Acupuncture vs. Dry Needling

Acupuncture and dry needling both involve the use of very thin needles, which are inserted into the skin. The purpose of both the procedures is almost the same, that is, to restore the flow of energy through the body and relax the muscles/ organs. Sure there are many similarities between the two procedures; to the extent that a lot of people end up confused between the two and a lot more who just end up assuming that the two are the same.

But the truth of the ‘acupuncture vs. dry needling’ debate is that while their similarities stand, there are many differences between the two. Listed below are a few points which highlight the acupuncture vs. dry needling debate and shine light on some of the most important components of both these procedures.

acupuncture vs. dry needling

  • Firstly acupuncture is a tradition which originated more than 5000 years ago (as per some sources) in Chine. In comparison, dry needling seems like a pretty new technique which was devised in late 1970s or 1980s by a physician.
  • The underlying philosophy for the both the treatments also differ. In acupuncture, the needles are inserted at the pressure points which a located along the meridian lines and correspond to various organs in the body. The idea is to balance out and maintain the free flow of energy/ electricity throughout the body.
  • The philosophy behind dry needling differs from acupuncture. It is observed that muscles that are overworked may develop acute pain and trigger points are formed in those muscles. The needles are inserted at these particular trigger points to release those triggers and that tension.
  • The methodologies of the two methods also differ. Under acupuncture practice very thin needles are inserted under the skin of the patient, right at the acupuncture points. The needles are then retained in that position for a period varying anywhere between 15 minutes to 30 minutes.
  • As against this, under dry needling needles similar to acupuncture needles are inserted at the trigger points in the muscles. The needles under this technique are not retained, instead they are meant to extract a quick twitch like response from the respective muscle.
  • Another point of consideration between these two techniques is level of pain that can be induced under these two. Acupuncture is a more subtle technique which may elicit only a dull/ slightly achy response at the point of insertion. The pinch sensation goes away soon. But under dry needling, since the needles are inserted at the exact trigger points in muscles, the response is a cramp like sensation which may be higher in intensity.
  • All in all, acupuncture is a more gentle technique which is used for many internal issues/ conditions. The issues may include- stress, digestive issues, insomnia and cases of chronic pains. Dry needling on the other hand is more of a physical modality which is used majorly in cases of neuromuscular dysfunction.

With all the points of differences mentioned above, there is no single answer for which technique is better. The answer to that concern differs for each individual and his conditions.