Dry needling and acupuncture share a few fundamental similarities. The tools for both forms of treatment are thin needles, typically made of stainless steel. In both practices, these needles are used to treat pain by being inserted into the skin. Beyond that, the two practices diverge significantly.

Acupuncture has thousands of years of tradition behind it, as well as some encouraging research verifying its effectiveness. Dry needling is much more recent, only coming about in the past few decades. Acupuncture targets a variety of ailments in a variety of ways. Dry needling is more concentrated, seeking to stimulate trigger points in specific muscle groups.

Curious about which treatment fits your needs? Read on to learn more.

Dry Needling

Dry needling is more formally called “intramuscular stimulation.” It’s a modern therapeutic technique designed expressly for relieving muscular pain. You can expect to have several “filiform” needles inserted into your skin. “Filiform” means that the short, thin needles in question are solid and incapable of injecting fluid. This is where the therapy gets the name “dry needling.”

A dry needling practitioner aims his or her needles at key “trigger points” in your muscles. These targets are places where your muscles are hard or knotted. A properly-placed dry needle will release the tension in the knot, relieving you from spasms and muscle pain. In dry needling, the needles are removed safely from your skin after being in place only a short time.

Dry needling is most often used to treat muscle pain, sports injuries, and fibromyalgia.


Acupuncture has been in therapeutic use for thousands of years in Asia. Today it is one of the most common components in the wider system of traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture is based on the idea that most illnesses are caused by blockages or interruptions in the flow of “chi,” or life force, through the body. The therapy intends to balance out your energy flow, remove blockages, and restore harmony to your chi.

Professional acupuncturists will recommend the treatment for hundreds of different conditions. Some key examples:

menstrual cramps

Some advocates even promote acupuncture as an effective treatment for addiction.

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