Dry needling vs acupuncture – what’s the difference?
To an untrained eye, acupuncture and dry needling may look like the same thing by a different name, but nothing could be further from the truth.
While it is true that the needle being inserted in the body is essentially the same type of needle for both practices, each form of treatment is vastly different from the other.
Acupuncture is based on Chinese Medicine principles of energy pathways that can be traced back thousands of years. The needles in acupuncture are used to stimulate that energy flow to help correct or improve an individual’s state of health.
Dry needling is a much more contemporary practice in comparison and is based on western medical science, with the focus being on decreasing tension in muscles and increasing extensibility of your soft tissues. It is commonly used by a wide range of health practitioners such as myotherapists, physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors and remedial massage therapists.
Both acupuncture and dry needling can be employed to treat physical pain in the body, but the underpinning theories and explanations for each are very different.
Acupuncture is highly complex and takes into consideration a vast interplay of internal and external influences on the body, using systemic diagnostic techniques while considering the energy force (qi – pronounced “chi”) and its relationship to the person’s health.
Dry needling is far simpler in its application and is utilised to directly target soft tissues that are tight or producing pain. The application works directly with the nervous system to help relieve discomfort and other symptoms, and in the hands of a skilled practitioner can be incredibly effective.
So does it hurt? No, not normally. However, just like getting a massage on sore or tight muscles can be a little uncomfortable, dry needling or acupuncture can be a little uncomfortable at times, but is generally painless and will leave you feeling great.
Gabrielle Ryan is a myotherapist at the Health Creation Centre in Ocean Grove.