How Does Dry Needling Differ from Acupuncture?

Most people know about acupuncture and may have heard that it is used to treat a variety of health issues including problems with allergies, headaches and menstrual cramps. The practice of using dry needles, also known as intramuscular stimulation, is less well known. In this post, we will define what intramuscular stimulation is, as well as some of the conditions a physical therapist will treat when they use this particular practice to help their patients.

How Does Dry Needling Differ from Acupuncture?

Dry Needling Defined

Dry needling is similar to acupuncture in that both procedures involve inserting a thin, stainless steel needle into the body in order to help relieve pain. Where these two procedures differ is in the desired outcome of each procedure. In acupuncture, the goal is to help stimulate a patient’s “chi”, or energy flow. The thought process behind acupuncture is that the body will be able to heal itself if its energy flow is not blocked.

Dry needling involves inserting needles into trigger points found in muscles or tissue, with the goal of relieving pain coming from spasms or knotted muscles. Unlike acupuncture which treats a variety of health conditions and may require needle placement in a variety of areas throughout the body, dry needling involves the placement of needles into specific areas, focusing only on relieving pain and tension in muscles and other tissues. The term “dry” is used because no fluid is injected into the target area.

How is Dry Needling Used?

Physical therapists trained in the use of dry needles use this procedure because they frequently see patients dealing with muscular pain. Although a patient’s primary issue may be something else such as a herniated or bulging disc in the spine, often chronic muscle pain goes along with these types of spinal conditions, as well as other health issues. The practice of dry needling is simply another technique available to physical therapists, along with other techniques such as applying heat and/or using their hands to help encourage painful tight, or spasming muscles to relax.

If you would like to know more about the practice of dry needling and how it can be used to treat your pain, please contact us!