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Dry Needling vs Acupuncture? How to Choose the Right Treatment for You

Dry Needling VS Acupuncture

We’ll explore the differences between dry needling and acupuncture, two popular forms of therapy that involve the use of needles. We’ll examine the techniques, benefits, and potential side effects of each treatment to help you determine which one is best suited for your individual needs. Whether you’re seeking relief from pain, muscle tension, or other health concerns, this article will provide valuable insights to help you make an informed decision.



What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical practice that involves the insertion of thin, sterile needles into specific points on the body. It is based on the concept of energy flow or Qi (pronounced “chee”) through channels or meridians in the body. According to the theory, when Qi is blocked or imbalanced, it can cause pain, illness, or other health problems. By stimulating certain acupuncture points, practitioners aim to restore the flow of Qi and promote healing. Acupuncture is commonly used to alleviate pain, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.

Which conditions & Injuries can be treated with Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is commonly used to treat a wide range of injuries and conditions, including:

  1. Musculoskeletal pain, such as back pain, neck pain, and joint pain
  2. Headaches and migraines
  3. Sports injuries, such as sprains, strains, and tendonitis
  4. Repetitive strain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
  5. Arthritis and other inflammatory conditions
  6. Sciatica and other nerve-related pain
  7. Fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions
  8. Menstrual cramps and other menstrual disorders
  9. Digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome
  10. Respiratory conditions, such as allergies and asthma

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Acupuncture is generally considered a safe and minimally invasive treatment, and many people report feeling little to no pain during the procedure. However, it’s normal to feel some sensation at the site of the needle insertion, such as a slight prick or mild ache. The sensation may be described as a tingling or a dull pressure, and it typically lasts only a few seconds.

Most people find the sensation to be tolerable and even relaxing, and some may even feel a sense of euphoria or increased energy after a session. If you are concerned about discomfort or pain during acupuncture, be sure to discuss your concerns with a licensed acupuncturist before the procedure. They may be able to adjust the treatment to minimize any discomfort and help you feel more comfortable throughout the session.

What is Dry Needling?


Dry needling is a form of therapy that involves the insertion of thin, solid needles into specific trigger points or knots in the muscles, tendons, or fascia (connective tissue) to alleviate pain and improve mobility. Unlike acupuncture, dry needling is based on Western medicine principles and does not involve the use of traditional Chinese medicine theory or acupuncture points.

The goal of dry needling is to release tension and tightness in the affected muscles by creating a small lesion or micro-trauma, which triggers a healing response and stimulates the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals. Dry needling is commonly used to treat musculoskeletal conditions, such as back pain, neck pain, and tendinitis, as well as sports injuries, headaches, and other chronic pain conditions.

Dry needling should only be performed by a licensed healthcare professional who has completed appropriate training and certification in the technique. As with any medical procedure, there are some risks and potential side effects associated with dry needling, including minor bleeding, bruising, or soreness at the needle insertion site.

Which conditions & injuries can be treated with Dry Needling?

Dry needling can be used to treat a variety of conditions and injuries, including:

  1. Musculoskeletal pain, such as back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain
  2. Tendinitis, such as tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow
  3. Sports injuries, such as muscle strains and sprains
  4. Headaches and migraines
  5. Chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome
  6. Carpal tunnel syndrome and other nerve-related conditions
  7. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder and other jaw pain conditions
  8. Plantar fasciitis and other foot pain conditions
  9. Sciatica and other nerve-related pain
  10. Post-operative pain and scar tissue

Does it hurt to have dry needling?

Dry needling can cause some discomfort, but it’s generally well-tolerated by most people. The needles used in dry needling are very thin, similar to those used in acupuncture, and are typically inserted into specific trigger points or knots in the muscles or fascia.

During the procedure, you may feel a slight prick or sensation similar to a muscle twitch or ache, which can be uncomfortable but is usually brief. After the procedure, you may experience some soreness or muscle tenderness, similar to post-workout soreness, which typically resolves within a few hours or days.

Are there any Side effects of Dry Needling?

Like any medical procedure, dry needling carries some risks and potential side effects. These can include:

  1. Soreness or bruising at the needle insertion site
  2. Muscle twitching or spasm during the procedure
  3. Temporary increase in pain or discomfort after the procedure
  4. Dizziness or lightheadedness
  5. Fatigue or tiredness

It’s important to note that serious complications from dry needling are extremely rare, and the risk of experiencing any side effects can be minimized by choosing a licensed physiotherapist who has been properly trained in the technique. Be sure to discuss any concerns or questions you may have about dry needling with your physiotherapist before the procedure.



Josh Bowslaugh
Josh Bowslaugh
Josh completed his Master of Science in Physiotherapy degree in the UK (2020), where he spent time working in Orthopedics, Neurology, and with his local professional football club: Oxford United. Previously, he pursued two degrees from Brock University: a Bachelor of Kinesiology and a Master of Science in Health Sciences (muscle physiology). As a registered Kinesiologist, Josh has worked in the health field for many years and has completed several continuing educational courses under renowned clinician Dr. Craig Liebenson. These courses focused on developing client-centered rehabilitation programs using the latest evidence in pain science, load management, and behavior-change therapy. Josh has recently been rostered for acupuncture & dry needling, and spinal manipulation as a part of his therapeutic practice.
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