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What is the difference between acupuncture and dry needling?

What is the difference between acupuncture and dry needling? Both are great treatments to bring about relaxation, ease chronic pain, and involve using sterile needles. At first glance, these treatments are the same but here is our simple guide to the differences between acupuncture and dry needling, and their benefits.


Acupuncture is a treatment derived from Ancient Chinese medicine, which seeks to release the flow of the body's energy or chi by stimulating points along 14 energy pathways. Conventional acupuncture involves single-use sterilised needles of various widths, lengths, and metals. These are left in the body for anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes to achieve the full benefits of the treatment.

Scientists say the needles cause the body to release natural painkillers like endorphins, melatonin, and serotonin, boosts blood flow, and changes brain activity. This means that, in addition to pain relief, acupuncture can promote better sleep and ease problems like chronic headaches.

Acupuncture rarely causes more than very mild side effects and is, therefore, a fantastic option for those that have difficulty with medications and steroid treatments.

Dry Needling

Dry Needling used more specifically and in smaller areas of the body to treat for pain, muscle spasm, nerve irritation and promote muscle relaxation. While Acupuncture is ancient, Dry Needling has only been prevalent for a few decades but is built firmly into Western science and medicine.

Using a scientific map of the body and following close inspection of your body by a physician, the placement of the needles is determined by ‘trigger points’ in your muscles. These trigger points are where the muscle is knotted or tight, therefore causing pain. The stimulation of this trigger point with a needle releases the knot.

Unlike with acupuncture, the needles are left in for only a short amount of time or the in-and-out technique is used, simply pricking the trigger points and then are removed.

If you’re interested in finding out more about acupuncture or dry needling, then please visit our website or contact us on 0191 284 9111 or via email at

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