It’s quite common to experience mild muscular pain after you workout, do housework, play sports, or perform any other strenuous work. However, if the pain is persistent or chronic in nature and is hindering with daily activities, seeking proper treatment is very important otherwise it can lead to secondary problems. One of the most common and popular treatments for muscular pain in recent times is dry needling. However, people often confuse dry needling with acupuncture. Although both practices fall under the umbrella of therapeutic treatment options and involve puncturing the skin with thin needles in order to provide relief from pain, there are a number of differences.
Dry Needling Vs Acupuncture
Before we discuss the differences between dry needling and acupuncture, let’s shed some light on the similarities between the two. Both dry needling and acupuncture use very fine filament, non-injectable needles. In both practices, these fine needles are inserted into the skin. Both claim to treat pain and assist in injury rehabilitation. This is where the similarities between the two end.
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years as an alternative treatment for a number of musculoskeletal dysfunctions and myofascial pain, whereas dry needling is a relatively new technique and is based on modern anatomy and physiology. Acupuncture is designed to relieve pain and discomfort by opening up a person’s energy flow; whereas dry needling is focused on stimulating the “trigger points” in order release the tension and “knots” in the muscles and ease muscular pain.
Dry needling, also referred to as “trigger point dry needling” (TDN) or intramuscular stimulation (IMS) is the Western version of the traditional Chinese Acupuncture which focuses on and targets trigger points of the body instead of altering the flow of energy (Qi/chi) to relieve tension, stress, and pain.
Dry Needling Treatment
During a typical dry needling procedure, the therapist inserts several short, stainless steel filiform needles into the pressure points also referred to as “trigger points” of the affected area. Dry needling works on the theory that when the trigger points are stimulated with these needles, it involuntarily contracts the affected muscles due to reflexive signal from the brain. The muscle contraction, in turn, allows the affected muscles to ease and relax, relieving pain.
Conditions that can be treated with Dry Needling
Dry needling can be used to manage and treat several types of pain such as:
- muscular pain
- headaches and migraines
- back pain
- muscle spasms
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique that entails stimulating specific points of the body (based on the meridian system) by inserting thin filiform needles to create a balance in the body’s energy flow (Qi/chi) to alleviate pain and restore energetic balance.
Just like dry needling, acupuncture also involves inserting long, thin filiform needles to stimulate points in the muscles. Instead of focusing on the trigger points, the therapist targets the “meridians” to create a more harmonious flow of energy (Qi/chi).
Conditions that can be treated with Acupuncture
Unlike dry needling, acupuncture may be employed to treat almost any medical ailment including but not limited to:
- high blood pressure
- muscular pain
- joint pain
- labor-related pain
- back pain
It is important to note that it is the basic philosophy that differentiates these treatments. Acupuncture is based on the “meridians” of the body, whereas dry needling focuses on “trigger points” or “knots” in muscle fibres for the treatment of specific conditions.