Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture

imed22/ August 18, 2019/ Alternative Medicine/ 0 comments

It’s of little surprise that dry needling and acupuncture are widely mistaken as interchangeable terms for the same practice. After all, both involve the insertion of needles into the body and as such, from a superficial perspective at least, they seem remarkably similar practices. However, for all their shared similarities, a little investigative work reveals the true scale of the difference between dry needling and acupuncture. You can also visit this page www.blakehurstchiro.com.au/dry-needling/ compares dry needling vs acupuncture for more information.

Philosophical Differences

Acupuncture draws on the millennia-old traditions of Chinese medicine. It focuses on improving the flow of chi along meridians in order to achieve homeostasis.

Dry needling, on the other hand, is a contemporary concept, whose philosophical underpinnings are derived from western medicine. Accordingly, rather than seek to promote the healthy flow of chi, dry needling targets myofascial trigger points to deliver therapeutic gains.

Pain Relief

Acupuncture gives pain relief via 2 distinct mechanisms. It does so, firstly, by triggering the release of endorphins. And secondly, by balancing the body’s energy levels.

Dry needling, meanwhile, delivers pain relief by deactivating the trigger points of targeted muscle cells.

Needle Penetration Depth

In acupuncture, the typical depth of needle penetration is between 3 millimeters and 10 millimeters. However, it’s an altogether different story with respect to dry needling. In this case, needles must penetrate significantly deeper in order to reach targeted trigger points.

Needle Location

difference between dry needling and acupunctureThe needle locations used in acupuncture are entirely predetermined. In other words, the nature of the diagnosis wholly dictates the location at which the needle will be inserted.

The needle locations used in dry needling are in no way as prescriptive. In dry needling, the needle locations are determined by a combination of variable factors. In addition to considering the results of a musculoskeletal evaluation, a practitioner will also consider a patient’s verbal input and their specific symptoms before deciding precisely where to insert needles.


In the United States, the minimum requirement to begin training as an acupuncturist is 2 years of undergraduate study. Typically, however, prospective acupuncturists will have completed an undergraduate degree prior to pursuing further postgraduate study. Thereafter, a minimum commitment of 3 years of additional study is required to become a certified acupuncturist.

In contrast, a prospective practitioner of dry needling need only complete 2 accredited courses, amounting to 46 hours of study, before qualifying. However, this minimum prerequisite is perhaps a little misleading since the majority of prospective practitioners have previously completed 7 years of study to qualify as physical therapists.

The common perception that these treatments are remarkably alike only serves to hide the very real difference between dry needling and acupuncture. Indeed, the reality is that they are contrasting treatments with notable dissimilarities in terms of methodology and philosophy.

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