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Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture

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Difference Between
Dry Needling and Acupuncture

There is often a lot of questions and
confusion about the differences between dry needling and acupuncture. Dry
needling is an evidence-based technique applied by physical therapists that
releases myofascial trigger points and muscular tightness. Dry needling is
similar regarding the needle is inserted into the skin to alleviate pain.
However, acupuncture treats for the purpose of altering the flow of Qi (Energy)
along traditional Chinese meridians. Physical therapists use dry needling with
the purposes of addressing neuromuscular conditions, the relief of pain/
muscular tightness, and improving range of motion.

What is a
myofascial trigger point?

A myofascial trigger point also known
as a knot within the muscle is a bundle of muscle fibres that have shortened
when activated but have not been able to lengthen back to a relaxed state after
use. (Simons, Travell & Simons, 1999).

What causes these
myofascial trigger points?

Injury (muscles will tighten
attempting to reduce severity of injuries)

Unexpected movements of the body

Quick movements

Change in regular exercise routine (an
increase or decrease in regular physical activity)

Sustained postures (extended sitting
for study or work)

Impingement of nerves (muscles will
tighten attempting to protect the nerve)


Nutritional deficiencies (such as

(Simons, et al., 1999)

How does Dry
needling work?

Single use sterile filament needles
(acupuncture needles) are inserted into the trigger point that causes a
neurological response within the muscle fibres. This reaction allows the muscle
to release and relax which helps reduce pain and encouraging and improving the
recovery process.

Dry needling can
help treat:

Headaches in relation to muscular

Tendinopathy including hamstring
tendinopathy, Achilles, or tennis elbow

Sciatica and gluteal pain

General muscular tightness/tension

Lower back pain

Neck pain


Sporting injuries


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