Dry needling is a form of physical therapy for pain relief.  It also helps improve impairment of movement caused by pain.

Also known as intramuscular muscle therapy, dry needling involves the use of needles to penetrate the skin and muscle.  Because needles are used in the treatment, some think that dry needling is the same as acupuncture.  While there are similarities, they are not the same.  Here is a look at the differences between the two methods.

  • How Treatments Work

Dry needling is the process of inserting needles into irritated muscle tissues or trigger zones.  The main goal of dry needling is relief from muscle pain as well as muscular myofascial dysfunction.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of treating the body through the process of inserting needles along strategic parts of the body.  It is used to restore the body’s original state of balance by healing muscle injuries, relieving phantom pains, and releasing hormones that make one feel good.

  • Theoretical Basis

The practice of dry needling is based on the theory that needles can be used in place of fingers to release the tension in the sore muscles.  Dry needling, which makes use of very thin filiform needles, is more effective in relieving pain because the needles allow physiotherapists to find tissues that are difficult, if not impossible, to identify when done manually.

Acupuncture is based on the theory that positive energy or chi flows through the body across twelve major systems.  These systems, in turn, are connected to a major bodily organ.  Thus, when something disrupts the flow of chi through the major systems, the person experiences pain and other health issues.  To restore the original flow of the chi and subsequently correct the problem, an acupuncturist inserts very fine and sterile needles along the appropriate part of the body.

  • Conditions Treated

Dry needling provides pain relief by de-activating “trigger points” of muscle cells.  Thus, it is ideal for treating a large area of muscle tension.  Dry needling is also suited for people who are touch-sensitive when experiencing acute pain.  The treatment has been proven effective against migraines, tendonitis, carpal, tunnel, joint dysfunction, and many others. Furthermore, dry needling promotes protein formulation of the local muscles as well as production of collagen.

According to a report published by World Health Organization (WHO), acupuncture has been proven effective in treating depression, hypertension, hypotension, headache, facial pain, nausea, acute epigastralgia, dysmenorrhea, dental pain, allergic rhinitis, sciatica, stroke, adverse reactions to chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, and others.


In summary, both dry needling and acupuncture involve the use of fine needles to provide pain relief.  However, while dry needling is a common practice in modern Western medicine, acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese healing practice, which has become a popular treatment among Westerners.

If you want to know if dry needling is appropriate for your condition, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.  We will gladly answer your questions.