What is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?
This is a question that comes up all the time in the clinic. Whilst dry needling and acupuncture seem to be the same thing, they are very different.
In fact the only thing they really have in common is that they use the same type of needles. You see in acupuncture and dry needling we use acupuncture needles.
These needles are really thin - 0.25mm (1/4 of a millimetre), so they are nothing like hypodermic needles and that is why you can’t really feel them when they go in. A human hair is anywhere from 0.08 - 0.12mm thick, so these needles are around the thickness of 2-3 hairs.
What separates Dry Needling and Acupuncture is the approach and philosophy.
Acupuncture is based in traditional Chinese medicine (T.C.M). This is a major form of medicine in China and is very different to Western style medicine. TCM uses a system of meridians in the body, which are like energy lines that run throughout the whole body. The idea is that if there is a blockage along one of those lines then it could be causing a dysfunction in the body. Acupuncture can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions and not just musculoskeletal injuries. The needles generally aren’t inserted all that far into the body, generally just into the skin. Usually you won’t feel very much. Sometimes you can feel a sensation elsewhere in your body. Acupuncture can also be considered quite relaxing.
Dry needling on the other hand is a western approach, involving the needles being inserted into the trigger point in the muscle. The trigger point is a point in the muscle that is defined as a small tender nodule within a taut band of tissue. Usually this is what most people would call a knot. The needle is inserted into this point and we aim to get a twitch or contraction from the muscle. This can help the muscle tissue to let go and reduce the tension. It also helps to bring blood flow to the area to help your own body heal the injury. Dry needling is definitely more painful than acupuncture as it is actually going into your muscle tissue. Most people explain the sensation as “weird” more so that painful. I find that it can be a bit of a surprise as you usually don’t feel very much and then suddenly, when the trigger point is stimulated, you will feel the muscle twitch. I always say that it won’t be as painful as my elbows digging into you.
So there you have it. These are the major differences between Dry Needling and Acupuncture. So if you are looking for dry needling you need to make sure that the practitioner is trained in dry needling and not just acupuncture. And vice versa, if you are looking for Acupuncture then this needs to be performed by someone qualified in it.
At Muscle Therapy Australia we are all trained in Dry Needling and find it helps us to get great results.
If you would like to try dry needling or find out more, don’t hesitate to get in touch or book in a session now.