Recently, our patients have been asking us this question – what is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture? Both acupuncture and dry needling insert the smallest of needles through the skin and into the muscle on strategic points of the body. So what is the difference?
A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain. There is an increasing usage for overall wellness, including stress management. By inserting needles into specific points, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance. In contrast, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. Some believe that this stimulation boosts your body’s natural painkillers.
Acupuncture needles are inserted to various depths at strategic points on your body. The needles are very thin, so insertion usually causes little discomfort. People often don’t feel them inserted at all. A typical treatment uses 5 to 20 needles. You may feel a mild aching sensation when a needle reaches the correct depth.
Your practitioner may apply heat or mild electrical pulses to the needles.
In most cases, the needles remain in place for 10 to 15 minutes while you lie still and relax. There is usually no discomfort when the needles are removed.
While the name of the procedure may sound intimidating, dry needling is safe, minimally discomforting and often an effective technique for patients with certain musculoskeletal presentations. A thin needle penetrates the skin and treats underlying muscular trigger points for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments. Dry needling is focused on using strong stimulation on the muscles to get them to release. Dry needling focuses on treating muscle tissue, and its goal is to reduce pain, inactivate trigger points and restore function. It is often used as part of a broader physical therapy approach incorporating other traditional physical therapy interventions into treatment such as stretching and strengthening.
Dry needling uses a single needle at a time as opposed to acupuncture. The needle is inserted and manipulated by the therapist to stimulate the muscle directly. You will feel an ache as the trigger points will be sensitive. Treatment time will vary depending on the muscle being worked on and the number of trigger points, but in most cases treatment is 5 to 10 min. Expect for the area to be sore for up to 48 hours post treatment, it will feel like the muscle went through an intense workout.
As a result, the experience for the patient will be a lot different between these two different forms of treatment. Acupuncture is not painful at all, while dry needling may be mildly discomforting. Both treatment methods have minimal side effects, so it may be worth a try if you’re having trouble controlling pain with more-conventional methods.
If you have any questions or would like to book an appointment, please contact us at (905)849-4576 or on our website at www.sheddonphysio.com. You can also follow us on instagram @sheddonphysio for all things rehab related!