What Is Dry Needling?

Dry Needling
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If you have pain that doesn’t seem to go away after a few physical therapy sessions, your physical therapist may suggest dry needling. This treatment uses a needle to prick a specific knotted area in your muscle, called a trigger point.

The needles prick your trigger points, allowing the muscles to release and improve flexibility. This has been shown to relieve chronic pain and reduce referred pain.

What is Dry Needling?

Dry Needling is a technique used by physical therapists and other medical providers to treat muscle pain and tightness. It uses extremely thin needles inserted at the affected areas to relieve pain and improve range of movement.

It is not a new treatment, but it has been effective for tens of thousands of people. It is typically used as part of a physical therapy Dry Needling Durham NC approach that includes other types of therapy such as joint mobilizations, stretching and soft tissue work (massage).

Dry needling differs from acupuncture in that it does not consider the flow of energy (“chi”) or meridians, but rather targets nerves, motor points and trigger points for treatment. It is based on Western medicine and evaluation of pain patterns, postures, movement impairments and orthopaedic tests.

How is Dry Needling Used?

Dry needling is a technique that physical therapists use to treat muscular pain and movement issues. It involves using extremely thin needles to target specific tissue underneath the skin.

It is similar to acupuncture, but instead of focusing on aligning energy flow (known as chi or qi in Chinese medicine), therapeutic dry needling focuses on releasing trigger points and improving blood flow to the affected area.

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What are the Benefits of Dry Needling?

Dry needling is an effective, non-invasive treatment that helps to reduce muscle tightness and pain. It also improves mobility and range of motion.

Adding dry needling to physical therapy accelerates the recovery process and can help reduce chronic pain conditions such as myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia.

During your session, your therapist will locate and pinpoint the trigger point with their fingers or hands. They’ll then insert the needle into the trigger point using one hand.

What are the Risks of Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a minimally invasive pain treatment that can be used as part of physical therapy. It is a safe procedure when performed by an experienced physical therapist and has been proven to be effective in the relief of chronic muscle pain.

A hair-thin needle is inserted into the trigger point to stimulate the muscle membrane and cause it to respond with a twitch response, which may relieve the painful knotted area. Minor side effects include a small red spot on the skin and bruising around the injection site, which typically resolve within 24 hours of the treatment.

How Does Dry Needling Work?

Dry Needling is a pain management treatment that uses needles to reduce inflammation, relax tight muscles and increase blood flow to the affected area. The needles are inserted into myofascial trigger points that cause stiffness, pain and limited range of motion.

During the session, the physical therapist uses thin and sterile monofilament needles to specifically push into myofascial trigger points in the muscle and surrounding tissue. The needles trigger a muscle spasm that allows the tight muscles to relax and promote circulation.

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The procedure typically is one of many techniques that are part of a broader physical therapy approach. Unlike acupuncture, dry needling is not a standalone treatment.

Do I Need a Doctor’s Referral for Dry Needling?

Dry needling is an alternative treatment option for pain relief and improved muscle movement. It focuses on deactivating trigger points, which are sensitive spots within muscles that can be tender to touch and send pain signals to other parts of the body.


Trigger points often arise in areas such as the shoulder, upper back and neck. They can cause a wide range of symptoms from chronic pain to limited mobility.

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Selim Khan

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