Acupuncture vs Dry Needling: What's the Difference?

Learn about five main differences between dry needling and acupuncture needles to help you decide which one is best for you.

Acupuncture vs Dry Needling: What's the Difference?

As a result, the patient experience will be very different between these two different forms of treatment.


isn't painful at all, but dry needling is. Another key difference between dry needling and acupuncture is the amount of training needed to administer each of these forms of treatment. Instead of using meridians, dry needling focuses on specific muscles or tendons to provide a very localized response.

Dry needling is also a deeper treatment, reaching the muscle. In the case of dry needling, you may see a contraction response when the needle hits the trigger point, especially when electrical stimulation is combined with a needle, which is another factor that differentiates dry needling. Widely accepted as a medical treatment, acupuncture supports the use of acupuncture to relieve stress, pain, and discomfort. On the other hand, if a person has been suffering from chronic complaints due to long-term conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, acupuncture may be more appropriate, as this technique helps to regulate hormones throughout the body, helping to promote healing over time, rather than providing temporary relief by focusing only on certain trigger points.

Or maybe you need acupuncture, a part of traditional Chinese medicine, which uses energy lines called meridians. Acupuncture has been shown to help relieve chronic pain more effectively than dry needling, in some cases because of its ability to regulate hormones and stimulate healing throughout the body. Acupuncture has existed for centuries as a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with an emphasis on holistic healing, while dry needling is a modern Western medical technique that focuses on the treatment of physical dysfunction and pain. Another benefit is that it requires fewer sessions than acupuncture, as needle placement is more specific and specific.

For example, one study found that combining dry needling and acupuncture was more effective than either of the two separate treatments in relieving sciatica symptoms. So what's the difference between dry needling done by an MSK specialist (PT, CHIRO) and an acupuncturist? Both dry needling and acupuncture share similarities, such as the use of fine acupuncture needles, but they differ in the approach, techniques, and conditions they treat. Those aspiring to become expert acupuncturists must undergo training for three or more years until they learn to identify symptoms, diagnose conditions and use the right needle techniques. Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine, which uses needles to follow energy fields or channels.

Acupuncturists can use a certain number of needles to do this, and the depth of the tissue into which they insert the needle is usually superficial, little more than the depth of the skin.

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