Acupuncture vs. Massage: The Comparison Guide


Last Updated on April 4, 2024

Are you looking for a new way to relax and thinking that acupuncture or massage might be helpful?

While acupuncture and massage are both therapeutic techniques with various health benefits, they are quite different. Knowing the difference between acupuncture vs. massage will help you figure out which one is right for you. 

Read on to learn whether you should see an acupuncturist or massage therapist

What is Acupuncture?


While acupuncture has certainly grown in popularity over the last several years, the theory and practice have been around for thousands of years, and it’s believed that acupuncture originated in ancient China

Acupuncture is alternative medicine. It involves inserting tiny needles into the skin at strategic points in the body. The needles are typically thin and metallic, and when inserted into the body, they’re meant to relieve pain and trigger a variety of other benefits. 

Related: Inner Gate Acupuncture 

What are the Benefits of Acupuncture? 

Acupuncture can offer patients a host of benefits. Acupuncture can help with:

  • Painful periods
  • Lower back pain
  • Knee pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Gastric conditions
  • Stomach aches
  • Dental pain
  • High and low blood pressure
  • Anxiety and depression 

If performed correctly, acupuncture is very safe, has few side effects, and can be effectively combined with other treatments. 

What are the Types of Acupuncture? 

In the United States, the most common form of acupuncture is the Chinese style of acupuncture. However, there are many types of acupuncture available, including:

  • Korean acupuncture
  • Japanese acupuncture
  • Laser acupuncture
  • Auricular acupuncture
  • Acupressure 

What Happens During an Acupuncture Appointment? 


An acupuncture appointment will begin with your acupuncturist assessing your condition to figure out where to insert the needles on your body.

After the assessment, they’ll insert one or more thin, sterile needles into specific points on the body. Before the needles are inserted, you’ll likely be asked to lie down on your back, side, or stomach. Your exact positioning will depend on where the needles are being inserted.

When the needles are inserted, you’ll likely feel a slight prick or a tickling sensation. After the acupuncturist inserts the needle, you may feel a dull ache toward the base of the needle, but this will subside quickly.

In some cases, the acupuncturist warms up the needles or stimulates them with electricity after insertion. The number of acupuncture treatments recommended varies, but most people are recommended one to two treatments per week over a few weeks or few months. 

What is Massage?


While some people may use the terms acupuncture and massage therapy interchangeably, they’re not the same thing. While massage therapy may involve the use of some equipment (such as hot stones), it does not involve the use of needles of any sort.

In most cases, massage therapists use their hands to perform their work. Massage therapy is a broad term that’s used to describe techniques that involve the manipulation of the body’s soft tissue.

Massage therapists commonly apply their techniques using their hands, forearms, fingers, elbows, knees, feet, or some sort of device. A massage therapist will use movement and pressure to stimulate and heal the muscles, tendons, ligaments, tissues, and skin. 

Related: Inner Gate Massage Therapy 

What are the Benefits of Massage Therapy? 

Just like acupuncture, massage therapy offers a host of different benefits. Massage therapy can:

  • Lessen pain and muscle tension
  • Reduce stress and induce relaxation
  • Improve immune function
  • Speed up the recovery of soft tissue injuries
  • Increase flexibility and joint mobility
  • Stimulate the lymphatic system
  • Improve circulation
  • Enhance exercise performance
  • Reduce fibromyalgia pain
  • Relieve postoperative pain

What are the Types of Massage Therapy? 

There are many different massage therapy techniques. Before your session, your massage therapist will speak to you to discuss which technique is right for your condition.

Some common forms of massage therapy include:

  • Swedish massage
  • Deep tissue massage
  • Hot stone massage
  • Sports massage
  • Trigger point massage
  • Shiatsu massage
  • Thai massage
  • Reflexology
  • Prenatal massage 

Are you looking for some injury rehab exercises to try at home? If so, check out this post! 

What Happens During a Massage Therapy Appointment?

Your massage therapist will typically begin by asking you preliminary questions regarding your health and wellness goals. Before deciding which massage technique to perform on you, they’ll ask you questions about your lifestyle, medical history, medications, stress levels, and more.

Then, they’ll give you some privacy to undress to your level of comfort and ask you to lie on the massage table. To create a calming environment, the therapist will sometimes light candles or play music. 

Your massage therapist will typically use oil or lotion to perform the massage, making the manipulation techniques easier. Depending on your needs, your massage therapist may massage your entire body, or they may just focus on specific areas. 

Acupuncture vs. Massage: Which is Right for You?

So, how do you know if you should see an acupuncturist or massage therapist? While massage and acupuncture can both help relieve bodily pain, one treatment may be better than the other, depending on the type of pain you’re experiencing. 

Additionally, acupuncture is most often used to treat nerve pain or injury, whereas massage therapy often does a better job of treating muscle injuries and pain. However, many people use the two techniques in conjunction with one another for the best results. 


Now that you understand the difference between acupuncture and massage therapy, it’s time to figure out which treatment is right for you. Acupuncture and massage therapy offers many benefits, so don’t be afraid to try them both. 

If you’re looking to make an appointment with an acupuncturist or massage therapist in the Portland area, contact us today! 

3 thoughts on “Acupuncture vs. Massage: The Comparison Guide”

  1. Thanks for mentioning that a massage therapist will begin any session by asking preliminary questions. I’d like to start massage therapy since I had my back surgery about two months ago. I think this would really help with pain management, so I’m looking forward to it.

  2. Henry Killingsworth

    I like how you mentioned that a massage can be used to lessen muscle tension. The muscles in my lower back have been so tense these past few days that it has been hard for me to sleep at night. It seems like getting a massage would be a good way for me to fix my back and get back to my normal sleeping routine.

  3. This insightful comparison guide sheds light on the distinctions between acupuncture and massage, aiding readers in choosing the right therapeutic approach. The historical context of acupuncture’s ancient origins in China adds depth, emphasizing its enduring popularity. The concise explanation of acupuncture as an alternative medicine, utilizing thin needles strategically placed for pain relief and holistic benefits, enhances clarity. The article’s organized structure, complete with a table of contents, facilitates easy navigation. As a seeker of holistic well-being, I appreciate the clarity on the unique attributes of both therapies, assisting me in making an informed decision for relaxation and health improvement. A concise and informative read!

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