Dry Needling

What Is “Dry Needling”?

Dry needling is an invasive, therapeutic treatment for pain.

Your physical therapist will insert a very thin filament needle into your muscle directly at your myofascial trigger point.

What Is a Myofascial Trigger Point?

A myofascial trigger point is a painful nodule or knot in your muscle. There are two kinds of myofascial trigger points:

  • Active – painful all the time
  • Latent – painful only when touched

What Causes Myofascial Trigger Points?

There are a variety of causes for trigger points:

  • Arthritis
  • Joint dysfunction
  • Muscle overload
  • Poor posture
  • Repetitive motion
  • Trauma

How Does Dry Needling Work?

Your body has certain mechanical and biomechanical processes that occur to reduce pain in your musculoskeletal and nervous systems.

Pain causes your nerves to become “sensitized” in your extremities (arms and legs), spinal cord and brain. Dry needling works to deactivate these “sensitized” nerves.

When the needle is inserted into your trigger point, a muscle spasm can occur in that location. This special type of muscle spasm is called a local twitch response. The local twitch response helps break the cycle of pain.

Dry needling is similar to acupuncture in that it helps stimulate your body’s own healing capabilities – most especially an anti-inflammatory effect.

What Conditions Does Dry Needling Help?

Dry needling is helpful for a variety of musculoskeletal problems:

  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Tennis and golfer’s elbow
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Migraine and cervicogenic headaches
  • Sciatica
  • Hamstring strains
  • Calf tightness and spasms
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Post-surgical pain

How Many Dry Needling Procedures Will I Need Before I See Some Benefit?

You will probably need a couple of visits to begin feeling a positive difference. Generally, people who’ve experience pain for a long time may require more treatment sessions than those who’ve only recently had trigger point problems.

Is Dry Needling Painful?

You most likely will not feel the insertion of the needle. However, you will feel the muscle cramping associated with the local twitch response.

If you are uncomfortable during the procedure, let your therapist know.

Are There Side Effects to Dry Needling?

In most cases, you won’t experience any side effects. However, some patients report the following side effects:

  • Mild soreness at the insertion site
  • Slight bruising at the insertion site
  • Fatigue or tiredness

Find out more about side effects of dry needling.

To help reduce the risk of soreness, following your procedure:

  • Keep moving in your normal daily activities
  • Gently stretch and move the injected area
  • Don’t start new physical activities that are not part of your normal routine

How Often Do I Need to Come Back to Maintain My Progress?

Stress, exercise, gravity and your daily activities put pressure on your musculoskeletal system. You can avoid further problems with good posture and regular exercise.

However, sometimes pain does return and you’ll need another dry needling procedure to help break the cycle of pain.

We recommend that you come in at the first signs of trigger point pain, as it’s easier to treat acute pain than chronic pain.

Does Insurance Cover Dry Needling?

Because dry needling is a therapeutic treatment and not acupuncture, it’s covered by most insurance plans.


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