What’s the difference between acupuncture & dry needling?

You may have wondered, are dry needling & acupuncture the same? Whilst they certainly have their similarities, they do rely on inherently different theories behind the practice.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine practice which aims to alleviate a variety of ailments such as digestive issues, insomnia, chronic pain, and increasingly stress management & inflammation in the body. Acupuncture practitioners believe that inserting needles along meridian lines (representing different organs in the body) will balance a person’s chi – the flow of energy or life force in the body – therefore relieving pain, mental or physical. There is now scientific research that shows needles inserted in specific acupoints stimulate nerve signalling to other parts of the body, including organs.

Dry needling, a treatment developed in the 1980s and grounded in Western medicine principles, involves the insertion of needles into myofascial trigger points, or “knots,” within muscles to alleviate tension and musculoskeletal pain. Commonly utilized in Myotherapy and a variety of physical therapy disciplines, this technique aims to dissipate trigger points by applying targeted pressure and enhancing blood flow to the area. These knots can trap metabolic byproducts like lactic acid and affect local magnesium levels, contributing to muscle discomfort and tension. By releasing these trigger points, dry needling facilitates the expulsion of lactic acid and improves magnesium concentration in the affected muscles. The process not only breaks the cycle of tension and pain but also promotes increased blood circulation, ensuring the removal of accumulated metabolic byproducts and the delivery of essential nutrients, including magnesium. This improved biochemical balance and enhanced blood flow further support the healing process, making dry needling an effective approach for addressing musculoskeletal pain and facilitating muscle recovery.

As you can see, both practices utilise thin needles to make change within the body but are based on different theories and beliefs. They can both be used for musculoskeletal conditions and chronic pain, but dry needling is more targeted for muscle relief and postural re-patterning and acupuncture more towards alleviating internal ailments


Some of the conditions we can use dry needling for include, but not limited to:

– Chronic lower back pain

– Neck pain and tension headaches

– Shoulder impingement syndrome

– Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)

– Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis)

– Carpal tunnel syndrome

– Knee pain, including patellofemoral pain syndrome

– Ankle sprains

– Achilles tendinopathy

– Plantar fasciitis

– Sciatica

– Hip pain, including piriformis syndrome

– Myofascial pain syndrome

– Fibromyalgia

– Osteoarthritis

– Repetitive strain injuries

– Muscle strains and sprains

– Post-surgical pain

– Migraine and tension-type headaches

– Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)

– Sports injuries

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