Dry Needling

Dry Needling is a treatment technique whereby a sterile, single-use, fine filament needle (acupuncture needle) is inserted into the muscle to assist with decreasing pain and improving function through the release of myofascial trigger points (knots in the muscle).

Dry Needling assists with decreasing local muscular pain and improving function through the restoration of a muscle's ability to lengthen and shorten normally by releasing myofascial trigger points.

When a fine filament needle is inserted into the center of a myofascial trigger point, blood pools around the needle triggering the contracted muscle fibers to relax by providing those fibers with fresh oxygen and nutrients, as well as by flushing away any additional acidic chemicals. This, in turn, leads to the decompression of the local blood and nerve supply.

When is it Appropriate to Use Dry Needling as a Form of Treatment?

Dry Needling can be used in treatment:

  • to help release myofascial trigger points (muscle knots);

  • to assist with pain management, and;

  • to restore movement at a joint if inhibited by myofascial trigger points.

What Will You Feel During Dry Needling Treatment?

During a Dry Needling treatment, you may feel a slight sting as the needle is inserted and removed. However, this discomfort should last no longer than a second before settling. 

A brief muscle twitch can also be experienced during a Dry Needling treatment. This may occur during treatment when the needle is inserted into a myofascial trigger point.

Dry needling – you’re in good hands.

Many of our physiotherapists possess skills in the area of dry needling and use these skills in various fields, but particularly in musculoskeletal and sports therapy.

Dry needling seeks to relieve the pain caused by musculoskeletal dysfunction through relaxing muscle trigger points – these are taut bands that develop within a muscle that can occur in cases of both acute and chronic pain. Trigger points may develop in a muscle as a result of stresses such as poor posture or repetitive actions and can refer pain and create dysfunction in other parts of the body, including severe headaches.

The process of dry needling involves a solid filament needle being gently inserted into the painful part of the muscle (the trigger point). The needle is then gently manipulated, which may produce a slightly painful “twitch response” in the muscle. After a short period the needle is then removed. The aim is to relax or release the muscle, with the aim of permanently reducing the associated pain and discomfort and restoring the imbalances caused by the muscle feeling taut and contracted.

How is dry needling different to acupuncture?

Compared to acupuncture, dry needling is more directly concerned with treating specific neuromuscular problems that are causing pain or hindering mobility whereas acupuncture, generally speaking, seeks to address the flow of energy around the body and vital organs by inserting needles in established meridian points on the body.

The evidence base for dry needling in various areas of physiotherapy has increased substantially over recent years. In particular, research has grown to provide evidence-based support in the treatment of acute and chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, tension type migraine headaches, pelvic girdle pain, knee osteoarthritis, lateral elbow pain and shoulder conditions.

The way it works is through complex neural pathways and chemical releases in the body. Simply put, following dry needling there is some increased blood flow to the area, endorphins (natural painkillers) are released and nerve pathways may be inhibited or to a degree blocked with the aim of helping to eases pain and promote healing.

Is dry needling safe?

Dry needling is a very safe and relaxing process. In some cases, a needle being inserted into a trigger point muscle can create a slight ache but many patients do not feel the needles being inserted at all. After a dry needling session, it may be that patients feel a little tired but there are no lingering effects and most people are able to continue with their day to day activities.

How long does it take to work?

Many patients respond positively to dry needling almost at once, finding that the problem muscles are less taut and contracted, and that they are able to move with more freedom. In some cases, it may take a day or two for the benefits to be felt. Generally speaking, several sessions may be required to give a longer lasting benefit and for the muscle to resume functioning normally again. Usually appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises are prescribed to maintain and further improve someone’s symptoms.

Dry needling is therefore a very effective means of addressing a wide range of acute and chronic conditions that cause pain or hinder mobility, and is suitable for treating a number of musculoskeletal dysfunctions such as back and neck pain, hamstring problems, headaches, muscular tightness and sporting injuries.