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Dry Needling vs Acupuncture

If you’re looking for a way to release the stress and pain from your body, the most typical thing you will think to use is a massage or physical therapy and that’s it. But did you know that physical therapy has different specializations that can provide the same benefits at the traditional therapy, like dry needling? Needles? You heard correctly. Dry needling and acupuncture are two forms of therapeutic practices that aim to relieve pain by strategically inserting thin needles into the body. While the two practices hold many similarities, dry needling is rooted in Western medicine and predominantly targets musculoskeletal issues by pinpointing trigger points and tight muscles. While, acupuncture, with its origins in Traditional Chinese Medicine, encompasses a holistic approach, addressing the overall balance of energy within the body. Let’s dive into the benefits of each and help you figure out which approach would be better suited for you. 


Dry Needling

Dry needling is a therapeutic technique rooted in Western medicine that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific trigger points or tight bands within muscles. Only licensed physical therapists, chiropractors, or other healthcare professionals can offer these services. The cost of dry needling can vary depending on factors such as location, practitioner expertise, and the number of sessions required. With each session ranging from $50-$150, it is considered a relatively cost-effective treatment compared to some alternative therapies. The procedure itself aims to release tension, improve blood flow, and alleviate musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction. Benefits of dry needling include targeted relief from muscle tightness, knots, and trigger points, with potential improvements in range of motion and flexibility. However,even though there are some great benefits for dry needling, you should also be aware of the potential risks, which can include soreness at the needling site, bruising, or, in rare cases, infection. Practitioners may employ various techniques, such as superficial dry needling targeting the skin or deep dry needling reaching deeper muscle layers, tailoring the approach to the specific needs and conditions of the patient.



Acupuncture, which is deeply rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), distinguishes itself from dry needling with its holistic approach to healing. In acupuncture, thin needles are inserted into specific points along the body’s meridians, which are believed to correspond to the flow of vital energy or Qi. This technique aims to rebalance the body’s energy, addressing a wide range of conditions beyond musculoskeletal issues. The cost of acupuncture averages around $70-$150 but can be subject to change due to practitioner expertise, location, and the number of sessions needed. Acupuncture offers diverse benefits, including pain management, stress reduction, improved energy flow, and overall well-being. Patients often report enhanced relaxation and mental clarity. Despite its widespread acceptance, similar to dry needling, the potential risks of acupuncture include minor side effects like bruising, soreness, or, in rare instances, infections.  

Which is Better for Existing Conditions

Choosing between dry needling and acupuncture for preexisting conditions involves considering the nature of the condition and its underlying causes. If the concern is musculoskeletal, tension, or trigger points, dry needling may be the better option. Conversely, if the condition is viewed as an imbalance in Qi according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture might be more appropriate. Assessing personal preferences and comfort levels should be taken into consideration when making the choice as well. Some may prefer acupuncture’s holistic approach, while others may favor the evidence-based focus of dry needling. Consulting with healthcare professionals experienced in both can offer valuable insights.


Plantar Fasciitis

Between acupuncture and dry needling, dry needling is often considered beneficial for Plantar Fasciitis due to its targeted and localized approach to addressing muscular tension and trigger points. Plantar Fasciitis commonly involves tightness and discomfort in the muscles of the foot and calf, which are precisely the areas that dry needling targets. By inserting thin needles into specific trigger points and tight bands within these muscles, dry needling seeks to release tension, improve blood circulation, and promote the body’s natural healing processes. Physical therapists and healthcare professionals specializing in dry needling can tailor the treatment to the individual’s specific condition, providing a targeted and evidence-based approach that may contribute to the effective management of Plantar Fasciitis symptoms.


Back Pain

Between dry needling and acupuncture, both treatments offer relief from back pain. Choosing which one for better results boils down to the patient’s preference along with a professional’s opinion. Dry needling aids in alleviating back pain by targeting specific trigger points and tight muscles associated with musculoskeletal issues. When thin needles are inserted into these areas, it induces a local twitch response, releasing muscle tension and promoting improved blood circulation. The procedure helps to break the pain cycle by disrupting the tight muscle knots and facilitating the body’s natural healing processes. Through this targeted approach, dry needling aims to reduce pain, enhance flexibility, and improve overall function in the affected area, contributing to effective back pain management. Along with dry needling, acupuncture also offers pain relief from back pain. Acupuncture is effective in relieving back pain by addressing both localized symptoms and the overall energy balance in the body. When thin needles are inserted into specific acupuncture points along meridians, it stimulates the flow of Qi, the body’s vital energy, promoting a sense of balance and harmony. Acupuncture can modulate the nervous system, reducing pain signals and promoting the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. This holistic approach not only targets immediate pain relief but also addresses underlying imbalances, contributing to improved overall well-being and functionality in individuals suffering from back pain. 



Dry needling can be beneficial for addressing sciatica because of its targeted approach in releasing tension and tightness in the muscles associated with the sciatic nerve. By focusing on specific areas of muscular dysfunction, dry needling may help reduce pain and discomfort associated with sciatica. Acupuncture can also offer a holistic approach to sciatica by addressing both local symptoms and the overall balance of energy (Qi) in the body. Acupuncturists target specific meridians and acupuncture points, potentially promoting the flow of Qi and alleviating imbalances contributing to sciatic pain. Although both dry needling and acupuncture provide treatment for sciatica pain, combining these two methods may offer a synergistic effect in managing sciatica. The targeted muscle release from dry needling, coupled with the holistic energy balance addressed by acupuncture, can contribute to a more comprehensive approach to sciatic pain. The combined therapy may address both the local muscular issues and the underlying energetic imbalances that may be contributing to the sciatic symptoms. Individual responses to treatments can vary, and it’s essential for individuals dealing with sciatica to consult with healthcare professionals experienced in both dry needling and acupuncture. A personalized and collaborative approach, possibly including a combination of therapies, stretching exercises, and lifestyle modifications, can be tailored to the specific needs and preferences of the individual, maximizing the potential for effective sciatica management.