The Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture

At first glance, a patient receiving dry needling treatment and another receiving acupuncture may look exactly the same. Both methods use fine filament needles gently inserted into strategic locations in the body.

The fundamental difference between these techniques is that dry needling is based on human anatomy and the neurophysiological principles, while traditional acupuncture is based on traditional chinese medicine.  

The team at One Accord Physical Therapy specializes in the dynamic integrated needling system (DINS), a versatile form of dry needling that targets pain from both trigger points and central sensitization. DINS serves well as a complementary treatment for many of the other therapies that we offer to our patients.

Read on to get our breakdown of the difference between dry needling and acupuncture and see which form of treatment may be right for you.

No injections

Both dry needling and acupuncture uses needles that don’t inject fluid into the body. In fact, dry needling gets its name from this fact. Both therapies use the stimulation resulting from insertion of these fine needles to generate their therapeutic effects. 

Targeting the triggers

Sometimes, dry needling goes by the name of trigger point therapy, since some forms of the technique focus on myofascial trigger points (the hard lumps you might know as knots). Targeting trigger points is part of the DINS strategy, though we also use techniques to treat pain that’s not accompanied by knots.

Nerve pain is frequently “referred,” meaning that the sensation of pain occurs somewhere other than the point of irritation for a nerve. Lack of a knot near the sensation could suggest referred pain, thus the needling point may be near but not at the point of sensation.

The dry needling effect

Whether your provider inserts the needle at or near the trigger point, the goal is the same. Dry needling disrupts your body’s status quo, bringing new blood into the area and stimulating the release of endorphins. These natural pain killers help to relieve your discomfort as your body responds to the needle and begins breaking up your knots. 

For some patients, relief may be immediate, while others could need additional sessions.

DINS dry needling could be ideal for you if you’re dealing with overused muscles or sports injuries. This therapy also proves effective for some cases of chronic pain, reduced joint mobility, or other injuries. Tendon injuries can also respond well to dry needling techniques.

How does dry needling compare to acupuncture?

One of the fundamental parts of traditional Chinese medicine is the theory behind acupuncture, which relates to the flow of energy through your body. 

Frequently, acupuncture targets overall wellness, but it can also help stimulate nerves to address medical conditions ranging from stress to respiratory disorders. Like dry needling, acupuncture seems to stimulate endorphin production, leading to natural pain relief. 

Perhaps the most noticeable difference from a patient’s perspective is the time the needles stay inserted. Acupuncture tends to keep needles in place longer, while dry needling has a shorter duration. DINS techniques also use more shallow penetrations.

Dry needling may be a refreshing, drug-free alternative for treating your pain issues. The best way to learn if it’s right for you is through a consultation with one of our dry needling specialists at One Accord Physical Therapy

Pain won’t wait, and neither should you! Call us today at 855-331-7522 to book your appointment at any of our four locations in Phoenix, Mesa, Casa Grande, and Gilbert, Arizona.

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