Dry Needling and Acupuncture

What is Dry Needling?

Dry Needling is a proven way to treat painful neuromuscular conditions. Studies have shown its effectiveness in both acute and chronic pain situations. The premise behind dry needling is that when abnormal muscle tension develops in the body, it causes pain. Dry needling stimulates blood flow, increases oxygen, and decreases the sensitization in the brain that occurs with chronic pain. Dry needling is generally safe and very effective for a range of conditions.

Is Dry Needle Therapy Effective?

Everyone is different and responds to treatments differently. Dry needling is proven to relieve pain from many chronic and acute injuries within a few treatments. Many elite athletes use dry needling to speed up recovery and ease the pain. Research shows its effectiveness in those suffering from chronic and debilitative pain.

Pain from abnormal muscle tissue tension is often misdiagnosed and overlooked by healthcare practitioners. Dry needling aims to correct these tissue dysfunctions and restore the proper tissue tension and balance in the body.

Dry needling treatments can only be performed by a qualified healthcare practitioner – typically a Physiotherapist or Physician – who has been specially trained and certified in dry needling. For further information on dry needling service in Toronto, please contact ALPHA Health Services.


Dry Needling vs. IMS

Dry needling and Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) are both techniques that use needles to treat pain in the body. Although they appear similar, there are distinct differences between the two. Dry needling treatment is a technique that inserts acupuncture needles to target muscle knots or trigger points, effectively addressing neuropathic and myofascial pain while improving movement and function. On the other hand, IMS is an effective way to treat acute and chronic muscle tightness. This treatment uses a thicker needle and targets muscles to increase blood flow to the area of pain, providing immediate relief.

Generally, dry needling is a more effective long-term treatment because it focuses on releasing muscle knots rather than focusing on the muscles alone. However, you won’t experience immediate pain relief with dry needling. It can usually take up to a few months for the tension in your trigger points to be released.

Dry Needling Benefits

Dry needling treatment has many benefits, including:

  • Lower risk of complications
  • Fast pain relief
  • Inexpensive
  • Helps improve flexibility
  • Regains range of motion
  • Speedy recovery
  • Alleviates chronic pain conditions

Conditions That Dry Needling Can Treat

The following are typical conditions that respond to dry needling treatment:

  • Headaches
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Tennis elbow
  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Leg pain
  • Hamstring strains
  • Shin splints
  • Muscle spasms
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Sciatic pain
  • Hip pain
  • Knee pain

What Happens When Dry Needling Hits a Nerve?

When a needle accidentally hits a nerve during dry needling therapy, it may result in neuropraxia – a mild type of peripheral nerve injury. Typically, individuals will recover from this nerve damage within a few days or weeks. If a needle does come into contact with a nerve, individuals may feel a sudden, electric-like sensation, which causes them to twitch because of the involuntary muscle movement. To avoid this, only seek treatment from certified healthcare providers trained in dry needling in Toronto.

Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture

Acupuncture and dry needling are two distinct techniques used to address pain and discomfort in the body. While both involve the insertion of needles into specific points, they differ in their purpose and approach. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese method to alleviate pain, discomfort, or other problems by inserting flexible acupuncture needles into the body’s acupoints to treat inflammation or pain.

On the other hand, dry needling focuses on relieving tension and pain by targeting muscle knots or trigger points. These knots are areas of tightness and hypersensitivity within the muscle tissue, often caused by overuse, injury, or stress. Dry needling therapists use thin, solid needles to stimulate these trigger points, causing a twitch response in the muscle. This twitch response helps release tension, improve blood flow, and promote healing in the affected area. Unlike acupuncture, dry needling primarily targets the musculoskeletal system and aims to address specific muscle-related conditions.

Dry Needling Side Effects

Here are the most common side effects of dry needling treatment:

  • Soreness
  • Stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Bruising near the insertion site
  • Risk of infection

These side effects are usually not severe and subside after a few days. More serious side effects, such as shortness of breath and bleeding from the insertion site, are rare.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine used to restore a person to good health, wherein thin and flexible needles are inserted into specific points on the human body, called acupoints, to help treat pain, inflammation or pathology. It has almost no side effects and has been gaining popularity in Western medicine for decades.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Current evidence suggests that inserting a needle into an acupoint stimulates nerves travelling to the spinal cord, which helps to modulate the transmission of pain. This signal allows chemicals, like neurotransmitters and endorphins, to be released in the brain to help reduce pain. In addition, when a needle is inserted into an acupuncture point, it causes a local immune response. It increases circulation to the area to help with swelling and promote tissue healing.

Is Acupuncture Right for You?

Everyone is different, so it is best to speak to your healthcare practitioner regarding your suitability for acupuncture. Generally, acupuncture can help to treat pain, swelling, inflammation and restrictions associated with acute and chronic musculoskeletal disorders.

Conditions That Acupuncture Can Treat

The following are some conditions that can be treated with acupuncture.

  • Muscles strains
  • Ligament Sprains
  • Low back pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Headaches
  • Whiplash
  • Tendinitis
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Tennis elbow
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Disc bulge
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Shin splint syndrome
  • Bursitis
  • TMJ pain

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Everyone experiences acupuncture differently, but most people find that acupuncture treatments are relaxing and cause minimal pain. You may experience temporary discomfort as the needles are inserted or a mild aching sensation or warmth around the needle site.

What Are the Side Effects of Acupuncture?

While side effects of acupuncture are minimal, possible side effects include slight bruising, achiness and minimal bleeding at the insertion site. Only single-use, sterile needles are used to prevent infection or transmitted diseases.

What to Expect Before and After Acupuncture

Before you undergo an acupuncture treatment, you should eat a light meal. Continue to take any prescribed medications. Strenuous physical activities (including exercise) should be avoided for at least two hours after treatment.

Is Acupuncture Covered by My Extended Health Care Benefits?

At ALPHA health services, registered physiotherapists and providers offer acupuncture. Physiotherapists use acupuncture and other physiotherapy techniques to treat musculoskeletal disorders. All assessments and treatments are billed under physiotherapy, which most insurance plans cover.

Dry Needling and Acupuncture in Toronto

At Alpha Health Service, we offer specialized dry needling and acupuncture treatments that provide numerous benefits for your overall well-being. Our certified practitioners have received advanced training, ensuring your safety during the procedures. With our expertise, we can recommend the most suitable treatment tailored to your specific needs.

To experience the benefits of our specialized treatments, call us today at 416.545.1881 or book your appointment online.

Please note that missed appointments or appointments cancelled with insufficient notice may be subject to a charge.

ALPHA Midtown

40 Holly Street, Suite 901
Toronto, ON M4S 3C3




14 St. Matthews Rd G.008 (Located within Hennick Bridgepoint Hospital) Toronto, ON M4M 2B5