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Whats the difference between Dry Needling and Acupuncture?

A common question we get here at Burwood Osteo & Rehab is what is dry needling and how is it different to acupuncture?

They use the same types of needles, the difference is in the philosophies.

Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese Medicine, dating back thousands of years ago. It’s one of the oldest healthcare systems in the world! A sterile needle is inserted into an “Acupoint” along the body’s energy pathway (meridians) to clear energy blockages and encourage the normal flow of energy (Qi) into our body. (1)

Dry needling uses the same needles, but has a Western medicine perspective, with evidence based approaches. Your practitioner inserts the needles into “trigger points” - a taut band of sensitised muscle - commonly known as a “knot”, to assist with decreasing pain and improving function of the area. (2)

Dry needling works by

  • Increasing blood flow to the affected area, by stimulating the muscle fibres (twitching) supplying the muscle with oxygen and nutrients from the blood system, whilst removing the chemical mediators associated from the injury

  • Affects the nervous system by altering the nocic

eptive (pain) input. The brain does a “feedback loop” and subsequently relaxes the muscle fibres.

Some people may be in a lot of pain from their injury, and may be in muscle spasm as a protective response from the body.. Dry needling is a safe way to de-stimulate an area to improve movement and function.

Dry needling can help almost any musculoskeletal complaint:

  • Headaches and neck pain,

  • RSI and forearm pain

  • Calf and leg injuries or tightness

  • Low back injuries

  • Hip and shoulder complaints.

The best way to describe dry needling is “It’s weird!!” Whilst everyone is different, generically you will feel the tap of the needle on the skin, and you may feel the needle insert or twitch the muscle fibre, with a dull ache or heaviness for a few minutes. You shouldn’t feel “pain.” Like any treatment, there are risks associated with needling which your practitioner will discuss prior, but it is a safe and effective tool to help reduce pain and improve rage of movement.

Fun fact - The word “Dry” means nothing is taken in or out from inserting the needle unlike an injection or donating blood!

Your Burwood Osteopath will be able to assist and see if dry needling is appropriate for you.


*Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA)

*Travell & Simons - Myofascial pain and dysfunction


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