The Difference Between Acupuncture and Dry Needling

The Difference Between Acupuncture and Dry Needling

While there are similarities, dry needling is not acupuncture. Licensed physical therapists in a growing number of states are trained in dry needling and it is based on western medical principles.

It’s a safe, effective treatment for musculoskeletal conditions. Research shows it can reduce pain and stiffness and increase mobility.

Trigger Point Dry Needling

Dry needling is a skillful intervention performed by physical therapists that uses needles to relieve muscle pain and stiffness. It targets trigger points – knots in the muscles that can cause local and referred pain. The physical therapist inserts a filiform needle into your skin and stimulates the underlying myofascial trigger point, muscle tissues and connective tissue. The technique is not the same as acupuncture, which is based on traditional Chinese medicine. The physical therapists at Vitality PT have been trained in the use of this treatment.

During the treatment, you may feel a slight prick when the needle goes through your skin and a twitch response when it hits the trigger point. It is important to remember that the technique works in conjunction with other treatments, such as stretching and strengthening exercises. A physical therapist who has completed training in this procedure can assess and treat you for myofascial pain syndrome and other conditions.


Acupuncture is an ancient Eastern practice that involves inserting sterile needles into the body to stimulate specific points. It is used to treat a variety of conditions and ailments including:

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), health is the result of a harmonious balance between the complementary extremes of yin and yang. This energy flows through pathways in the body called meridians. When the flow is disrupted, illness occurs. Acupuncture aims to restore the balance of energy through the use of thin, stainless steel needles.

During treatment, patients experience a calming sensation as the needles are placed and are retained for about 30 minutes. They may feel a slight soreness, which usually lasts a few days and is best addressed with heat, massage, and movement. Mild bruising, which is more common in certain areas, is also normal and may last several days. The acupuncturist will cleanse the needles and the skin with alcohol before removing them.

Myofascial Release

Fascia is the most prevalent tissue in our body and provides structure to all of your muscles, joints and connective tissues. Myofascial release is a hands-on treatment technique that works to relax, lengthen and realign your fascia. It has been known to decrease pain, muscle spasms and increase your range of motion.

Unlike other therapeutic approaches, such as mechanically pressing and stretching which may help relieve some symptoms, Barnes’ method uses a slow and controlled manual pressure to elicit an energetic response of the soft tissues. Specifically, the practitioner separates his or her hands, eliminating the flexibility of skin between them, and maintains traction against the patient’s body for 90-120 seconds.

Sarah attended The College of William & Mary for her undergraduate studies and graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. She has taken specialized courses in Dry Needling, as well as Craniosacral therapy and manual techniques to provide a holistic approach to treating her patients.

Orthopedic Dry Needling

Dry needling is a treatment that uses microfilament needles to help relieve myofascial pain. Unlike acupuncture, there is no injection of medication with dry needling. The needles are inserted into areas of muscle known as trigger points, which are tight bands of skeletal muscle that can cause pain and dysfunction.

Your physical therapist will evaluate your symptoms and perform other orthopedic and function tests to determine if you’re a good candidate for dry needling therapy. You may experience muscle soreness after a treatment session. This is normal, and you should drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. You may also notice some bruising in the area where the needle was inserted.

Dry needling can help ease pain and dysfunction, decrease inflammation, and improve mobility. It’s a quick and effective technique that can be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments in physical therapy. It’s also a safe and non-invasive option, with few risks when performed by a trained physical therapist.dry needling north canton ohio

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