What is DRY needling and is it right for you?

Dana Peteleski

It may sound intimidating but dry needling (DN) is an effective treatment for muscle, ligament or tendon pain. Other names for DN are trigger point needling and intramuscular stimulation.

DN involves the insertion of a small thin solid needle into a muscle trigger point. A trigger point is a localized band of tight, irritable and dysfunctional muscle tissue resulting from injury, overuse or poor movement patterns. Trigger points are often painful when touched, and during stretching, contraction and overload. They can also cause pain in other locations further away from the triggering point. This makes it difficult for most people to resolve them on their own and they seek the help of a physical therapist.

Your physical therapist will evaluate your unique situation to determine if DN is an appropriate treatment option. It is a proven and effective procedure for decreasing muscle tightness, increasing blood flow and reducing pain. This technique requires specialized skills and knowledge to determine what trigger points are causing the pain or limitations.

What can you expect? A very thin acupuncture needle is inserted into the trigger point. The duration, treatment location, number of needles and treatment plan will determine the length of time the needle remains in the trigger point. It ranges from ten seconds to a few minutes and most people report minor to no discomfort during treatment.

DN is a safe technique for treating many musculoskeletal conditions. Relief is often immediate, peaks 48 hours later and lasts for about a week. This allows you to resume the exercises prescribed by your therapist immediately and pain-free! These exercises prevent trigger points from reoccurring, help improve your range of motion and increase strength. When paired with a professional rehabilitation program, DN has long-lasting results that will allow you to get back to full function sooner.

1. Griswold D, Wilhelm M, Donaldson M, Learman K, Cleland J. The effectiveness of superficial versus deep dry needling or acupuncture for reducing pain and disability in individuals with spine-related painful conditions: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy. 2019 May 27;27(3):128-40.
2. McAphee D, Bagwell M, Falsone S, Dry Needling: A Clinical Commentary; International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2022: 17 (4): 551-555