What's The Difference Between Acupuncture And Dry Needling?

October 22, 2019

From the outside, dry needling and acupuncture look like identical practices. Both involve the insertion of thin needles into the skin in order to treat pain. Both are a part of the wellness market, which is growing by 6.9% every year in North America. However, there are a couple of key differences between the two that you should know. Let's take a look at the many similarities between acupuncture and dry needling and the important ways in which they differ.

The Similarities 

People turn to both dry needling and acupuncture as a natural medicine to relieve pain. Dry needling practitioners focus on the body's "trigger points" in the muscle and tissue. By carefully inserting needles into these points, practitioners claim they can release knots and relieve muscle pain or spasms. Some dry needling practitioners don't focus on trigger points and insert needles at points around the area of pain, making the practice even more similar to acupuncture.

Acupuncturists also insert thin needles into certain areas of the body in order to relieve pain. Rather than focusing on trigger points, acupuncturists seek to remove blockages that disrupt the body's chi. Acupuncture has also been used to treat nausea, headaches, menstrual cramps, vomiting, and allergies. It's also been used as a natural treatment for anxiety.

Both practices are typically free of risks and side effects. After either procedure, patients may experience bruising or temporary soreness where the needles were inserted. This soreness tends to go away quickly after the procedures.

The Differences

As mentioned above, there is a slight difference between the two practices in the reasoning behind why practitioners place needles in certain spots. Acupuncture's focus on chi connects to another difference between the two. While dry needling is a treatment that has come about in recent decades, acupuncture is a medical treatment that has been used for hundreds, or even thousands, of years.

Acupuncture originated within traditional Chinese medicine. With its connection to other Chinese herbal remedies, the inclusion of chi in the practice makes sense. Chi provides your body with healing energy and the goal of balancing it is involved in much of Chinese medicine.

The other major difference between dry needling and acupuncture is that physical therapists are the primary practitioners of dry needling. As a newer practice, there aren't regulatory guidelines or opportunities for extensive training in dry needling. Expert acupuncturists, on the other hand, train for three to four years and must take a test from the national board of examiners. After passing this test, they receive a license to practice acupuncture and must take instructional courses every year to maintain their license. While the American Medical Association accepts acupuncture as a medical treatment, dry needling is not yet recognized as such.

When it comes down to it, the most significant difference between dry needling and acupuncture is who is inserting the needles. However, both can provide pain relief and other benefits to patients. Contact The Emperor's Medicine today to learn more about the treatments and how they can help improve your quality of life.