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At a glance, dry needling and acupuncture appear to have a lot in common used by practitioners. But if you look a bit deeper, you’ll see that the two modalities have marked differences. Let’s answer ‘What is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture’?

What Do Dry Needling And Acupuncture Have In Common?

Both acupuncture and dry needling make use of fine, stainless steel needles that are used to penetrate the skin. Both treatment modalities can be used in the treatment of pain. 

Acupuncture is used to address discomfort, pain and bodily issues by unblocking your energy flow. It’s an ancient Chinese practice that has many loyal followers. 

Dry needling is a newer technique that has only been explored over the past few decades and its objective is to stimulate trigger points.

What Is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a treatment that is performed for the relief of muscle pain. Short, sharp needles are used in trigger points of the body. These needles do not inject any fluid which is why they are referred to as “Dry”. 

Also known as intramuscular stimulation, the practice of dry needling is to relieve hard, knotted muscles. The belief is that by inserting the needle into the knotted or tense muscle, muscle spasms can be released.

The needle is left in the muscle for a period of time to be determined by your practitioner.

Who does it?

Dry needling is typically performed by physiotherapists and sports practitioners within Western medicine. There is currently no certification or supervision offered by a regulatory body in terms of dry needling, however, practitioners do receive training.

What are the benefits?

Dry needling may be recommended to relieve muscle stiffness and soreness. By activating trigger points it is also believed that flexibility and range of motion can be increased.

Dry needling can be used for the treatment of sports injuries, fibromyalgia and muscle pain.

What are the side effects?

Side effects are mild and rare. The most common side effects relate to the penetration sites and may include

  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Soreness
  • Bruising

What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of Chinese Traditional Medicine that is believed to have been practised for thousands of years. It is recognised as a registered medical treatment.

The underlying premise of acupuncture is that illness and discomfort are the results of blocked energy or Qi in the body. Through the process of placing fine needles at acupuncture points or meridians, practitioners may help you to release these blockages. Modern research has indicated that acupuncture may be effective because it results in the release of endorphins, thus making it effective to treat pain disorders.

The acupuncture practitioner will place short needles at certain points in the body. They will be left in for a period of time. Your practitioner may twist or move them around during your treatment.

Who does it?

Practitioners are required to be registered by the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia, and there are currently thousands of registered practitioners offering acupuncture.

Acupuncture is widely accepted as a form of treatment, with research indicating that 10% of Australians have tried it, and 80% of GPs have referred patients out for acupuncture therapy.

Furthermore, all private health insurance providers offer rebates for acupuncture therapy. 

What are the benefits?

Acupuncture has been said to be beneficial for a variety of ailments including

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Pain
  • Allergies
  • Menstrual cramps

It has also been found to be beneficial in the treatment of lower back pain, shoulder pain and knee pain. Furthermore, there is promising research around its use in the treatment of depressive disorders and smoking cessation. 

What are the side effects?

The side effects and risks associated with acupuncture are rare when the procedure is performed by an experienced and licensed practitioner. Most of them pertain to the sites that the needles are inserted into:

  • Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Pain at the site of injection

What Are The Differences Between Dry Needling And Acupuncture?

Dry needling falls under Western medicine and is generally used in sports medicine. Acupuncture is a form of Chinese Traditional Medicine and can be used to treat a variety of ailments.

acupunture and dry needling treatments chatswoodDry needling is not regulated whereas acupuncture is managed under the regulatory framework of the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia.

Acupuncture needles are inserted into specific energy points or meridians in order to release energetic blockages and stimulate the production of endorphins for pain treatment. Dry needling is done to relieve muscle stiffness and spasms and to improve flexibility by inserting the needles into trigger points in muscles.

What Do Dry Needling And Acupuncture Have In Common?

Both approaches make use of needles that are inserted superficially under the skin but the technique, outcome and indications are different for both types of treatment.

If you want to know more about ‘What is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture’ and which approach could benefit your ailment, it’s best to speak to a professional before embarking on any medical treatment. Please contact us for an appointment: (02) 9884 9300.


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