What is the difference between Dry Needling and Acupuncture?

Acupuncture Treatment & Traditional Chinese Medicine - Lilach Shalom .

When we mention to clients that we offer Acupuncture services in the clinic, one question always comes up: “What is the difference between dry-needling used by Remedial Massage Therapists and acupuncture needling?”

The needles are used for both, however, the thought processes and techniques used in Acupuncture and dry-needling are completely different.


With Acupuncture, or Traditional Chinese Medicine, a practitioner learns to needle as part of a very extensive course spanning over 4 to 5 years. As part of the course, a philosophy is learnt looking at a human being as an entire system. These ideas have been taught and studied for over 3000 years and look for the cause of the illness, in order to deal with the root problem. Acupuncturists target specific points in the body with thin, solid needles, that are suitable for almost all health concerns. These may relate to musculoskeletal problems, fertility issues, emotional state imbalances and digestive disorders. An injury sustained to the musculoskeletal system can be systematic of a deeper issue that can be identified and treated by an Acupuncturist using a number of techniques.

Dry Needling

Dry-needling, on the other hand, is a technique based on Western Physiological/Anatomical and Neurophysiological principles, which is taught to Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, Masseurs and other professionals as a complimentary mode of treatment. The technique is used to target trigger-points in tight areas of muscles to relive pain associated with injuries.

The differences

One difference between the two is the sensation generated from the needle. To treat muscles with dry-needling, often the therapist needs to insert the needle deep into the muscle that is tight or spasming. The therapists may jiggles the needle up and down to disturb the neurological loop, the loop that keeps the muscle in a contracted state of pain. This results in an alleviation of the pressure in the muscle. This is why it is important that the therapist is well-trained and experienced, and has a deep understanding of the anatomical structure of the body.

As for Acupuncture needling, the needles almost never penetrate that deeply, as they are inserted into energetic pathways, activating points to help the body back into balance. You may feel sensation or tingling in the area but the needle doesn’t necessarily need to generate pain for healing.

Either way, using needling as a part of your therapy can be beneficial for your health and wellbeing. The Western or Eastern way… choose your needle wisely.

By Lilach Shalom – Shalom TCM and Sam Noble – Muscle Freedom.