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Acupuncture vs Dry Needling

One of the most frequently asked question by physiotherapy patients is “what is the difference between acupuncture and dry needling?”. This short article will brief and clarify our readers, exactly what the difference is.

What is acupuncture?

Traditional Chinese Acupuncture has been around for at least 3000 years but only reached the Western world around 300 years ago. It uses the meridians based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine’s diagnostic and clinical reasoning. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the concept that injuries and/or illness is caused from an imbalance in the body’s energy.

This is where they believe that Yin and Yang play a role. Yin and Yang are two cosmic regulators which is believed to assist in normal existence. The individual structures of the body were also thought to have either Yin or Yang qualities. Therefore, to prevent disease, it was vital to correct the state of balance within the body.

To correct this, it was believed that Yin and Yang only exists when there is a form of energy known as ‘chi’, that flows freely through our body systems. Therefore, acupuncture needles were used to inject specific meridian pathways to improve this flow.

In conclusion, Traditional Chinese Acupuncture is used for therapeutic purposes using acupuncture needles to insert into the meridian pathways to improve ‘chi’ flow to restore balance in the body’s systems.

What is dry needling?

The term ‘dry needling’ was created by Dr. Jannit Travell. She initially used to inject solutions such as anaesthetics into trigger points. However, there were also times where she did not inject solutions into the trigger points and this was known as ‘dry needling’.

Dry needling is an invasive procedure that is inserted into the skin and muscles of the trigger point to deactivate the trigger point which assists in the treatment of myofascial pain.

Difference between ACUPUNCTURE and DRY NEEDLING:

Pathophysiological Mechanism Acupuncture points are found in specific meridian pathways. Trigger points are found in muscles.
Clinical Application Used for diagnostic and treatment of pathological conditions. Used for assessment and treatment of myofascial pain syndrome caused from myofascial trigger points.
Physiological Response Regulates balance in the body’s system through release of endorphins to relieve pain. Pain relief through deactivating the trigger points which removes the nociceptive (pain sensation) focus of the muscle.
Needling Technique Uses more than one needle to achieve pain relief and balance. One needle is efficient to achieve twitch response of muscle to relieve pain.
Follow-up Treatment Nothing needs to done for follow-up treatment. Myofascial stretching is essential to restore length of muscle.
Risks Pain at insertion site, bruising, bleeding, pneumothorax. Pain at insertion site, bruising, bleeding, pneumothorax.
Benefits Relief in pain, nausea, vomit, headaches, menstrual cramps and allergies. Relief in muscular pain and stiffness, increases range of motion and flexibility.

Acupuncture and dry needling are both used for relief of pain and stiffness however, the application is different. Acupuncture follows meridian pathways whereas dry needling uses trigger points to determine the insertion of the needle.

Both treatments are both equally effective in their own mannerism. At our practice, we have highly qualified practitioners on dry needling and have been doing this for years. The practitioners see at first hand the benefits it gives to their clients. Therefore, when you decide to come for treatment, specifically some dry needling, please rest assure, you are in good hands.