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Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture: What’s The Difference

Dry needling and acupuncture share similarities, like they use thin needles to puncture the skin for therapeutic purposes. Both of the methods claim to provide pain relief. However, they are two separate treatments that should not be confused. They mainly differ in theory and technique. Where the needles are placed also differs. Before you go requesting either of the two services from your practitioner, you should learn the differences. This article will help you differentiate between acupuncture and dry needling.

What Is Dry Needling?

The dry needling treatment was developed recently to relieve cramps and muscle pain. It can also be used to enhance flexibility. The practitioner will use several stainless steel filiform needles to complete the treatment. They will insert the short needles into the trigger or pressure points. Nothing will be injected into your body because the needles don’t contain any liquid.

Many people have embraced dry needling ever since it was developed. But since it's not regulated, one can perform the treatment without any license or training. But you should get your dry needling services from a massage or physical therapist that has some training. The most common practice is to leave the filiform needles in the pressure points for ten to thirty minutes. But the less common types of dry needling are:

In And Out Technique

This is where the practitioner inserts the needles into your pressure points and removes them immediately. Most of the research agrees that this practice is not very beneficial.

Non-Trigger Point Technique

With the non-trigger technique, the practitioner will insert the filiform needles into the muscle surrounding the pressure points. Instead of attacking the knots or pressure points, they attack the muscles around them..

Dry Needling Benefits

There is very limited research that supports the effectiveness of dry needling. But the ones that exist are positive, and they all support that the treatment does relieve pain. You will get fast pain relief from different parts of the body including, the shoulder, neck, and upper back.

Muscle pain, stiffness, or cramping can hinder you from doing some physical activities. Dry needling can help you regain your range of motion. When you combine the treatment with physical therapy, you will be back to your active lifestyle as soon as possible. You may also increase your flexibility. Most athletes use it to accelerate their recovery.

Side Effects

There are rarely any severe side effects, especially when the treatment is administered correctly. Go to a reliable and experienced practitioner and ensure the filiform needles are sterilized before you receive treatment. This will help you avoid any risks. However, you may experience these mild symptoms after dry needling is complete.

  • Temporary increase in pain

  • Bruising

  • Bleeding

What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient treatment method that was developed in China. It involves the use of long thin needles that help stimulate nerves. It is used to treat a lot of symptoms that relate to stress, discomfort, or pain. It’s used as an alternative treatment or complementary treatment depending on the individual.

The fine needles are inserted under the skin at specific points along what is considered the energy lines. They will ease pain or stress by opening up your chi or energy flow. The treatment has existed for many years, which is why most people are familiar with it.

Before anyone can practice acupuncture, they will need extensive training and a license. The training can take three or more years, and the new practitioners are always supervised before they receive their license. Acupuncture is said to have a lot of benefits that are supported by research.

Acupuncture Benefits

Acupuncture is used to treat a lot of symptoms, including:

  • Aches and muscle pains

  • Headaches and migraines

  • Nausea

  • Menstrual cramping

  • Vomiting

  • Allergies

  • Labor pains

Acupuncture is also commonly used to fight depression and addiction. Addiction can be fatal if not treated; that is why there are so many treatment alternatives, and acupuncture is one of them. Most people who are under antidepressant medications also use acupuncture to ease the symptoms. It helps you relax by relieving stress and tension from the body.

Neck, knee, and lower back pain can also be treated by acupuncture. In most cases, you will have to pair acupuncture with other techniques to get long-lasting results. It's also a potential smoke-quitting therapy. But it's not as effective as nicotine replacement therapy. The treatment has so many benefits; you can use it to promote emotional and physical well-being.

Side Effects

Some of the occasional acupuncture side effects are:

  • Bruising

  • Bleeding

  • Increased pain at the injected spots

Dry Needling Vs. Acupuncture

Dry needling practitioners use the needles to release tension from pressure points and knots. Acupuncturists, on the other hand, attempt to release endorphins by inserting the needles. Acupuncture has been used for centuries as a compliment to other forms of treatment. Because it has existed for a long time, there is a lot of research and evidence about it. Dry needling was adopted a few years ago, so the research available is less comprehensive.

Also, acupuncturists have very strict guidelines they have to adhere to. Dry needling is not regulated; there are no official guidelines yet. Because acupuncture is regulated and has a lot of evidence, it's used for many medical conditions compared to dry needling. These sums up the main differences you need to know.


Hopefully, this gives you a clear understanding of what acupuncture and dry needling are. They are both used to relieve muscle pain, but acupuncture is more advanced. You can use it as an alternative medication when you experience any of the symptoms. The good news for you is that we can perform both services! So book now and be one step closer to feeling your best.

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