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Acupuncture vs Dry Needling in Australia. What are the Differences?

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Acupuncture and dry needling are two distinct treatment modalities that involve the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body. While both techniques use needles, they differ significantly in their origins, approaches, and applications. This article aims to shed light on the differences between acupuncture and dry needling in Australia, focusing on tertiary qualifications, practical hours, insurance and registration requirements. Additionally, the article will explore how these modalities are used as primary or complementary treatments.

Differences between acupucnture and dry needling in Australia. Qualifications,  insurance, registration requirements. Treatmenet mides


Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapeutic technique that has been practiced for thousands of years. In Australia, acupuncture is considered a regulated health profession. To become an acupuncturist, individuals must complete a Bachelor's (4 years) or Master's degree (approx 6 years) in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or acupuncture from a recognized tertiary institution. These qualifications ensure that practitioners have a comprehensive understanding of the theory, techniques, and safety considerations of acupuncture.

Moreover, a substantial number of practical training hours are required for acupuncture practitioners. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia (CMBA) mandate a minimum number of clinical hours for acupuncture students to gain hands-on experience under the supervision of qualified practitioners. This rigorous training ensures that TCM acupuncturists have a deep understanding of the complex theories and diagnostic methods of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This requirement also ensures that acupuncturists develop the necessary skills and expertise to provide safe and effective treatments.

Acupuncture practitioners in Australia are also required to have professional indemnity insurance coverage. This insurance protects both practitioners and patients in case of any adverse events or professional negligence. Additionally, acupuncturists must be registered with the CMBA, which ensures that they meet the required standards of practice and adhere to a code of conduct.

Dry Needling:

Dry needling, on the other hand, is a relatively new technique that originated from Western medicine. While it involves the use of needles, dry needling is not considered a standalone profession in Australia. Instead, it is practiced by various healthcare professionals, including physiotherapists, chiropractors, and osteopaths, as an additional therapy to their primary practice.

To perform dry needling, healthcare professionals must complete specific training courses and workshops that focus solely on the technique. In Australia, a typical dry needling course is a two-day program, but may be longer, that provides participants with the necessary skills to apply the technique safely and effectively. These courses typically cover the relevant anatomical knowledge, needling techniques, and safety guidelines. However, since dry needling is not a regulated profession, the training requirements may vary among different healthcare disciplines. It is important to note that dry needling does not encompass the broader scope of TCM acupuncture.

Insurance coverage for dry needling is obtained through the healthcare professional's existing professional indemnity insurance policy. However, it is essential for practitioners to

check with their insurance provider to ensure that their policy covers dry needling as part of their scope of practice.

Differences between Acupuncture and Dry needlign in Australia

Comparing TCM Acupuncture and Dry Needling:

Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture is deeply rooted in a comprehensive medical system that has been practiced for thousands of years. It encompasses a wholistic approach, addressing not only the symptoms but also the underlying imbalances in the body's energy system, known as Qi. By stimulating specific acupuncture points along the body's meridians, TCM aims to restore balance and promote overall health and wellness.

Dry Needling

Dry needling is a more recent development in the field of physical therapyor physiotherapy. It primarily focuses on musculoskeletal conditions, targeting trigger points or tight bands of muscle fibers. The goal of dry needling is to alleviate pain, improve range of motion, and restore normal muscular function. Unlike TCM acupuncture, dry needling does not involve the manipulation of Qi or the use of meridians.


In conclusion, acupuncture and dry needling are distinct therapeutic techniques used in Australia. Acupuncture requires completion of a Bachelor's or Master's degree in TCM or acupuncture, along with practical training hours, insurance coverage, and registration with the CMBA. Dry needling, on the other hand, is practiced as an adjunct therapy by various healthcare professionals, who undergo specific training courses. Understanding the differences between these modalities is crucial for healthcare providers and patients alike to make informed decisions regarding their treatment options.


1. Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)

2. Chinese Medicine Board of Australia (CMBA)

3. Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA)

4. Physiotherapy Board of Australia (PBA)

5. Chiropractic Board of Australia (CBA)

6. Osteopathy Board of Australia (OBA)


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