Acupuncture vs. Dry Needling - What's the Difference?

People often ask what the difference is between acupuncture and dry needling. Both techniques use acupuncture needles, but the treatment method is quite different.

In acupuncture, the needles are inserted into specific locations called acupuncture points.  These points were originally established based on Chinese medicine, which set the points along "meridians" (channels of energy) that run throughout the body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this flow of energy is considered essential to health.  Our physiotherapists are trained in the modern-day, biomedical adaptation of traditional Chinese approaches, called "neuro-anatomical acupuncture."  

In acupuncture, needles are often stimulated manually (such as by tapping) or electronically, with electrodes attached to needles.  Needles are usually left in for 15 to 30 minutes. This helps stimulate endorphins, which help to relieve pain, promote healing, and restore balance to body function.

Dry needling is used to release tight muscles that are causing pain or limiting movement.  The needles are inserted into "trigger points" in a muscle, to stimulate tight bands of muscle to release. Needles are inserted in-and-out, and don't stay in for more than a few seconds each insertion. Dry needling can be particularly useful for more longstanding (chronic) muscular dysfunction.

At River East Physiotherapy, we have physiotherapists certified in both acupuncture and dry needling. We would be happy to talk to you about whether either of these treatments would be right for you.