acupuncture_dry needling

Acupuncture and Dry Needling: things you may not know

“What is the difference between acupuncture and dry needling?” is the question I have been asked frequently.  We hope that the following information may provide you with some insight and better understanding about the topic.

1. Acupunture

Acupuncture (acus = needle, pungere = a prick) is the application of a thin needle into the skin and is a core component of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM, the whole body is managed based on the belief of an energy system in which energy, known as “Qi” (air / breath)” is flowing through specific channels (meridians).

Disease or disorders are a result of the imbalance of the energy system. Acupuncture is used to restore the normal flow of energy, hence normalising the body functions and relieving pain.

The selection of points for acupuncture can be local, distal or symptomatic.

Ashi points are tender spots found in the region of dysfunction. In clinical practice, these Ashi points are often trigger points.

2.  Dry needling

Dry needling is usually referred to insertion of “dry” acupuncture needles without injection or medication into trigger points in muscles or myofascia (connective tissue which covers the muscles). Dry needling does not usually target meridians or areas associated with internal organs as in TCM acupuncture practice.

3.  Physiotherapy & Acupuncture (Dry needling)

Physiotherapists have embraced the use of acupuncture (dry needling) for more than 3 decades. With thorough knowledge and understanding about anatomy, biomechanics and pathophysiology, physiotherapists are in a unique position to seamlessly apply acupuncture (dry needling) with precision and effectively based on sound clinical reasoning and differential diagnosis skillset.

Acupuncture (dry needling) can be applied in acute and chronic conditions to reduce pain and improve joint mobility.

Acupuncture (dry needling) can increase skin and muscle blood flow. With a muscle twitch, it can “flush out” pain substances in the body tissues. Relieve of pain symptoms can be achieved by activation of large mechanoreceptors which reduce the “ON” transmission of pain signals to the brain.

There has been growing evidence to support physiotherapists using acupuncture (dry needling) in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. Some of the examples include: acute and chronic back pain, chronic neck pain and migraine, knee osteoarthritis, shoulder pain and lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow).

4.  Side effects of acupuncture (dry needling)

When carried out by experienced and appropriately trained physiotherapists, side effects of acupuncture (dry needling) are relatively minimal when compared with medications or surgery. Some common sides effects include soreness, light-headedness, bruising and nausea (feeling like vomiting). Most side effects will disappear within a few minutes, or after a few hours and up to a day or two.

5.  How to relieve post treatment soreness from acupuncture (dry needling)?

  • Heat pack – put a heat pack to the area for about 15 mins, for as many times as you prefer.
  • Gentle stretching – gently stretch the muscles as instructed by your physiotherapist will help relieve the soreness after the treatment.
  • Rest – rest from vigorous exercise such as gym class or routines for the next 24-48 hrs will allow time for the muscles to recover from the acupuncture treatment.
  • Warm water bath – sometimes a warm water bath will provide general relaxation, soothing and rejuvenation.
Feel free to talk to us next time when you come by and you can book an appointment with us online.



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