Difference between Dry Needling and Acupuncture?

What is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture? Acupuncture and dry needling have been seeing a massive growth in popularity around the world, particularly in the West. There is more and more research that shows the incredible benefits that both of these practices can provide that ranges from physical to mental health benefits.

However, there is some confusion among people about exactly what the difference between dry needling and acupuncture actually is. Having a good understanding of what each of these treatments are and the benefits they can bring will help you to decide which treatment is best for you.

Dry Needling

Dry Needling is a very recent treatment that was developed to help with muscular pains. During a session of dry needling the practitioner will very carefully insert a series of needles, known as filiform needles, into trigger points on your body.

The short filiform needles do not inject any kind of fluid into the body which is why the practice is called ‘dry needling’.

Inserting needles into these trigger points will cause intramuscular stimulation that help to relieve pain and unknots tension in muscular areas of the body. The needles will be left in your skin for a short period of time after which they are removed. The positive effects are felt instantly by the patient.

For the best results patients should undergo frequent dry needling, ideally within 48-72 hours of the last treatment. This has been shown in tests to produce the greatest effects and longer lasting relief from pain or the symptoms that are being treated.

What Conditions Can be Treated with Dry Needling?

  • Lower back and neck pain.
  • Arm and shoulder aches and pains.
  • Repetitive stress syndrome.
  • Foot and ankle sprains.
  • Achilles tendonitis.
  • Hip and Leg Pains.
  • Sciatica, calf tightness and muscle strains.
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • Jaw pains.


Acupuncture is an ancient practice that emerged in China and has spread around the world, growing in popularity and acceptance. Acupuncture uses tiny needles that are inserted into the skin to release inner energy channels, known as ‘Chi’ in the Oriental medical practices.

Acupuncture has a huge benefit for its patients and is conducted by highly trained technicians who can relieve pain, help with aching joints and much more. Practitioners of acupuncture undergo intense training and must take regular tests with the national board of examiners to continue to practice in the West.

What Conditions Can Be Treated With Acupuncture?

  • Acupuncture has been proved to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Relieves back pain and neck, shoulder and arm tension.
  • Scientifically shown to eliminate migraines and ease eye tension.
  • Helps with focus and mental acuity.
  • Can benefit your digestive system and your body’s immune system.
  • Relieves the symptoms of allergies.
  • Improves flexibility.
  • Reduces muscle pain and tension.

Which is covered by Insurance?

Depending on your insurance plan both acupuncture and dry needling may be included. To make sure about this you will need to check with your insurer and if you don’t have an insurance policy which covers them then you can shop around to find an insurance company that will cover these types of treatment.

Both acupuncture and dry needling have a record of proven success even if some of the mechanisms of the procedures are not fully understood by science. Many patients who have benefited from both of these practices swear by the results and if you haven’t tried either of these yet then it’s something that is definitely worth looking into.

Dry Needling from a Physical Therapist vs Acupuncture – Who is better?

The two practices are quite similar, which is the root of much of the confusion, however there are some important differences. Dry needling is a far more modern practice that many argue is based more on scientific evidence than acupuncture.

Practitioners of dry needling argue that while acupuncture is concerned with releasing the ‘Chi’ or energy flows within the body dry needling has real scientific proof that it works. Physicians in the West who practice dry needling use it to improve the range of movement in patients, often following an accident. Otherwise they use it to relieve pain, boost mobility and to help to address neuromuscular issues.

On the surface both practices, dry needling and acupuncture, appear to be very similar, and both have a great record for helping patients, however, from the practitioner’s point of view there are important differences. The training is different, as is the philosophy behind the practices, however, both are effective and gaining in popularity.

Whatever Works for You is the Best Treatment!

Both of these fantastic treatment methods have their advantages and there is no reason why you can’t employ both to maximize your health benefits. Dry needling is a much newer practice, but it has learnt a lot from the skills of the ancient practices of acupuncture.

Different patients have different opinions and while some swear by the benefits of acupuncture others prefer dry needling. The best way to find out is to try both and see which works better for you.

It’s a good idea to leave at least a few days in between different sessions. If you have been struggling with traditional medical and drug based treatments and are having no success in dealing with the issues that you face then trying both acupuncture and dry needling to see what works for you could be solution that you have been looking for.

Keep an Open Mind

When approaching any type of new therapy, it’s important that you keep an open mind. Go into the treatment session with no expectations and try not to bring negative judgements with you. Allow the practitioner to work on you and see how it feels. The results may well surprise you as is often reported in the testimonies of people who begin these types of therapy!

If You’ve Never Tried Alternative Therapies, It Could be the Gateway to a Better Life.

Whether you’re considering trying acupuncture or dry needling both of these therapies can be life changing. It can be daunting to try something new but with the huge amount of scientific data and personal testimonies you can be sure that you will find the relief you need. Whether it’s mental, physical or another form of condition these revolutionary treatments are changing the way we see medicine.


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