Acupuncture vs. Dry Needling: What’s the Difference?

Acupuncture vs. Dry Needling: What’s the Difference?

Most people are familiar with the concept of acupuncture, of having tiny needles pricked into the surface of the skin, but have you ever wondered what it does? And what about dry needling? Here’s our quick guide to acupuncture and dry needling, and which you should choose, depending on your issue.

How acupuncture works

The practice of acupuncture is old, thousands of years of old. It has its roots in ancient Chinese medicine, and is all about restoring the flow of energy and electricity through the body. At its most basic, the theory says that the body contains a series of meridian lines. These lines are responsible for the flow of energy through the body, and each line corresponds with one or more vital organs. When the flow of electricity becomes slow or blocked, tiny needles are used to release it. How does it work? Nobody’s really sure, scientifically, but here’s a big psychological factor involved, for sure. We’re highly sensitive, responsive creatures, us humans, and acupuncture has been solving a lot of issues for a long time, including:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Fatigue
  • Stress and depression

How dry needling works

By comparison, dry needling is incredibly new. It’s been around since the 80s, and is focused more on treating muscle tightness and pain. The theory behind dry needling is similar to the one behind acupuncture, in that they’re both concerned with electricity flow — dry needling is perhaps a bit more ‘westernised.’

The idea, is that muscles build up trigger points, which can become stiff and painful. The intention, then, is to use needles to release those trigger points and restore movement to the muscle.

Best used for:

  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Joint pain
  • Chronic pain from fibromyalgia.

There you have it, two similar practices, two slightly different uses. Proven effective by the wisdom of crowds over thousands of years. If medication isn’t doing for you, or even if it is, give acupuncture or dry needling a try, and maybe you’ll be surprised.


Acupuncture                                                                        Dry Needling



Jonathan Naish

Jonathan Naish

Writer and expert