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Dry Needling Vs. Acupuncture

Dry Needling Vs. Acupuncture

Both dry needling and acupuncture require the use of thin needles. Therefore, it is understandable that there could be a mix-up between these two physiotherapy techniques. However, dry needling and acupuncture differ in methods, applications, and benefits. This article explores dry needling vs. acupuncture. You will also learn which therapy suits your condition better at Dynamic Physiotherapy.

What Is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a physiotherapy technique that alleviates pain and improves function by inserting thin needles into the skin, muscles, and other tissues. Dry needling is called “dry” because no medication is injected through the needles. Furthermore, the type of needles used in dry needling physiotherapy is the same as in acupuncture therapy.

During a dry needling session, your physiotherapist in Okotoks will insert the needles into trigger points to alleviate pain. Trigger points are bands of sore muscles or connective tissues that are painful to touch. Upon insertion of the dry needles, the trigger points feel a prick, releasing the tension, reducing pain, improving blood flow, and promoting healing.

Furthermore, needle pricks trigger the body's natural painkillers, like endorphins, during dry needling to speed up healing.

What Are The Benefits Of Dry Needling?

Dry needling in Okotoks, AB, offers several benefits, including fast pain relief, restoring range of motion, and improving chronic conditions.

Fast pain relief

Trigger points can occur in any body part but are more common in the upper back, shoulder, and neck. When dry needles are inserted in these trigger points, the knots relax and improve blood flow. With improved circulation, the blood carries the painful wastes away and supplies oxygen and nutrients that speed up the healing.

Improved range of motion

Trigger points are painful and can restrict movement. And unfortunately, without frequent movement, the muscles become weak and lose mass. A dry needling session can release the knots. But this treatment is often done with a physiotherapy program to retrain the muscles, rebuild strength, and prevent a recurrence.

Accelerated recovery

After an injury or surgery, it is necessary for the body to heal correctly. Dry needling as part of a physiotherapy program can help accelerate recovery.

Improved chronic conditions

Dry needling can improve chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome. Fibromyalgia is pain and muscle tenderness - this chronic pain affects movement and causes trigger points. Fortunately, dry needling can help patients with fibromyalgia experience pain relief.

On the other hand, myofascial pain syndrome occurs when trigger points develop in the fascia. The fascia is a sheet of connective tissues surrounding and supporting the organs, blood vessels, nerves, and muscles. Again, dry needling can help relieve this pain.

What Conditions Does Dry Needling Treat?

Dry needling treatment is used to treat several conditions, including;

  • Muscle pain and tension.
  • Joint pain and stiffness.
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • Neck and back pain.
  • Plantar fasciitis.
  • Sciatica.
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Pelvic pain.
  • Tendonitis.

What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture in Okotoks, AB, is based on traditional Chinese medicine therapy. This treatment involves the insertion of thin needles into the body. However, unlike dry needling, the needles are inserted along the body's meridians. The meridians are the energy pathways corresponding to the body's organs and functions.

Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the body's energy or qi flows through the meridians. And if there is an imbalance in energy, illness or pain is bound to occur. Inserting needles in these acupuncture points helps to balance qi flow and promote natural healing.

What Are The Benefits Of Acupuncture?

Acupuncture also offers several benefits, including pain relief, acting as a complementary treatment, and having a low risk of side effects.

Pain relief

Acupuncture stimulates the sensory nerves in the muscles and under the skin. This action stimulates the body's natural painkillers, also known as endorphins, to relieve pain. Acupuncture is an effective pain relief therapy. Therefore, you should see pain relief after a session of acupuncture. However, for chronic pain, it may take up to 3 sessions for the pain to subside.

Low-risk side effects

Although acupuncture comes with its side effects, they are usually mild, and not everyone experiences it. The side effects of the therapy include bruising and pain at the needle insertion site. Usually, this side effect wears off in a few hours.

Complementary treatment

Acupuncture is often used as a complementary therapy with other treatments to treat illnesses and diseases effectively. Fortunately, acupuncture is a flexible treatment that targets numerous health concerns simultaneously.  

