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Dry Needling as a Form of Pain Management

Closeup of a needle and hands of physiotherapist doing a dry needling.

Dry needling is a form of pain management that is used by physical therapists to manage pain located in the face and other muscles. It is also known as trigger point dry needling and intramuscular manual therapy. This form of pain management differs from acupuncture in that it relies on Western medical practices and is backed by clinical research regarding its efficacy.

What does dry needling do?

Dry needling uses a needle without any medication or injections and inserts it into muscles.This then hits a trigger point which ultimately relieves pain.

From a clinical standpoint, dry needling works by disrupting a dysfunctional motor end plate, creating a local twitch response, and alternating muscle length both in the affected muscle and opposite muscle.

Research also suggests that muscles are stimulated for up to 72 hours after a dry needling session.

What can dry needling help?

Dry needling can help a variety of conditions including neck and back pain, shoulder pain, tennis elbow, headaches, knee pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, chronic pain, muscle strains, and more. It’s a wonderful, effective method for pain relief that doesn’t rely on medications.

How do I prepare for dry needling?

Prior to your appointment be sure to enjoy a light meal and wear loose comfortable clothing that can easily be rolled up or down to access wherever you might be experiencing pain.

You may notice improvements as soon as your first treatment, including increased range of motion, easier movements, and fewer symptoms than before. You might have some soreness for anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days and minor bruising. Both can be relieved through the application of ice and heat and stretching as the physical therapist shows you.

What is a trigger point?

A trigger point is a tight band of muscle situated among a larger muscle group. These points are sometimes tender to the touch and can cause pain to other parts of the body.

Does dry needling hurt?

Dry needling relies on a very thin filiform needle to pierce the skin and stimulate underlying tissue and trigger points. This unique technique makes reaching tissues that are far beneath the skin accessible to physical therapists.

Because the needle used for dry needling is so thin, the paint associated with it is minimal. Additionally, the needles are sterile and the physical therapist is experienced in all forms of safety precautions to avoid exposure to any bacteria.

What are the benefits of dry needling?

Dry needling is usually part of a larger treatment plan. The goal of dry needling is to release trigger points that cause pain. Research has proven that dry needling improves range of motion, reduces pain, and can relieve muscle tension.

Where is dry needling legal?

Dry needling is legal in all states except for California, Utah, New York, Idaho, Hawaii, and Florida. This has nothing to do with the safety of dry needling and is associated more with the scope of practice for physical therapists, which does not include puncturing of skin.