Is dry needling the same as acupuncture?

While acupuncture is a familiar term to many of us, you may not have heard about dry needling and its benefits, or you may be thinking of embarking on a course of dry needling or acupuncture. In this article, we take a look at the two practices and explore the differences between them.

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is the practice of inserting small needles into the body to relieve muscular pain.

The term “dry” is used as the needles don’t inject liquid into the body. They are placed at strategic points in muscle or tissue, like knots or tender areas, and are left there for a short while. This action stimulates the area and releases pain, tension or muscular spasm.

Scientific research tells us that as the body reacts to the needles being inserted, its own healing function is stimulated. Muscles are soothed and function is restored.

This treatment is used to reduce inflammation, relax tight muscles, and speed up recovery in musculoskeletal injury. It can help conditions such as a stiff neck or shoulder pain as a result of poor posture and other chronic pain conditions.

It’s also a popular treatment for sports injuries, ligament strain, and to stimulate tissue repair in chronic conditions such as tennis elbow.

Dry needling can help to correct bad posture by enhancing your mobility and musculoskeletal function, and so safeguards against further issues.

It’s a great treatment to have in conjunction with physiotherapy or pain relief management, complementing their benefits.

This fast-acting and versatile practice can also aid other conditions like tiredness, headaches, menstrual pain, and stress.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a branch of Chinese traditional medicine in which fine needles are inserted into the skin at specific locations to tap into the body’s energy flow. The flow is then restored to a balanced state to enable the body to heal itself.

Acupuncture practitioners believe that the points where the needles are placed are where tissue, nerves, and muscles can be naturally manipulated. In the process, endorphins are released and blood flow is stimulated, helping the body to produce its own natural painkillers and start its own healing process.

This is why acupuncture is used as a treatment for pain and musculoskeletal conditions, as well as other health concerns like anxiety and fertility.

The difference between dry needling and acupuncture

At first glance, dry needling vs. acupuncture is a very similar picture. You would be forgiven for wondering what is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture since both use needles inserted into the body to relieve pain.

Dry needling targets specific areas within the muscles that are causing problems, while acupuncture focuses on 350 “acupuncture points” distributed throughout the human body.

Acupuncture is based on a theory of Chinese Traditional Medicine, while dry needling as we know it today is a more modern innovation that has been developed only in the last couple of decades.

Acupuncturists may take a short course or may study for a degree in Chinese medicine to get a more in-depth knowledge of this ancient practice. On the other hand, while no specific training is required to practise dry needling, it is often performed by experienced practitioners with detailed knowledge of anatomy such as physiotherapists.

What they have in common is their ability to work in harmony with the body, and so both are considered to be natural, low-risk holistic treatments with many benefits.

It’s also interesting to note the link between an ancient Chinese needling technique known as Ah-Shi point needling, which would target local sore points in muscles, and the modern-day practice of dry needling. You can see the similarities and the fact that dry needling in some form has been around for many years, even though it has only recently been validated by evidence-based studies.

Learn more

If you’re intrigued by the practice of dry needling, why not learn more about what our physiotherapists can offer you with this modern and effective treatment? You can also book your appointment online with no referral needed in a few easy clicks.