Dry Needling Vs Acupuncture Therapy

Thin stainless steel needles are inserted into the skin to treat pain in acupuncture therapy and dry needling. However, a major difference between dry needling and acupuncture is their purpose. While acupuncture stimulates muscles or triggers irritable points, dry needling helps relieve pain and discomfort by balancing a person’s energy flow or chi. Therefore, knowing the difference between the two is necessary to decide which treatment is right for you.


Dry Needling 

Dry needling, also called intramuscular stimulation, has developed more recently. The primary aim of dry needling is to ease muscle cramping/pain, and it may also improve a person’s flexibility and mobility. 


Some of the steps of dry needling include:

  • A practitioner will insert several filiform needles that are dry, fine, short, stainless steel, containing no fluid or liquid into the skin. 
  • The practitioner inserts needles into pressure points, also known as trigger points, knots and tight areas in the muscles. 
  • Needles release the knot and relieve any spasms or muscle pain.

Dry needling addresses the particular body part in pain and focuses more on physical discomfort. The needles will remain in your skin for a short time. However, the most common practice is to leave a filiform needle in the muscle for 10–30 minutes. 

Some of the most common types of dry needling techniques include:

  • The in and out technique
    • Methods called sparrow pecking or pistoning are used in this technique.
    • It relies on in and out needle insertion; the practitioner inserts a filiform needle into the trigger points, pricking it and removing it immediately. 

  • The non-trigger points technique
    • This technique relies on the idea that pain is the consequence of a greater muscular or nerve issue, not just focused on the central area of the pain. 
    • The practitioner also inserts needles in areas around the pain surrounding muscles.


The root of acupuncture lies in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Furthermore, acupuncture is a technique that balances the flow of energy known as chi or qi (chee), which flows through pathways (meridians) in the body. The premise behind acupuncture is that ill health is due to interrupted or blocked energy or chi that usually provides the body with healing energy. Correspondingly, needles are inserted at strategic points to open the patient’s energy flow by removing blockages and bringing the energy flow to a balanced state. Accordingly, acupuncture takes a holistic approach focusing on balancing qi or energy within the body. Thus practitioners insert thin metal needles into various acupoints inside the body manipulated manually to release endorphins, affecting the nervous system that may relieve some symptoms.


 Benefits of Dry Needling 

 Some of the benefits of dry needle therapy include:

  •  Improved blood flow/circulation
  • Promotes natural inflammatory responses of the body that stimulates the natural healing process. 

Even more, stimulating the inflammatory response is a common reason dry needling is frequently recommended to treat muscular distress and pain, sports injuries and fibromyalgia pain.


Benefits of Acupuncture Therapy

Acupuncture is used for a wide range of medical symptoms, diseases and hundreds of conditions to provide relief from a variety of ailments, including:

  • Allergies
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • pain 
  • chronic headaches
  • menstrual cramps
  • stress/anxiety
  • low back pain
  • knee and neck pain 
  • labour-related pain
  • Migraines
  • addiction and depression. 

When effective, acupuncture often provides short-term relief from symptoms by producing endorphins. 


Side Effects of Dry Needling

Dry needling is safe; however, it has some mild side effects, but rare serious side effects. 

With this in mind, some of the common and mild side effects of dry needling include; 

  • Bruising around the injection/insertion sites
  • Temporary soreness
  • Bleeding
  • Mild pain
  • Soft Tissue damage
  • Tiredness
  • Fatigue after treatment may last up to 48 hours. 

However, an essential factor is using sterile needles as non-sterile needs can put the individual at risk of contracting blood-borne pathogens. 


Side Effects of Acupuncture Therapy 

It is uncommon to experience side effects in acupuncture if a licensed and trained acupuncturist performs it. However, again some individuals may develop complications if non-sterile needles are used. 

Some of the more common side effects include:

  •  bruising at the injection site
  •  bleeding and pain at the injection site 

On rare occasions, you may encounter fatigue, tiredness, acupuncture site discomfort and temporary soreness. In addition, individuals with a bleeding disorder, having a pacemaker, and pregnant women are at greater risk of complications. 

Moreover, it is crucial to distinguish between dry needling and acupuncture to decide which therapy suits you and your conditions. 

Are you interested in becoming a licensed acupuncture therapist? 


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