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Acupuncture vs. Dry Needling: Why Acupuncture Comes Out on Top

Acupuncture and dry needling are both therapies that involve inserting needles into the body, but the similarities largely end there. It's crucial to understand that dry needling is NOT acupuncture, despite some surface resemblances. In this blog, we will explore why acupuncture is superior to dry needling and delve into the key differences that set them apart.

Philosophical Foundations


Acupuncture is rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a holistic healthcare system that has been in practice for thousands of years. The therapy aims to balance the body’s energy flow, known as Qi, to promote overall well-being and treat a wide range of ailments.

Dry Needling

Dry needling, on the other hand, is a modern technique that is often used by physical therapists. It focuses solely on stimulating myofascial trigger points to relieve muscle tension and pain. There is no guiding philosophy or holistic approach behind dry needling, as it is designed for localized treatment.

Scope of Treatment


One of the significant advantages of acupuncture is its broad scope of treatment. It can address a myriad of conditions ranging from chronic pain, migraines, and neuropathy to emotional disorders like anxiety and depression.

Dry Needling

Dry needling is more limited in its application, focusing primarily on muscular issues. It does not offer a comprehensive approach to treat a variety of systemic or emotional conditions.

Training and Expertise


Acupuncturists undergo extensive education, which typically includes a master's degree in acupuncture or Traditional Chinese Medicine. They also receive thorough training in anatomy, physiology, and the complex system of acupuncture points.

Dry Needling

In contrast, dry needling can be performed after a much shorter course of training, often as an additional certification for physical therapists. The training is not as rigorous or comprehensive as that for acupuncture.

Precision and Skill


Acupuncturists use a highly refined and skilled technique, often employing different types of needles, angles, and depths to stimulate specific acupuncture points. They carefully consider the individual's overall constitution and symptoms before deciding the points to target.

Dry Needling

Dry needling is generally more straightforward, aiming to elicit a "twitch" response from the muscle to release tension. It lacks the nuanced approach that comes from the broader philosophy and advanced training in acupuncture.

Scientific Support


Numerous clinical trials have investigated acupuncture's efficacy, and it has been found effective for treating various conditions, particularly in pain management.

Dry Needling

The scientific evidence supporting dry needling is not as extensive. While it can be effective for certain muscular issues, its benefits have not been as widely studied or confirmed as those of acupuncture.

Final Thoughts

Both acupuncture and dry needling have their place in healthcare, but they are fundamentally different treatments with different scopes, philosophies, and training requirements. Acupuncture offers a more holistic, comprehensive, and finely-tuned approach, backed by thousands of years of practice and an ever-growing body of scientific research.

When considering a needle-based therapy, it’s important to know what each treatment can offer and to choose the one that best aligns with your healthcare needs. But make no mistake: dry needling is NOT acupuncture, and acupuncture offers unique benefits that make it superior in many respects.

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