Dry needling is a physical therapy technique used to treat myofascial pain. The technique uses “dry” (without injection or medication) thin filament needles to release tension in trigger points, which are taut bands of skeletal muscle that can produce pain when stimulated. Dry needling can reach deep trigger points that often cannot be reached with regular manual therapy. In conjunction with other therapies; dry needling can reduce local and referred pain as well as increase range of motion.
Is Dry Needling the Same as Acupuncture?
No, acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine which is derived from Chinese culture and philosophy. In acupuncture, needles are placed in acupoints to unblock energy channels. Dry needling is based on Western medicine and current scientific research. Acupoints and trigger points do not necessarily line up and dry needling often goes deeper into muscle tissue than needles used in acupuncture.
Can Dry Needling Replace Other Physical Therapy Treatments?
No, dry needling alone can not relieve long term pain. It must be done in conjunction with other physical therapy techniques such as manual therapy, exercise and functional retraining.
Does Dry Needling Hurt?
The needle used is very thin so insertion into the skin is not usually felt. As the needle is inserted into the taut muscle, a local twitch response occurs during which the muscle contracts slightly before relaxing. This can cause a brief cramping sensation that will usually subside in a few seconds. Soreness may be felt for a day or two after the procedure.
Here is an example of what dry needling looks like:
Clough, J. (2015, May 11). Your Top 6 Dry Needling Questions Answered (Western Musculoskeletal Acupuncture). Retrieved from http://www.sportandspinalphysio.com.au/
Dry Needling by a Physical Therapist: What You Should Know. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.moveforwardpt.com/resources/detail/dry-needling-by-physical-therapist-what-you-should#.VeXk0yVVikq
APTA. (2013, February). Description of Dry Needling In Clinical Practice: An Educational Resource Paper. Retrieved from http://www.apta.org/StateIssues/DryNeedling/ClinicalPracticeResourcePaper/