Dry needling, or trigger point dry needling, is a soft tissue technique applied by a certified therapist to locate and treat disorders related to soft tissue tension, damage, or dysfunction associated with myofascial trigger points. These trigger points are hyper excitable bands within a muscle which cause pain, tenderness, tension, and overall tissue dysfunction. The treatment involves the use of a monofilament needle to penetrate the trigger point creating a local twitch response, a small involuntary contraction, that results in desensitization of the trigger point and release of the muscle resulting in improved pain and function.
The goal is to restore normal muscle and joint function, decrease pain, improve strength and mobility, and enhance healing and recovery. It can also release tight muscles, decrease tension and prevent future injuries.
Who can benefit
Dry needling serves as a treatment for soft tissue pain from myofascial trigger points, which can develop from activity and overuse and become problematic, or they can be associated with a formal injury or diagnosis. It can also help with nerve symptoms individuals may be experiencing that are related to soft tissue impingement around the nerves. Almost all areas of the body can be treated but common treatment areas include the neck and shoulders, lower back, and thighs and calves.
It may be uncomfortable at first, but it is more often described as a “good pain” — such as a deep tissue massage. Clients typically report far less pain than what is experienced with the use of gauge needle such as a flu shot, blood work, etc.
A typical treatment session takes 15–20 minutes, with additional time needed for heat application if necessary.
Most clients need more than one treatment, and the therapist will advise the frequency following the initial session.
No medication is delivered or is injected.
Clients are typically sore for a few hours after the session, but experience no restrictions in activity unless the therapist specifies.
The only similarity is the needle that is used. Acupuncture is performed by an acupuncturist and is a different treatment based on traditional Chinese medicine. It involves the use of needles more superficially (on the surface) to affect energy and nerve flow throughout the body. Dry needling is a Western methodology based on the trigger point model and involves the penetration of the needle into a myofascial trigger point.