Understanding The Difference Between Dry Needling Vs Acupuncture

Understanding The Difference Between Dry Needling Vs Acupuncture | Capitol Physical Therapy | Washington DC Physical Therapists

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.

Both acupuncture and dry needling are forms of physical therapy.

They both also use stainless needles that are inserted into the skin to help provide treatment for pain and a variety of other conditions.

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?

People regularly ask us “what’s dry needling“?

Also known as trigger point dry needling, or myofascial trigger point dry needling, is a form of physical therapy.

It’s a modern physical therapy pain management technique, particularly for muscular pain.

RELATED: Dry Needling – Can It Help Relieve Your Pain?

Dry needling is typically performed by physical therapists with specific training in this area.

The process of dry needling involves inserting thin needles, known as “filiform needles”, into the skin.

These needles are inserted into areas of the skin where you’re experiencing increased pain sensitivity, known as “trigger points”.

Having many trigger points throughout your body can be a sign of myofasical pain syndrome.

The needles remain in your skin for a short period of time, typically 10 to 20 seconds.

The technique is called dry needling as there is no medication injected or blood drawn.

This is different from “wet needling”, often referred to by physicians as injections, where there is medication injected or blood drawn; 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.

Dry needling is typically used alongside other physical therapy techniques and exercises to prevent the recurrence of trigger points.

Benefits Of Dry Needling

Dry needling is a safe physical therapy technique.

There are many benefits associated with dry needling, including:

  • Reduced muscle pain and stiffness
  • Improved range of motion
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Quicker healing

Dry needling can help with multiple pain conditions.

Studies on dry needling have shown that in the 12-week period following dry needling there was reduced pain and increased pain thresholds.

The benefits of dry needling make it an excellent choice for the treatment of a range of conditions.

Dry needling can be used for:

RELATED: Top 5 Conditions Dry Needling Can Help With

It’s also an excellent choice if you are looking for a form of treatment that usually involves mild to no side effects.

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.

In traditional Chinese medicine, “qi” provides your body with healing energy and flows through pathways known as meridians.

The fundamental belief associated with traditional Chinese acupuncture is that illness occurs when your “qi”, or this flow of 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.

Points are viewed as places to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissues, which can provide the body with a natural treatment for pain.

Acupuncture is believed 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:

Acupuncture has a low risk of side effects and may be combined with other physical therapy treatments to increase its efficacy.

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.

benefits of dry needling versus acupuncture | Capitol Physical Therapy | Washington DC Physical Therapists

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.

These trigger points generate pain due to a 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.

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 isn’t always performed in the location of pain and instead is based on a Meridian map of the body.

Dry needling, on the other hand, 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, as it requires additional training.

You also don’t have to choose one treatment versus 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 treatments.

This way, they can be sure to optimize their approach for you and provide you with a treatment plan you can stick with.

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.

Capitol Physical Therapy
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005

- https://g.page/capitolptdc

9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772

- https://goo.gl/maps/zjL4NnnuThRhrcS86

Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC