Acupuncture or Dry Needling, What’s the Difference?

Andrea Whitehead Techniques

We often get asked, is there a difference between acupuncture and dry needling? If so, what makes them different? They do have some similarities – some being that they both use very fine acupuncture needles, they both help relieve pain, relax spasming muscles, release adhesions, and stimulate circulation and healing in chronic situations.

Acupuncture involves inserting needles at specific places in the body called acupuncture points, which follow certain meridians that effect blood flow, nerve pathways, and stimulate the body to release pain relieving hormones called endorphins. Once the needles are inserted, they are left alone for about 15-30 minutes, and then removed. Acupuncture is often painless, or at most produces very minimal discomfort.

Dry needling technique is specifically used for releasing specific anatomical adhesions/scar tissue or relieving shortened myofascial tissues. Instead of following meridians, dry needles are often inserted into a muscle that the practitioner feels to be very tight spots or muscular trigger points. The needles are then moved up and down on that point and the goal is to create a muscle twitch. This is used to decrease pain, increase the range of motion in the muscle, and allow the body to function properly again. Although this can be a painful process, it is very quick, and the patient often feels huge relief within 12-24 hours.