Versatile treatment

Acupuncture is a versatile treatment method used for treating several conditions. Because the treatment focuses on energy flow and balance in the body, physiotherapists can use acupuncture to treat specific ailments. Furthermore, the therapy promotes health and wellness for physical and emotional well-being.

What Conditions Does Acupuncture Treat?

Acupuncture is used to treat several illnesses, including;

  • Chronic pain.
  • Digestive disorders.
  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Insomnia.
  • Menstrual cramps.
  • Dental pain.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • Lower back pain.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Neck pain.

Dry Needling Vs. Acupuncture – Similarities

Dry needling and acupuncture involve using needles without medication to promote pain relief and heal illnesses. Furthermore, both therapies stimulate the body's natural painkiller, endorphin.

Dry Needling Vs. Acupuncture – Differences

Although dry needling and acupuncture are similar, they are also different. The techniques and conditions treated are different. For instance, the dry needling approach focuses on releasing muscle trigger points and alleviating pain. Acupuncture, however, targets specific points in the body along the meridians to balance energy flow and stimulate healing.

Furthermore, dry needling is used to treat musculoskeletal conditions and relieve pain. Conversely, acupuncture is used to treat a wider range of conditions. This therapy is also used as a complementary therapy with other treatments to improve health and well-being.

Dry Needling Vs. Acupuncture For Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain. This condition occurs when there is an inflammation in the thick band of tissue that runs from the bottom of the foot to the heel bone and the toes. This condition causes stabbing pain, especially in the mornings and after long periods of standing or standing up after sitting.

Obesity, age, exercises like long-distance running, and occupations that keep you on your feet are risk factors for plantar fasciitis. And without proper treatment, it can result in chronic heel pain that hinders your regular activities.

Both dry needling and acupuncture can be used to treat plantar fasciitis. Dry needling targets the fascia around the foot's plantar heel to stimulate muscle healing, reduce pain, and restore foot balance. It usually takes about three sessions to see significant pain reductions with dry needling for plantar fasciitis.

Acupuncture is also an effective treatment for plantar fasciitis. However, it may take about four to eight weeks of acupuncture to significantly reduce pain from plantar fasciitis.

Dry Needling Vs. Acupuncture For Sciatica

Sciatica pain is lower back and leg pain often caused by nerve irritation, pinching, or inflammation. Because the sciatic nerve travels from the lower back through the buttocks and hips to each leg, inflammation can cause pain in these areas.

Sciatica pain symptoms can range from a mild ache to a stabbing pain. Sometimes, the pain may feel like a jolt or an electric shock. The risk factors for sciatica include age, prolonged sitting, obesity, and occupations that involve twisting the back or carrying heavy loads.

Dry needling can reduce tightness in the spinal muscles to reduce tension between the sciatic nerve and vertebrae. However, significantly reducing pain may take multiple sessions within two to four weeks.

Acupuncture is effective for treating sciatica. The therapy can relax tight muscles, improve blood circulation, and regulate the nervous system. Patients with sciatica pain may need about two to three acupuncture sessions to find pain relief. But patients with chronic sciatica pain may require up to eight to 12 treatments.

Dry Needling Vs. Acupuncture – Which Therapy Is Best For You?

Although both dry needling and acupuncture improve health, not everyone responds to both therapy options the same way. Dry needling is a newer practice than acupuncture and is more suited to pain relief for musculoskeletal conditions. Acupuncture, on the other hand, is a much more established therapy that can target specific medical conditions and promote healing.

Furthermore, you may not qualify for dry needling if you are pregnant. However, conversely, acupuncture has proven beneficial and effective treatment during pregnancy. Consequently, depending on your condition and symptoms, one therapy method may be better for you.

Generally, it is advisable to visit your physiotherapist for an examination to determine the best treatment option for you. Your personal preferences, medical history, and the condition you want to treat are factors that may influence the decision on the best therapy for you.


Although dry needling and acupuncture are similar therapies, they are different. Both treatments promote pain relief. However, the conditions, their respective techniques, the conditions they treat, and where the needles are inserted differ.

Acupuncture and dry needling are similar yet different. Regardless of your symptoms, you can't choose one without visiting a physiotherapist. It is best to visit Dynamic Physiotherapy for a consultation and evaluation of your symptoms to get an appropriate treatment plan.

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