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Dry Needling vs Acupuncture

Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture: How to Choose?

Dry needling and acupuncture may appear to be the same thing. However, although they have similarities, they are different techniques with different backgrounds. Both techniques use thin, sterile needles that are inserted into the skin to treat pain and other conditions. This is pretty much where the similarities end.

To understand the differences between acupuncture and dry needling, you need to understand more about the background and practices each technique uses.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice that has been around for thousands of years. Acupuncturists are highly trained in both diagnosing conditions and the use of acupuncture needles. Acupuncture is based on the belief that illness is a result of blocked energy called Qi (pronounced Chi). Acupuncture uses needles placed on various points on the body called meridians to restore the flow of Qi and allow the body to heal itself. Acupuncture is often used for chronic conditions including pain.

What is Dry Needling Physio?

Dry needling is a modern Western treatment that treats myofascial “trigger points” to relieve pain. A fine needle is inserted into a trigger point (tight band of muscle) allowing blood flow to improve and encourage the muscle fibers to relax. This reduction in tension leads to a reduction in local pain.

What is a Myofascial Trigger Point?

A myofascial trigger point is also known as a ‘knot’ in the muscle. It occurs when a group of muscle fibres has shortened but not returned to their normal length or relaxed state. This can result in the muscle fibres become tight, placing pressure on the muscle’s local blood vessels and nerves. This causes pain and reduced movement as the muscle is unable to obtain a fresh supply of nutrients and oxygen or flush out toxins and waste products. 

What are the Risks of Dry Needling?

The risks of dry needling are low. A small number of people may experience temporary tiredness or soreness after treatment. Other side effects of dry needling may include minor bruising at the treatment site and minor pain when the needle is inserted. It’s important to ensure that you seek treatment from a qualified physio with training in dry needing to reduce the risk of side effects and complications. Dry needling is very safe when practiced by a health professional. Infrequent side effects include: 

  • Tiredness
  • Bruising
  • Temporary soreness

What are the Benefits of Dry Needling?

Dry needling physio is an effective technique that specifically targets muscle tightness to restore tissue function and improve tissue healing. Dry needling is an evidence-based practice with many benefits. Some of the main benefits include:

  • Pain relief
  • Reduced muscle tightness
  • Improved range of motion
  • Improved recovery time
  • Reduced muscle spasm
  • Treats both acute and chronic pain
  • Improves relaxation

Some of the common conditions dry needling is known to help with include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Tennis elbow
  • Neck pain
  • Migraines
  • Joint dysfunction
  • Knee pain
  • Sciatica

Dry needling is gaining popularity within the physiotherapy world. Dry needling uses evidence-based techniques to reduce muscle tension and relieve pain. Physiotherapists are trained in the use of needles and use their experience and knowledge of the body’s mechanics with dry needling to complement many forms of physio treatment and rehabilitation. To learn more about dry needling and how it can help you, contact Integrity Physio for more information.

Director & Senior Physiotherapist at Integrity Physiotherapy, Leslie Trigg, has over 13 years of experience in clinical practice. He has graduated with a degree in Human Biology (Anatomy and Physiology) from Curtin University in 2001 and later completed a Masters of Physiotherapy in 2007. He has tremendous experience in musculoskeletal, orthopaedic, neurosurgical and sports physiotherapy. In his spare time, he enjoys swimming, listening to music and spending time with his family.