At first glance, the differences between dry needling vs. acupuncture might be hard to distinguish.
In fact, it’s common for patients to mistake one practice for the other on the surface.
However, dry needling and acupuncture are vastly different therapeutic techniques, each with their own distinctive characteristics, histories, and benefits.
At our Washington DC physical therapy clinic, we’re here to help you make informed choices about your health to choose the therapeutic technique that is best for you.
Below, you’ll find more information on the difference between dry needling vs acupuncture, as well as the benefits associated with each.
Keep reading to find out more.
What Is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a modern physical therapy pain management technique, particularly for muscular pain.
Dry needling is typically performed by physical therapists.
The process of dry needling involves inserting thin needles, known as “filiform needles”, into areas where you are experiencing increased pain sensitivity, known as “trigger points”.
The technique is called dry needling as there is no medication injected or blood drawn as would be the case in “wet needling” often referred to by physicians as injections – think hypodermic needles.
The side effects associated with dry needling are typically mild, but may include bruising, minor bleeding, and temporary soreness in areas where the needles were inserted.
Benefits Of Dry Needling
There are many benefits associated with dry needling, including:
- Reduced muscle pain and stiffness
- Improved range of motion
- Improved blood circulation
- Quicker healing
The benefits of dry needling make it an excellent choice for the treatment of a range of conditions.
We often use dry needling as part of:
What Is Acupuncture
Unlike dry needling, acupuncture is an ancient practice used in traditional Chinese medicine and performed by acupuncturists.
Acupuncture needles are placed in specific points in the body to help relieve pain, discomfort, and a wide range of other conditions.
Like dry needling, these needles don’t insert any substances into your body.
The fundamental belief associated with acupuncture is that illness occurs when your “qi”, which provides your body with healing energy, is blocked or interrupted.
Acupuncture is used to help remove these blockages and subsequently rebalance your energy flow.
In Westernized versions of acupuncture, the needles are believed to help stimulate the nervous system in order to provide chronic pain relief for a variety of different issues, including:
Benefits Of Acupuncture
The benefits of acupuncture are still being researched.
However, acupuncture may offer a wide range of benefits, including:
- Decreased inflammation
- Increased blood flow
- Increased release of pain relieving endorphins
Acupuncture may be an effective solution for numerous conditions, including:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Headaches and migraines
- Menstrual cramps
What Do Dry Needling Vs Acupuncture Have In Common?
On the surface, the process of dry needling and acupuncture look very similar.
Both dry needling and acupuncture use thin, stainless steel needles.
Similarly, both practices insert these needles into the skin to treat pain.
However, this is where the similarities end.
How Are Dry Needling Vs Acupuncture Different
Dry needling and acupuncture have vastly different rationales for use, techniques to perform, and location for treatment.
Like previously stated, the practice of acupuncture was built upon the theory that illness is caused by blocked energy flow.
On the other hand, dry needling seeks to relieve pain through the treatment of trigger points which generate pain due to lack of oxygenation, changed pH, and build up of acetylcholine, the messenger that tells muscles to contract.
In acupuncture, needles are often left in the body in several locations for several minutes whereas in dry needling, the certified dry needling physical therapist uses one needle at a time and is constantly present for the treatment, adjusting the treatment as your body responds.
Acupuncture is not always performed in the location of pain and instead is based on a Meridian map of the body, whereas dry needling uses extensive knowledge of anatomy to determine treatment location.
Additionally, acupuncture is an ancient form of traditional Chinese medicine whereas dry needling is a modern, Western form of medicine.
Which Option Is Best For You?
Dry needling and acupuncture both have their benefits.
Neither practice is inherently better or more effective than the other.
Therefore, the option best for you will depend on various factors.
It’s important to speak to your healthcare provider to help decide which option is best for your specific condition, strengths, and limitations.
Be sure to note, however, that as a rule, physical therapists do not offer acupuncture.
As well, not all physical therapists will do dry needling – it requires additional training.
You also don’t have to choose one treatment vs the other – in many cases, you can do both dry needling and acupuncture from different practitioners.
Be sure to speak with both your physical therapist and your acupuncturist, however, if you’re receiving both treatment, so they can be sure to optimize their approach for you.
Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today
At Capitol Physical Therapy, we care about your health and wellbeing.
We want to help you navigate your pain in order to return to the highest level of functioning possible.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or to learn more about our services.
Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today to get started.
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005
9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC