Traditional Chinese Acupuncture VS Dry Needling


Traditional Chinese Acupuncture and Dry Needling are two therapeutic techniques that involve the insertion of thin needles into the body for therapeutic purposes. While they may seem similar at first glance, they have distinct origins, principles, and applications.

Traditional Chinese Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese Acupuncture is an ancient healing art that originated over 2000 years ago. It is based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which views health as the balance of Yin and Yang energies and the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) through meridians in the body.

Key Aspects:

  • TCM Acupuncture takes a holistic view of health, considering the body, mind, and spirit. It aims to address the root cause of health imbalances rather than just treating symptoms.
  • Acupuncture points are selected based on the body’s meridian system, which consists of channels through which Qi flows. Needles are inserted at specific points along these meridians to restore the balance of Qi and promote healing.
  • Traditional Chinese Acupuncture involves thorough assessment and diagnosis, often including pulse and tongue examination to determine the underlying pattern of disharmony in the body.
  • Acupuncture needles are inserted at various depths and angles and may be manipulated manually or with other techniques such as moxibustion to stimulate Qi flow.

Dry Needling

Dry needling is a modern therapeutic technique that targets myofascial trigger points, muscular tension and pain. It is based on Western anatomical and neurophysiological principles rather than TCM.

Key Aspects:

  • Dry needling focuses on anatomical structures such as muscles, tendons, and connective tissues. Needles are inserted directly into trigger points or tight bands of muscle to stimulate a local twitch response.
  • The primary goal of dry needling is to release myofascial trigger points, which are hypersensitive areas within muscles that can cause pain, stiffness, and restricted range of movement.
  • Dry needling is often performed based on the physical assessment of trigger points and areas of muscle tension, without the comprehensive diagnosis used in TCA.
  • Needles used in dry needling are typically thicker and inserted deeper into the tissues than acupuncture needles. The focus is on eliciting a therapeutic response rather than balancing Qi flow.

Differences in Purposes and Application:

Traditional Chinese Acupuncture focuses on restoring the balance of Qi and treating a wide range of conditions, including both physical and emotional issues. Dry needling primarily targets musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction, such as muscle tightness, knots and trigger points.


While both dry needling and Traditional Chinese Acupuncture involve the use of needles for therapeutic purposes, they differ in their underlying principles, techniques and applications. TCA is deeply routed in Ancient philosophy and aims to restore the balance of Qi within the body, while dry needling focuses on releasing muscle tension and trigger points based on Western anatomical principles.

If you are interested in this topic, don’t miss our next blog post, where I will take a deep dive into Traditional Chinese Acupuncture! And if you can’t wait and want to know more about any of these techniques and your acupuncture needs, book a free consultation with us!

Kate has been practicing as an Acupuncturist and Remedial Massage Therapist for 22 years since she qualified from the internationally renowned College of Integrated Chinese Medicine.
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