Dry Needling vs Acupuncture

Dry needling vs acupuncture is subject of discussion for this article. One may mistake dry needling for acupuncture, seeing that both practices involve the use of needles, but there are a lot of distinguishing features between the two, starting from their medicinal origins. This article explores both practices while stating their differences.


Before comparing dry needling vs acupuncture, let’s look dry needling as a topic. Dry needling, also known as Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN), is a technique use to reduce soreness and tension in your body.
During treatment, a specialist inserts several short, stainless steel needles which do not inject fluid into what is known as the “trigger points” in your body.

Trigger points, also known as muscle knots, are the sensitive spots in the muscle’s soft tissues. Pressure placed on these spots as a result of stress or injury causes pain. Dry needling is designed to relieve painful conditions such as headache, back pain, sciatica, and muscle strain.



When needles are inserted into your trigger points, it desensitizes them, hence, reducing pain and inducing healing and that is the main essence of this post “dry needling vs acupuncture”

There are 2 major techniques used in dry needling:

a) In-and-out techniques: Otherwise called pistoning or sparrow pecking. When the specialist inserts the needles, he doesn’t leave them inserted for a long period. The needles prick the trigger points and are removed almost instantly.

b) The non-trigger points technique: This is based on the belief that pain is as a result of a greater nerve or muscular tissue, so instead of the specialist inserting needles at your trigger points, he inserts them around your trigger points. The technique focuses on healing your central nervous system.


A lot of research has not been done on dry needling, but in 2013, study showed that it is an effective treatment for those who suffer muscle pain and sports injuries.
In addition to easing the trigger points and reducing pain, it can also improve flexibility, speed up recovery and increase your range of motion.


In studying dry needling vs acupuncture, we notice that severe risks are extremely rare in dry needling, however, common side effects such as bruising, bleeding, and temporary soreness are experienced around the site where needles were inserted.


If non-sterile needles are used, you are at risk of contacting blood-borne diseases, so endeavour that your specialist used new sterile needles for your treatment and disposes of them after. Save yourself and the next person.


Acupuncture is an ancient Asian technique that is believed to relieve stress, pain, and discomfort, by opening up a person’s chi.

Acupuncture requires a significant period of training. The training involves identifying symptoms, diagnosing conditions, and using correct techniques with needles.

This could take 3 or more years. Before you can become a licensed acupuncturist, you must pass a series of exams from the National Board and must continue to pass more exams each year, even after receiving your license.

Research has shown that acupuncture can be used in treating many health conditions such as depression, migraines, arthritis, digestive problems, insomnia, and stress. 
More research is conducted to find out what more ailments it can be used to treat.


The idea supporting acupuncture is that the nerve stimulation opens your energy flow (chi) through pathways in your body. So by inserting needles into specific points along these pathways, it is believed that your energy flow is balanced.

Medical acupuncture involved using long thin needles to stimulate nerves in your muscle and under your skin. The needles are left in place for 15-30 minutes. This results in the production of endorphins, which may relieve pain.


Acupuncture is used in treating several medical conditions and symptoms like pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, menstrual cramps, allergies, depression, and even sometimes, cases of addiction.


If you have a bleeding disorder, you are at risk of having excessive bleeding during acupuncture and if you are pregnant, beware of what form of acupuncture treatment you receive because some forms of acupuncture can lead to premature delivery through labour stimulation.
Once again, beware of non-sterile needles being used.


Both dry needling vs acupuncture use needles to relieve pain, however, this is the end of their similarities.
Acupuncture is a well-regulated ancient practice that requires years of training and is backed by more definitive research, whereas, dry needling is a newer practice, training does not take long and no formal regulation is in place, so research on it is limited.

While acupuncture can be used in treating various medical conditions, dry needling is best suited for muscle pain and tightness.

In its mechanism of action, acupuncture targets points along a pathway that represents bodily organs, with the sim of balancing your energy flow, while in dry needling, the needles are inserted in specific trigger points, to release tension.


If you have a case of sore or muscle ache, consult with your doctor on what treatment will be best for you, it could be dry needling or acupuncture, as people respond to treatment differently.

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