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What is the Difference Between Acupuncture and Dry Needling?

An acupuncturist providing acupuncture to a patient

Many people think if they get dry needling, they won’t need acupuncture. While both treatments involve needles, they provide very different results.


Who can perform dry needling versus acupuncture? Does one take more education and experience than the other? What should you expect from each technique?


Keep reading to learn more about which one you need for your specific conditions and health goals- and how to choose which one is best for you.


What is dry needling?

Dry needling uses longer needles to puncture trigger points in your muscles. This forces the muscle to relax by performing a hard reset through stimulating the trigger point.


Dry needling can feel painful and very intense, this technique is usually used on particularly sore tendons, joints, and muscles that cannot relax through other methods. One treatment may be enough to relax your muscles, but you may need multiple treatments for severe, chronic pain.


What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture treats a much broader range of conditions and symptoms while providing a more relaxing experience.


Acupuncture needles are very small and are inserted shallowly into your skin. Unlike dry needling, you may feel a small pinch once inserted but will feel painless once placed.


While dry needling focuses on muscle trigger points, acupuncture focuses on the energy meridians in your body that control the flow of energy influencing your health. This vital energy is responsible for all your systems, including your digestive system, immune system, hormonal system, nervous system, circulatory system, and more.


Acupuncture is an effective tool for treating a wide range of pains and symptoms. While dry needling only helps relax muscles, acupuncture can provide muscle relaxation and much more.


People with digestive issues can reverse their stomach or liver problems with acupuncture. Those who suffer from severe allergies can overcome their allergy altogether with acupuncture. The list of health conditions acupuncture can solve is extensive.


Who can perform dry needling versus acupuncture?

Many different types of practitioners can perform dry needling, including physical therapists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists.


The certification to learn dry needling depends on which state you’re in but can include 27-80 hours of education. This typically includes a course on dry needling and may also include observation hours from a practicing clinician.


Only acupuncturists can perform acupuncture. Many chiropractors will also become acupuncturists, but the training is much more extensive than the dry needling course.


There are different levels of acupuncture education, including licensed acupuncture and a doctoral of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Most acupuncture schools last for 3 years and involve 120-220 hours of practice and education.


Acupuncture is more involved and follows more specific patterns and protocols to provide relief than dry needling. An acupuncturist will have more tools to promote your health, reverse sickness, and relieve pain than dry needling alone can provide.


How do you know which one you need?

If you’re facing stubborn muscle pain, dry needling may benefit you and provide relief. A combination of both can provide even further relief if dry needling alone is not enough.


For other pains and health issues, you should pursue acupuncture. This includes symptoms for anxiety and depression, fertility issues, digestive problems, mystery sicknesses, headaches, and much more. Regardless of your health struggles, acupuncture will provide relief and improve your well-being.


Whether you’re interested in acupuncture or dry needling, give us a call to make an appointment. Dr. Eve Kocurek can help you choose which approach is best for you and guide you on a path toward healing. She has decades of experience helping people quickly overcome their uncomfortable and painful symptoms while providing an empathetic and listening ear.

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