What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a treatment performed by skilled, certified provider during which a thin monofilament needle penetrates the skin and treats underlying muscular trigger points for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments.

The name dry needling sounds kind of scary, but it is a safe, mildly discomforting technique that is effective for treating a variety of conditions that involve pain, movement dysfunction, and motor control deficits.

Dry needling can be seen as similar, but is generally not the same as acupuncture. The tools are similar, but typically the philosophies and application differ, although there are a variety of styles of acupuncture which are very similar to dry needling.

Dry needling treats muscle tissue with a focus of decreasing pain, decreasing trigger point activity, and restoring motion. It can also be used in conjunction with electrical stimulation to try and increase the efficiency of decreasing pain while improving muscle function.

Dry needling is a good compliment to exercise and other interventions to improve functional activity performance. It can also be used as a performance tool to help with maintaining and restoring motion in those participating in a consistent exercise and training program.

Dry needing has been shown to be an effective tool along with other soft tissue treatment techniques. Despite evidence that suggests the benefits of dry needling, most insurance companies do not pay for dry needling and if it is determined to be appropriate for an individual in their rehab or performance program, it will be an additional cost they will be responsible for.


Dry Needling FAQ

Q: What type of problems can be treated with dry needling?

A: Dry needling can be used for a variety of musculoskeletal problems. Muscles are thought to be a primary contributing factor to the symptoms. Chronic and acute conditions include, but are not limited to neck, back and shoulder pain, arm pain, headache to include migraines and tension-type headaches, jaw pain, buttock pain and leg pain.

Q: Is the procedure painful?

A:  Most patients do not feel the insertion of the needle. The local twitch response elicits a very brief (less than a second) painful response. Some patients describe this as a little electrical shock; others feel it more like a cramping sensation. Again, the desired therapeutic response occurs with the elicitation of local twitch responses which is uncomfortable.

Q: Are the needles sterile?

A: Yes, we only use sterile disposable needles. The needles are only used for one treatment.

Q: What side effects can I expect after the treatment?

A: Most patients report being sore after the procedure. The soreness is described as muscle soreness over the area treated and into the areas of referred symptoms. Typically, the soreness lasts between a few hours and two days.

Q: What should I do after having the procedure done?

A: Our recommendations vary depending on the amount of soreness you have and on the individual response to the treatment. Recommendations may include applying heat or ice over the area, gentle stretches and modifications of activities. Most often moving helps most.

Q: How long does it take for the procedure to work?

A: Typically, it takes several visits for a positive reaction to take place. We are trying to cause mechanical and biochemical changes without any pharmacological means. Sometimes this takes place relatively quickly, but often it can take a few treatments for the body to adapt.

Q: Why is my doctor not familiar with dry needling?

A: For a lot of people, medical providers included, dry needling is a relatively new method for treating myofascial pain and dysfunction. Feel free to inform your doctor or other healthcare provider about this treatment option. You can be a benefit in helping educate others about new and innovative ways to treat pain.

Q: Where does dry needling fit in the entire rehabilitation program?

A: Dry needling is generally used for helping break a pain cycle and for treating movement dysfunction. Dry needling is a great tool to help initiate the recovery process along with a progression of other treatment options.

Q: Once I am feeling better, how often do I need to come back to maintain my progress? 

A: The musculoskeletal system is under constant pressure from gravity, stress, work etc. A regular exercise program combined with good posture can prevent many problems. If the pain comes back, “tune-ups” are recommended to treat and prevent serious injuries. Sometimes people use them as part of a regular exercise and training program to help keep themselves moving at a more optimal level.

Q:  Is dry needling safe?

A:  This question and should be asked by anyone undergoing any medical procedure.  Dry needling is a very safe technique. There are a variety of research studies that demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of dry needling. As with any medical procedure there are some risks. These will be explained and discussed with you prior to having the dry needling treatment performed.