Dry needling or acupuncture? Which therapy should you seek? There’s a ton of mystery floating around the similarities and differences between dry needling and acupuncture to the average person. 

In this blog post, we’ll be talking about what exactly these therapy treatments are, their benefits, purpose, and procedures.

By the end of this post, you’ll know the similarities and differences between these two treatments and which one would benefit you the most. Read on.

The History of Dry Needling 

Dry needling was inspired by traditional Chinese medicine. But it was adopted by countless physical therapists, chiropractors, and Western medicine doctors.

The art of dry needling originally dates back to the 1940s with Dr. Janet Travell. 

She identified the muscular trigger points and referral patterns brought on with “wet needling,” She soon discovered that “dry needling” gave the same results.

The dry needling technique we know today was developed by a Czech physician, Karel Lewit, in 1979.

The History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture, on the other hand, has been around for approximately 3000 years. The first documentation of acupuncture is described as an organized system of diagnosis and treatment is in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which dates back to 100 BCE.

What Is Dry Needling?

Dry needling (as the name describes) is a treatment involving dry needles that are performed by qualified, professional physical therapists, chiropractors, and other doctors certified in practicing the technique.

The treatment involves applying sterile, liquidless needles to the affected tension-tight, inflamed areas of the body or trigger points. During dry needling, a practitioner inserts several filiform needles that pierce your skin. No liquids are injected into your body, hence “dry needling.”

What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture derives from ancient Chinese medicine, where fine, sharp needles are inserted into your body. It works by triggering the release of your body’s own natural painkillers, known as endorphins. The needles are placed in your skin at various depths.

The Similarities & Differences

Acupuncture and dry needling both use thin, sharp, and stainless steel needles. Both treatments use needles that are inserted into the skin, and both help relieve and treat pain. This is where the similarities end. The techniques are as different as black and white.

Dry Needling 

Targets specific muscle groups to pierce and apply intense stimulation, which gets your muscles to spasm or release.

  • Dry needling pierces the skin aiming for particular trigger points within your body to release tension and produce a healing response. 
  • This technique concentrates on using intense stimulation on the muscles to get them to release. 


Doesn’t apply strong stimulation. It’s primarily based on channel theory and where the points are and focuses on your body as a whole versus targeting specific areas.

  • Acupuncture targets points along meridian lines, representing bodily organs, to restore balance and proper energy flow to your body.
  • This technique focuses on channel theory and uses points to heal the body naturally.

What are the benefits of acupuncture?

Acupuncture is used to treat and relieve discomfort associated with a handful of distraught pains and conditions such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Labor pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Lower back pain
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Respiratory disorders like allergic rhinitis
  • Headaches such as tension and migraines

What are the benefits of dry needling?

Dry needling is used to treat and relieve things such as:

  • Stiffness
  • Muscular pain 
  • Muscle tissue
  • Hip pain
  • Neck pain
  • Knee pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Myofascial pain
  • Increases blood flow
  • Lowers muscle tension
  • Accelerates your body’s natural healing processes

As we’re sure you’ve noticed, there’s definitely some overlap between the benefits of the two practices. That being said….

Which Treatment Should You Seek?

You should seek acupuncture if…

You’re dealing with the discomfort associated with symptoms of chemotherapy-induced and postoperative nausea and vomiting. As well as other discomforts like dental pain and headaches, like tension headaches and migraines. 

You should seek dry needling if…

You want relief specifically for muscular pain and stiffness. Easing the trigger points may improve flexibility and increase the range of motion. This is why the dry needling technique is used more to treat sports injuries, muscle pain, and even fibromyalgia pain which is why athletes have been bringing this method into the spotlight of the mainstream in recent years.

In short..

If you’re seeking relief from a sports-related injury or body pain and stiffness due to sports, dry needling is your best bet.

If you want to seek relief from other things like osteoarthritis, and menstrual cramps, that aren’t necessarily associated with sports, acupuncture is your best bet.

Last thoughts

Now you know what dry needling and acupuncture are, their history, benefits, effects on your body, and how they’re performed. 

You should now know if dry needling or acupuncture are treatments worth your time. However, if you’re still unsure whether dry needling or acupuncture is best for you, keep on reading.

Ask Your Doctor 

Before you seek acupuncture or dry needling, please be sure to get a second opinion and contact your doctor or physical therapist. This way you’ll know for sure if one of these two methods is something worth pursuing. 

Do you want to get in touch with us to know certainly if dry needling will help you?

We don’t offer acupuncture. But we do offer dry needling. If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re dealing with some sort of body pain or stiffness related to sports and exercise activity and want to know if dry needling is a treatment that’ll surely benefit you.

If that’s the case and you’d like personal 1:1 care or want to learn more, please contact us at (410) 431-2153, or click here. We’ll get you in touch with one of our dedicated professionals. 

At True Sports Physical Therapy, your health is always front of mind! It’s our mission to help you get off the sidelines and back on your feet in the fastest and safest way possible.