The Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture

A common question asked about dry needling is “what’s the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?”

From a distance, the two therapies may appear to be quite similar. After all, both dry needling and acupuncture involve the insertion of thin, sterile needles into the skin at very specific points.

However, that’s where the similarity ends. Despite the superficial, visual resemblance, there are some important, key differences between these two therapeutic approaches.

Dry Needling Vs Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a technique that comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and has historically been used to treat a wide variety of conditions. Dry needling is a modern technique that is effective for treating muscle pain by releasing myofascial trigger points.

How is Dry Needling Different from Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient healing technique that has been used for centuries in TCM. Its exact origins are unknown, but it’s likely over 2,000 years old. Acupuncture is based on the belief that there are energy pathways in the body, called meridians, that can become blocked, leading to pain and disease.

It involves the placement of needles in precise points along these meridians in order to unblock the energy and encourage healing. While its roots come from the concept of energy pathways in the body, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the efficacy of acupuncture for treating pain and a variety of other conditions.

Dry needling, on the other hand, is a relatively modern therapeutic approach based on Western anatomical and neurophysiological principles. It involves the precise placement of needles into myofascial trigger points, which are specific areas in muscles that are tender to touch and can cause pain in other parts of the body.

Unlike acupuncture, dry needling does not focus on energy pathways or meridians. Instead, it is based on the scientific theory that trigger points are caused by muscle tissue that is in a state of constant contraction. This can be due to injury, overuse, or even emotional stress. Dry needling is an effective way to release these trigger points and relieve pain. Specifically, it’s effective in treating many types of muscle pain, as well as tension headaches, sciatica, carpal tunnel, Tennis Elbow, and other conditions.

At Continuum Health Centre in Victoria, BC, our practitioners use dry needling to effectively treat the issues mentioned above, in addition to repetitive strain injuries, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and sports injuries.

In addition to dry needling, we also use acupuncture and intramuscular stimulation (IMS) to treat pain-points for therapeutic purposes.


So, while both dry needling and acupuncture involve the insertion of very thin needles, the two techniques are based on different principles, and are used to treat different conditions. If you’re experiencing muscle pain, dry needling may be a good treatment option for you.