Dry Needling Therapy 7 Things You Need To Know


Dry needling has only recently become popular in Physical Therapy practices even though it has been around since the 80s. Many patients turn to this form of therapy when other traditional methods do not seem to resolve their pain or to help with issues regarding their range of motion. Maybe you have heard of dry needling and are looking for more information on it or maybe you are looking for other pain management therapies to help with your personal pain issues. Regardless of the reason, this article will give you an introduction to dry needling.

What exactly is Dry Needling?

In some states, dry needling is a therapy performed by a licensed physical therapist to treat chronic and acute pain and range of motion issues. The therapist uses a “dry” needle similar to acupuncture in order to relieve the pressure from trigger points.

When you go in for a dry needling session, the therapist will use very thin filiform needles into the trigger points related to your pain. Ultimately, they are trying to turn off those trigger points since they only cause symptoms while they are active. With those trigger points in the “off” position, you should find relief from pain and see an increase in your range of motion.

What is a Trigger Point?

A trigger point is a small band of muscle found within a bigger group of muscles. Many people know trigger points as knots deep in the muscle. Typically trauma or strain to the area is what causes these small muscles to contract as a defense mechanism to protect the area from the damage. The contracted knots can often cause tenderness, pain that radiates to a larger area, poor muscle performance, and diminished range of motion, reduced flexibility, joint pain, and headaches.

Who is Allowed to do the Therapy?

Typically your practitioner will be a physical therapist. However, medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, acupuncturists, and sometimes chiropractors are also allowed to practice dry needling. In most of the United States where dry needling is legal, practitioners are required to attain a specified amount of training hours through an accredited school or program, or through a continuing education program depending on their medical background.

How Does Dry Needling Work?

There is still some question as to the effectiveness of dry needling but the concept is to stimulate blood flow to the knotted muscles in order to relax the contraction. During a session, a dry needle, which is a needle that contains no medication or substance, will be inserted into the trigger point. This act causes a micro-lesion or small wound. Your body sees this as an injury and jumps into action in order to heal it by increasing blood flow, white blood cells, and nutrients to the area. A twitch response is also initiated to help counteract the tightness of the knotted muscles.

Does it Hurt?

The needles used in dry needling are extremely thin and have rounded tips. This makes them less painful that n what is used to draw blood or get a shot from your doctor. Most people cannot feel the needle as it is being inserted into the skin. If your session is not for pain, the healthy muscle or tissue will not make you experience very much discomfort.

For patients who are receiving treatment that targets one of those trigger points, there may be some minor discomfort including dull ache, twitching, or cramping. Those sensations will subside as the muscle or tissue returns to normal once blood flow to the area is encouraged and inflammatory chemicals produced by your own body have made it to the area.

Is Dry Needling the Same as Acupuncture?

On the surface, dry needling bears many similarities to acupuncture and you may not be able to identify which was taking place by simply looking at a photo. Both types of therapy use the same thin needles during the procedure. Both therapies also claim they can give the patient relief from pain by inserting the needles into certain areas of the body. Beyond that, the similarities come to an end. Each therapy has its own distinctive qualities and history that defines itself and separates it from the other.

Acupuncture is a holistic therapy based in traditional Eastern medicine that has been used for thousands of years. The primary belief behind acupuncture is that poor health is the consequence of energy that has been blocked or interrupted. This energy, also called chi, is what allows healing energy to flow throughout your body. Thus, acupuncture therapy seeks to release that blocked chi to get that healing energy flowing and back in balance.

Acupuncture does seem to have legitimacy in some areas of pain and symptom management while other areas need more research. However, since it has been around for so long, the practitioners are required to adhere to specific training and regulations.

Dry needling is a Western-based therapy whose inception was only a few decades ago. It targets a specific dysfunctional trigger point within tissue in an effort to promote healing, stimulate muscle, and to release tension.

Since dry needling is a fairly new practice, research is limited but what has been studied shows great benefits and effective treatment results. There are also very few side effects all of which are very minor.

Is Dry Needling for Me?

Now that you have a general idea of the process, purpose, and effectiveness of dry needling, you may be wondering if it is right for your situation. If you fall into any of these categories you may want to explore this fairly new therapy:

  • You have chronic pain in areas including: neck, hands and feet, back, and hips
  • You experience frequent headaches or migraines
  • You have trauma to muscle or tissue due to overuse
  • You are looking to improve your range of motion for athletic purposes
  • You are an athlete looking to help prevent injuries through addressing areas that are likely to be prone to injury
  • You have an old injury that you want to keep from relapsing

If any of these situations sound like they are applicable to you, come to Wollongong Massage Trinacria for a visit. We can discuss treatment options and answer any questions you may have regarding dry needling. Your health is our mission and we are here to help you find relief.

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