Dry needling and acupuncture require the puncture for therapeutic purposes of the skin with thin needles. Although offering relief from pain is a common purpose, the activities are otherwise very different.
Dry needling practitioners try to release tension in muscles from the knots and pressure points. Acupuncturists inject needles to release endorphins into the nervous system and affect it. Traditionally, acupuncture was used to align a person ‘s energy, or chi.
Although researchers have researched acupuncture for many conditions as a supportive therapy, dry needling is a newer method and the evidence is less thorough. Strict guidelines for acupuncturists are also in place but dry needling is not regulated.
Learn more about the differences between these practices in this article, and what may be their benefits.
Dry needling vs. acupuncture
These treatments have certain similarities, and both claim to be pain-relieving therapies. They require various approaches however and should not be confused.
People have been using acupuncture for centuries and now it’s well controlled. More recently, dry needling has been established, although no official guidelines exist.
Acupuncture can be used to treat different medical conditions. The primary belief is that when chi, or healing force, is released, a body can be healed.
Dry needling is intended to soothe muscle tightness and discomfort. Practitioners believe to relieve stress in the surrounding muscle by inserting a needle directly into a knot or pressure point.
What is dry needling?
The primary objective is to reduce muscle pain and cramping, but it can also help improve flexibility for an individual.
A practitioner inserts filiform needles, small , thin, stainless steel, into pressure points. There are tight positions or loops in the muscles often called trigger points. The needles do not hold any liquid, and inject nothing.
Sports therapists and other physical therapists typically perform dry needling. An individual can perform dry needling with minimal training and no license, due to a lack of regulation and guidelines.
Whether a practitioner has been qualified, has enough experience or is conducting the treatment properly is often quite difficult to say.
The most common procedure is to leave 10–30 minutes of a filiform needle inside the muscle. There are however two less popular dry needling types:
- The in and out technique, during which a practitioner inserts a filiform needle into a trigger point and removes it right away. Results of a 2014 review suggest that this form of dry needling provides no benefits.
- The non-trigger point procedure, through which a practitioner inserts needles instead of a knot or pressure point into the surrounding tissue.
Scientific studies on dry needling are limited though there is a increasing body of study. Some research has so far been optimistic. A 2013 study found dry needling was more effective than a placebo treatment.
However, results of research in which no placebo was used have been less promising. In a 2012 study dry needling was found to be less effective in treating rotator cuff injuries than platelet-rich plasma injections.
Authors of a 2017 study found that stretching is just as effective in enhancing flexibility as dry needling.
Dry needling can be more effective than having no treatment, but it may be easier to alleviate muscle pain by using more conventional and cost-effective approaches, such as stretching and massage therapy.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an old technique that was developed in China.
Proponents believe that by opening up a person’s energy flow, or chi, it can alleviate stress, pain and discomfort.
Medical acupuncture requires the use of long , thin needles to stimulate nerves in and under the muscles.
This may contribute to endorphin development, which may alleviate some of the symptoms.
Acupuncture is used to relieve a wide variety of symptoms most commonly:
- aches and pains in muscles
- menstrual cramping
- headaches and migraines
- labor-related pain
- knee pain
An individual needs to be certified for practicing acupuncture and undergo comprehensive training. A master acupuncture practitioner will earn 3 years of training or more. They can learn to identify signs, diagnose illnesses and use appropriate needle techniques.
A senior national board member will oversee new practicers. A new practitioner must pass exams from the national board before obtaining a license, and they must continue passing exams every year after obtaining a licence.
A wide range of evidence supports the use of acupuncture to treat various medical conditions including migraines, depression, and arthritis;
There is a need for further studies to decide whether acupuncture can help cure arthritis, although some people think it can reduce pain associated with that.
Results of a 2018 review show that acupuncture, when used alongside conventional therapies, can reduce the severity of depression in some people.
Anyone interested in pursuing acupuncture should talk to a doctor about finding a practitioner who is licensed.
Usually dry needling is deemed secure because the practitioner is using sterile needles. Otherwise, an individual may contract blood-borne pathogens.
Other risks linked to dry needling are mild and relatively common. Including:
- temporary soreness at insertion sites
- bleeding at the sites
- bruising at or around the sites
Individuals who get acupuncture rarely encounter side effects. Once they occur, they often include bleeding, bruising, and mild pain.
Both dry needling and acupuncture can help ease muscle aches , pains and tightness.
Acupuncture is a process well controlled. At specific points needles are inserted to enhance the energy flow into the body. Although there is some inconclusive proof, acupuncture is commonly accepted as effective in the treatment of some ailments.
Much more recently dry needling has been created. With no specific rules in place, the risk of developing side effects is far greater for everyone. Few research has been conducted, but some people discover that this activity decreases pain.
Consult a doctor and review qualified practitioners before attempting dry needling or acupuncture.