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Dry Needling and Acupuncture, What Is The Difference?


Dry Needling is a very effective technique commonly used at Proactive Spine & Sports Medicine to assist with musculoskeletal injuries, and although it appears to be very similar to acupuncture, they are two very different techniques based on very different philosophies.

A very common question asked by many patients is, what is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?



What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) technique based on the theory that health is determined by a flow of energy called “chi or qi”. According to acupuncture theory, chi circulates in the body through twelve major pathways called meridians, each linked to specific internal organs and their systems. With acupuncture, the needles are inserted into pre-determined points known as meridian points, and the theory is it will help remove blockages in the flow of energy throughout the body.


At Proactive Spine & Sports Medicine, we do not practice acupuncture, but are proficient in dry needling.



So What Is Dry Needling?


Dry needling is a Western medicine technique based on anatomical and neurophysiological principles and research. It is used only for the management of musculoskeletal and sport injuries. The term dry needling is used to differentiate between “injection needling” in which an agent such as saline, local anaesthetic or corticosteroid is injected into a specific structure of the body.


With dry needling the same needles as acupuncture are used, but they are inserted into different points known as myofascial trigger points.

A myofascial trigger point is a discrete, irritable, overactive point in muscle or fascia that can be felt as a nodule or band. Touch or compression of these points may elicit pain and also refer pain into other areas.


By inserting the needles into the myofascial trigger points, the goal of dry needling is to activate the nervous systems response which will:

  • stimulate neurochemical release such as endorphins

  • increase red blood cells carrying oxygen and nutrients to the site

  • activate the immune response which brings white blood cells to the injured area


This will then help

  • reduce pain

  • reduce swelling

  • reduce muscle spasm

  • increase the bodies repair process


Our clinical experience has found that dry needling works best in conjunction with other techniques, rather than a stand alone treatment options. When used correctly with other treatment modalities, it can be a very effective way of managing back, neck and sport injuries.


By Dr Danny Diab - Chiropractor

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