Dry Needling vs Acupuncture: Pros and Cons

dry needling vs acupuncture

Dry needling and acupuncture are two popular treatments for chronic pain. They both involve the use of needles, but there are some key differences between them. This article will discuss the pros and cons of dry needling vs acupuncture and help you decide which treatment is right for you!

Is Dry Needling the Same as Acupuncture 

Nope, dry needling is not the same and is different than acupuncture.

Yes, they both involve using needles to ease muscle tension and pain. The size of the needle and how the needle targets the muscle are different.

Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture 

Dry needling is the insertion of a single filament needle into a muscle or tendon experiencing acute pain.

Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture 

Several studies have shown that dry needling increases muscle function and reduces pain when it hits the nerve.

Dry needling is backed by solid science and used at Western medicine professional clinics.

dry needling description

Acupuncture, on the other hand, is a traditional Chinese medical practice that has been used for centuries.

The goal of acupuncture is to promote balance and harmony within the body by stimulating specific points along energy pathways.

Acupuncture is based on the belief that there is an invisible life force energy called Qi (pronounced chee) that flows through the body.

Acupuncture is often seen as pseudo-science and is not backed by science.

Dry Needling Pros and Cons 

Now that we know the difference between dry needling and acupuncture let’s dive into the pros and cons of dry needling.

dry needling explained

Dry Needling Pros:

Dry needling is backed by science and is an effective treatment for chronic pain. Dry needling is less invasive than other treatments like surgery or injections.

This particular treatment has had a history of successfully treating the following health problems:

  • Chemotherapy-induced and postoperative nausea and vomiting
  • Dental pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches, including tension headaches and migraines
  • Labor pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Respiratory disorders, such as allergic rhinitis
  • Tennis elbow

Dry Needling Cons:

Dry needling, while often a successful and rewarding treatment for muscle pain, does come with a few cons.

dry needling for athletes

A few cons associated with Dry Needling include:

  • Risk of infection from the needle insertion
  • Risk of lung or organ puncture due to non-experienced dry needling therapists

While these cons may seem scary, if you use a certified and trained dry needling specialist, the chance of an adverse reaction or incident is extremely rare.

Acupuncture Pros and Cons

Acupuncture is not for everyone, but if you believe in eastern medicine and like to try everything at least once, acupuncture may be on the table for you.

While not for everyone, many cultures and individuals have seen success in everything from pain relief to reduced anxiety.

There is even acupuncture for pets if your furry friend has mental or physical health issues!

Acupuncture Pros:

Acupuncture has been used for centuries and is a popular treatment in eastern medicine.

acupuncture pros

This treatment can be used to treat a wide variety of health problems, including:

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Back pain
  • Depression
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches

Acupuncture Cons:

Acupuncture is a bit out there and can seem a bit “out there” to many people.

acupuncture cons

There are a few cons that make acupuncture less than desirable for some, including:

  • Acupuncture can be costly and is not covered by most insurance plans.
  • Acupuncture can also be time-consuming as it typically requires multiple sessions to see results.
  • Acupuncture sessions are not for those who are afraid of needles as it involves many needles inserted into the skin in one session.
acupuncture does it work

Regardless of your beliefs, if you are experiencing chronic pain, you may want to eventually check acupuncture off your list of treatments to try.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use dry needling for plantar fasciitis?

Yes, dry needling for plantar fasciitis is an effective treatment. It can reduce swelling and soreness associated with this condition, and many patients have found relief from their plantar fasciitis symptoms.

What are the side effects of dry needling?

The most common side effect of dry needling is soreness at the needle insertion site.

Can you use dry needling for tennis elbow?

Yes, you can use dry needling for tennis elbow. Dry needling can help to break up the scar tissue that has formed in your injured elbow.

How much does dry Needling cost?

The cost of dry needling will vary depending on the therapist you see and your insurance coverage. Many insurance plans do not cover dry needling, but the price is often $50 to $150 per session.

How much does acupuncture cost?

Acupuncture is rarely covered by insurance due to this being a more traditional and eastern therapy. Luckily the cost for acupuncture sessions is similar to dry needling at around $50 to $150 per session.

Can you use dry needling for your pelvic floor?

Dry needling can be used for healing your pelvic floor. However, it is not as common of treatment as typical physical therapy.

Is dry needling acupuncture?

After reading this article, we hope you understand the difference between dry needling and acupuncture and that Dry Needling is absolutely not acupuncture, regardless of the needles involved.

Verdict Dry Needling vs Acupuncture

Dry needling and acupuncture are both effective treatments for chronic pain, with dry needling being the more evidence-based treatment.

dry needling pros

Both treatments have pros and cons, so it really comes down to what you are partial to, whether eastern or western medicine.

Also, chronic pain sufferers often try every approach possible to find relief.

Giving acupuncture and dry needling a try can be worth it on your journey to a pain-free life.

Which treatment do you prefer in the Dry Needling vs acupuncture debate?

Let us know in the comments below!

Dr. Ian Nellis MD
Latest posts by Dr. Ian Nellis MD (see all)

Dr. Ian Nellis MD

Dr. Ian Nellis is a medical doctor with over ten years of experience in the health care industry. Dr. Nellis is passionate about sports nutrition and helping his patients live healthy and fulfilling lives. He lives and practices medicine in Denver, CO, with his wife and beloved Mastiff Leonardo.

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