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What is Dry Needling? Is it the same as acupuncture?

Acupuncture, TCM Treatments & Theory

By Sin Kang TCM

Thin needles are used to pierce the skin for therapeutic purposes during acupuncture and dry needling. The practices are extremely different, although having the same goal of relieving pain.


The goal of dry needling is to relieve pressure on pressure points and knots in muscles. To release endorphins and impact the neurological system, acupuncturists inject needles. Acupuncture has historically been used to balance a person’s qi, or life force.


Dry needling is a more recent method, and the data is less conclusive than acupuncture, which has been researched as a complementary treatment for many illnesses. Additionally, although dry needling is not regulated, acupuncturists are subject to tight rules.


Learn more about the variations among these approaches and potential advantages in this article.


What is dry needling?

Although increasing flexibility may also be a benefit, the main goal is to ease muscle pain and cramping.


Short, thin filiform needles made of stainless steel are inserted into pressure points by a practitioner. These muscular knots or tight spots are also known as trigger points. Nothing is injected, and there is no liquid in the needles.


Dry needling is frequently carried out by physical therapists, including sports therapists. A person can do dry needling with little training and no license because there are no rules or regulations.


It can be quite challenging to determine whether a practitioner has the necessary training, experience, or skill to carry out the surgery.


The most typical procedure involves leaving a filiform needle in the muscle for 10 to 30 minutes. There are two less popular varieties of dry needling, though:


  • The in-and-out method, in which a professional immediately removes a filiform needle after inserting it into a trigger point.Results of a 2014 review suggest that this form of dry needling provides no benefits.
  • The non-trigger points technique,  in which the practitioner uses needles to treat the surrounding muscle rather than a knot or pressure point.


Despite an increasing amount of research, there are few scientific studies on dry needling. So far, some research has been positive. A study published in 2013 showed that dry needling was more effective than a placebo treatment.


The outcomes of studies without the use of a placebo, however, have been less encouraging. In a 2012 study, it was discovered that platelet-rich plasma injections were more efficient at treating rotator cuff problems than dry needling.


Authors of a 2017 study concluded that stretching was just as effective as dry needling in improving flexibility.


Although stretching and massage therapy are more widely used and less expensive than dry needling, they may be more effective in reducing muscle pain than no treatment at all.


Main Differences: Dry needling vs Acupuncture

Aches, pains, and stiffness in the muscles may be reduced with the use of both acupuncture and dry needling.

The practice of acupuncture is strictly governed. To encourage the movement of energy throughout the body, needles are implanted at key locations. Acupuncture is largely accepted as being effective in treating several conditions too, and numerous studies back up the efficacy of acupuncture to treat a variety of illnesses, such as arthritis, migraines, and depression.


Dry needling is a significantly more recent invention. A person is considerably more likely to experience side effects when there are no explicit regulations in place. Little study has been done, although some people report that this method lessens discomfort.

Consult a physician and research available practitioners before attempting acupuncture or dry needling.


Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture: A Patient’s Perspective


For a deeper understanding into the differences between dry needling, we got some comments from a patient who went through both dry needling and acupuncture:


Where were the needles placed?


Patient: We were working on my traps (trapezoids) and my upper spine area. So he would (the dry needlist) grab the muscle we were working on and squeeze it, and find trigger points to insert the needle in. Then he would wait for there to be a response, the muscle would twitch when he got the right trigger and then the muscle would relax.


Were there any other needles in other areas besides the trapezoids and neck? 

Patient: No, there wasn’t. That’s the only place where we focused on.


What about rest time?

Patient: there was no rest time. For me, the dry needling was very relaxing and there was no rest time needed, even if i don’t sleep.


What did dry needling feel like?

Patient: It was good that the muscles was squeezed, because then the needles go in deeper. I also felt the sensation of the practitioner squeezing of my muscle more than the needle actually going in. And I can definitely tell when a trigger point was hit because there would be a twinge or a twitch. I felt the sensation maybe only twice.


What’s your take on the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?

Dry Needling gets a more immediate effect of releasing the muscle and increasing the range of motion. I had a lot of different issues going on in my muscles, so I felt a tiny bit of release.

Whereas in acupuncture, I can remain in that relaxed state a whole lot longer, and also seems to be effective much longer at relaxing my muscles than dry needle.


Transcribed and adapted from an interview from Encircle Acupuncture.

About the author

Sin Kang TCM Singapore

Sin Kang TCM

Contact us for Enquries 联络我们

Sin Kang TCM was established in 1999 in the heart of Singapore's business district and won the Top 25 Prestige Award in 2014 and awarded the Singapore 500 SME Company prestige commercial status in 2021.

For over 20 years, Sin Kang TCM Clinic has been providing a holistic and comprehensive range of treatments for our patients to improve their quality of life through affordable healthcare, based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) wisdom and modern medical advances. Some of our treatments include signature NO-PAIN Acupuncture™, Tui Na, Cupping, Gua Sha and many more.

In 2017, we expanded our health renewal journey by curating quality products to bring you the best of TCM right to your doorstep.

When you're looking for quality affordable products, we hope that we'll continue to be the place you think of. Thank you for dropping by, and do drop us any feedback so that we can bring you better healthcare products!

Sin Kang TCM 于 1999 年在新加坡商业区的心脏地带成立,并于 2014 年荣获 Top 25 Prestige Award,并于 2021 年荣获新加坡 500 SME Company 声望商业地位。

20多年来,新康中医诊所以中医智慧和现代医学进步为基础,通过负担得起的医疗保健,为我们的患者提供全面和全面的治疗,以提高他们的生活质量。 我们的一些治疗包括标志性的无痛针灸™、推拿、拔罐、刮痧等等。

2017 年,我们通过精选优质产品扩展了我们的健康更新之旅,将最好的中医带到您家门口。

当您正在寻找特别且价格合理的东西时,我们希望我们将继续成为您想到的地方。 感谢您的光临,并为我们提供任何反馈,以便我们为您带来更好的保健产品!