are Used?

    Medical Acupuncture involves a thin filiform needle that penetrates the skin and stimulates underlying myofascial trigger points and muscular and connective tissues. The needle allows a physical therapist to target tissues that are not manually palpable.

    The needles used are sterile, single use needles and are disposed of in a medical sharps collector.

    Why Medical Acupuncture?

    In cases when Medical Acupuncture is used by physical therapists, it is typically 1 technique that’s part of a larger treatment plan.

    Physical therapists use dry needling with the goal of releasing or inactivating myofascial trigger points, releasing muscles that are in spasm, unwinding and lengthening collagen fibres to improve function, alignment and range of motion and relieve pain.

    Scientific research supports that Medical Acupuncture improves pain control, reduces muscle tension, and normalizes dysfunctions of the motor end plates (the sites at which nerve impulses are transmitted to muscles). This can help speed up the patient’s return to activity.


    Langevin HM, Bouffard NA, Badger GJ, Churchill DL, Howe AK. Subcutaneous tissue fibroblast cytoskeletal remodelling induced by acupuncture: evidence for a mechanotransduction-based mechanism, J Cell Physiol. 2006 Jun;207(3):767-74.
    Langevin HM, Bouffard NA, Badger GJ, Iatridis JC, Howe AK. Dynamic fibroblast cytoskeletal response to subcutaneous tissue stretch ex vivo and in vivo, Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2005 Mar;288(3):C747-56. Epub 2004 Oct 20
    Cummings MT, White AR. Needling therapies in the management of myofascial trigger point pain: a systematic review. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2001;82(7):986–992.
    Kalichman L, Vulfsons S. Dry needling in the management musculoskeletal pain. J Am Board Fam Med. 2010;23(5):640–646.

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