Dry Needling Vs Acupuncture: Benefits, Uses, And Risks Explained

Dry needling neck patient

Have you been curious about dry needling and acupuncture, but still haven’t gotten around to figuring out which of the two you need? Are you struggling to figure out the differences between the two? If that sounds like something you are experiencing, then know that you are not alone.

Contrary to popular belief, dry needling and acupuncture are much more different from one another than they are similar. Perhaps the only significant similarity between the two is that they both utilize thin needles that are inserted into the body. But that is precisely where their sameness ends.

This article will help you understand the distinctions between dry needling and acupuncture, and hence clear up the confusions that have been plaguing you since. It will also discuss the different uses and benefits of each therapy as well as highlight some of the risks that you should take into consideration.

So, without further ado, here are the differences between dry needling and acupuncture.

How Are Acupuncture And Dry Needling Different?

It is a common misconception among many people new to holistic healing that acupuncture and dry needling, otherwise known as myofascial point dry needling, are the same. The reason this notion is fairly widespread is that both of them look quite similar when observed from a distance.

But once you look at the science behind each, you will understand the specificities of both therapies. While both therapies utilize thin needles that are inserted into the body at various points, they are otherwise completely different treatments. Here are the top three distinctions between each.

  1. The first difference between the two is that acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that has been around for thousands of years. On the other hand, dry needling is only a few decades old with a completely new cultural context.
  2. Perhaps the most significant difference is that dry needling is used to stimulate muscles by typically targeting trigger points in the muscles to relieve pain, release knots and reduce muscle spasms. But acupuncture is based on the principle of balancing the qi (pronounced “chi”) within the body.

In other words, acupuncture is based on the belief that qi is the energy that keeps the body and spirit healthy, and once interrupted, blocked, or thrown out of balance, causes many ailments.

  1. Finally, dry needling specifically targets the muscles to bring about relief from acute or chronic physical pain, but the scope for acupuncture is wider in terms of treatment. Acupuncture can be used to treat both physical ailments (such as pain or nausea) as well as mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

There are other differences between both practices, but they encompass uses and possible risks. But for now, these three dissimilarities are more than enough for you to differentiate between the two if you are not an expert.

It is of absolute importance that before going in for either acupuncture or dry needling that you consult a medical professional first. They can also guide you on which treatment would work best for your particular condition between acupuncture and dry needling, depending on what your condition is.

The Benefits And Uses Of Acupuncture And Dry Needling

Both dry needling and acupuncture have become more accepted and widespread as alternatives to clinical medicine when it comes to pain relief and even psychological recalibration. As it grows in practice, more and more people have become curious about how these therapies can help a vast majority of issues, both physical and psychological.

Here are some benefits and uses for each therapeutic model.

1.    Dry Needling: Uses And Advantages

This treatment option is arguably the most non-invasive way of treating issues of chronic or acute pain. Since its use dating back to the 1980s, some data has shown that dry needling is perhaps more effective than the placebo effect, although more research is required for conclusive judgments to be made about dry needling.

This therapy style has shown reliable progress in many individuals across the world that undergo muscle stiffness or pain and has also been found to improve body flexibility and movement. For these combined benefits, dry needling is often used to help treat sports injuries.

However, because it is such a recent practice (at least, in comparison to acupuncture), there are little to no guidelines on how to provide this service the right way. As more time passes, the process will become more standardized and regulated by trained professionals.

2.    Acupuncture: Uses And Advantages

One of the most exciting aspects of acupuncture, when contrasted with dry needling, is that the former can provide relief from a wider variety of ailments. These include pain, nausea and vomiting, allergies, menstrual cramps, chronic headaches, and many others.

Additionally, there are those who suggest that acupuncture can be used to help quit smoking and manage other addictions as well, especially if it is some sort of a chemical dependency. These features together make acupuncture a treatment that is much more widespread than dry needling.

Finally, acupuncture is also known to provide mental relief from stress and anxiety, as the treatment is provided in an extremely relaxed environment among other factors. For example, a study conducted on depression and acupuncture found that when combined with medicines, acupuncture may be useful in lessening depression.

To summarize quickly, acupuncture has been found to be effective for knee and neck pains, cramps, migraines, and headaches, which are common symptoms for a wide variety of ailments. For example, people with arthritis have been known to find relief after trying out acupuncture.

Potential Risks With Dry Needling And Acupuncture

When it comes to dry needling, experiencing mild side effects is fairly common after a session. These include temporary soreness, slight bleeding, and bruising all around the injection sites. Such side effects usually go away on their own in a few days.

However, since dry needling is a fairly new practice, there aren’t many regulations or standardized training mandated for therapists, so this is a significant risk that must be kept in mind. If unsterilized needles are used, you could be risking infections and diseases, so you must be sure that your therapist is taking the necessary precautions and safety measures.

With acupuncture, however, the kind of risks involved are different. Because it is an ancient practice that has a history of over 2000 years, there is a lot more research done on it. Additionally, unlike dry needling, there are regulations in place for practitioners and certifications that acupuncturists are required in most states to have acquired before practicing.

The potential symptoms that you may experience after a session with an acupuncturist are pain, bruising, and/or soreness. More serious risks to keep in mind with this practice are that people with certain conditions should not go for acupuncture therapy. These conditions include having a bleeding disorder, heart problems, or during pregnancy.

Final Takeaways

All in all, the best way to go about making this decision is to consult a medical professional. Not only will they take into account your medical history when recommending an alternative treatment model, but they may also choose to combine that with medicines to speed up the healing process.

Seeing a professional is also the best way to perform risk management, and they will also be able to guide you on which of the two practices are best suited to your condition.

Author
Michael Kaliko DC

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