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Monday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
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Is Dry Needling The Same As Acupuncture Treatment

From the outside, it may be not easy to tell between dry needling and acupuncture. Both practices involve using very thin needles inserted into specific locations across the skin to trigger specific responses. To make things more confusing, both have been claimed as pain relief, and dry needling is relatively new compared to acupuncture, making it less known in therapeutic circles.

The philosophical basis for their practice, as well as the methods and techniques used to stimulate healing in the body, differentiates the two practices.



Acupuncture was developed in China about 8,000 years ago. The practice is based on the belief that life generates invisible energy known as “chi,” which moves through the body along specific pathways known as “meridians.”

Acupuncturists believe that slowed or interrupted flows of chi energy are the cause of many ailments and that by using needles to target the intersections or acupuncture points of these chi meridians, chi will be released, energy flow restored, and pain and weakness will be alleviated.

Over the thousands of years that this therapy has been practiced, hundreds of acupuncture points have been identified. According to traditional practitioners, acupuncture can successfully treat various ailments beyond musculoskeletal issues.

Dry needling, on the other hand, is based on modern Western anatomy, including the skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems of the human body. Dry needling is typically used to treat and manage muscular pain.

Although dry needling does not acknowledge the presence of chi or meridians, the myriad nerves, motor points, and trigger points identified as dry needling targets roughly correspond to the classic map of acupuncture points utilized in traditional acupuncture.


Despite their basic differences, dry needling and acupuncture have many similarities.

  • Both treatments use solid-core needles to pierce the skin and penetrate the tissues beneath. (Dry needling therapists may employ hollow core, or hypodermic, needles to deliver medication or other treatment within the body, but studies have shown that solid filiform needles cause far less discomfort for the patient.)
  • Both use the tip of the needle to “hit” certain three-dimensional points within the body.
  • Neither technique depends on medications or other drugs, including topical or local anesthetics, to deliver its benefits. 


Dry needling therapy has been utilized for many years all over the world. It is an accepted treatment used by physical therapists in the majority of US states to treat the following conditions and more:

  • Neck and back pain
  • Acute and chronic injuries
  • Headaches
  • Tendinitis
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle strains
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Elbow pain
  • Sciatica
  • Hip and knee pain
  • PFPS (Runner’s Knee)
  • Overuse injuries

Dry needling, as a tool for physical therapists, allows for precisely targeting deep tissues that surface touch cannot reach. Therapists have a great tool to reduce pain and enhance range of motion by using filiform needles to release or inactivate trigger points.

Dry needling has been shown to improve pain control, reduce muscle tension, and normalize motor end plate dysfunctions (the locations from which nerve impulses are delivered to muscles), all of which can speed a patient’s return to active rehabilitation.

Whether dry needling therapy is considered an evolution of traditional Chinese medicine or a relatively new field formed by contemporary Western medical practice, this technique has helped millions of people in whatever form or description it has taken throughout history. It is a medication-free, safe option for the effective treatment of pain.


We are proud to provide safe and effective dry needle treatment at Elite Health and Wellness in Kearney, NE. We’ve helped patients with back pain, neck pain, knee pain, fibromyalgia, muscle spasms, muscle strains, and a variety of other painful conditions, and we’d be pleased to meet with you to discuss how dry needling might help you regain the freedom of a pain-free life.

Call 308-455-1500 to schedule an appointment or to learn more about the differences between dry needling and acupuncture.