What is the Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture? - IMPACT Physical Therapy

What is the Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture?


There are numerous different types of treatments available to reduce the soreness and tension your body may feel. For many centuries, practitioners have used needles for therapeutic purposes, as they are able to access trigger points that other techniques cannot. Most individuals when thinking of needling think of acupuncture- the ancient Eastern needling tradition. However, in recent years new needling practices have surfaced, including trigger point dry needling. Since both techniques involve needles, the two can commonly be confused.

What is Dry Needling?

Trigger point dry needling, commonly known as dry needling or TDN, is a technique where a physical therapist inserts solid filament needles through the skin and into the muscle’s myofascial trigger points to generate a muscle reflex that will release the tension in the surrounding muscle(s). Dry needling is performed to relieve a variety of painful conditions, such as plantar fasciitis, headaches, back pain, sciatica, and muscle strains. It is called ‘dry needling’ because needles are traditionally used in medicine to inject liquid solutions into the body – in dry needling, only the needle itself is used as treatment.

What is a Trigger Point, and How Does Dry Needling Help It?

Myofascial trigger points, also known as muscle ‘knots’, are sensitive spots in the muscle’s soft tissue. When stressed or injured, your body’s muscles can contract and become locked into its shortened position, which forms trigger points. Pressure placed on the trigger points can cause persistent pain in the muscles as well as “referred pain” (a category of pain only trigger points can cause), where you can feel pain in other unrelated parts of the body as a result of your myofascial trigger point. Dry needling can drastically help you improve your pain and mobility by directly accessing your trigger points.

Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture

Despite the fact that both dry needling and acupuncture uses needles, they are unrelated beyond that. Acupuncture follows the traditional Chinese concept of Qi or the flow of energy inside the body. During acupuncture, needles are inserted into spots along the body that according to the guidelines the body’s Qi points. The inserted needles are supposed to help alter and direct the flow of Qi towards different places in the body to promote healing. During dry needling, needles are placed directly into the pained muscles to treat trigger points and relieve tension in that specific area.

Trigger Point Dry Needling at Impact Therapy

If you have a case of sore muscles or long-standing pain in parts of your body, it may be time to consult a physical therapist on what the best type of treatment is for you. Dry needling may be the answer to your problems. Impact Therapy offers dry needling, along with many other treatment options for your muscle pain. In addition, we offer an array of different services within physical therapy, recovery, and fitness. Whether you’re an athlete, injured, or simply want to begin your fitness journey, our certified and dedicated staff are here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!