What is dry needling?

Aside from typical physical therapy techniques, there are other modern approaches to physical therapy to further help your condition. One of these techniques is called dry needling. Also known as trigger point dry needling or intramuscular manual therapy, this technique improves mobility and reduces pain, muscle tightness or tension, and muscle spasms. This is an intramuscular approach using acupuncture needles to target trigger points (an area of constriction or muscle tension) for faster results. It’s important to note that dry needling is typically used in conjunction with other physical therapy techniques and is rarely used on its own.

Is it the same as acupuncture?

No! Acupuncture is a technique based on traditional Chinese medicine meant to open up a person’s energy or “Qi” and is used to treat various issues from anxiety and infertility to migraines and musculoskeletal problems. While it utilizes needles similar to those in acupuncture, the theories of treatment and application are different than dry needling. Dry needling is specifically designed to stimulate trigger points and alleviate muscle pain and growing research supports dry needling’s techniques and effectiveness.

North Attleboro Physical Therapist providing back pain relief

Frequently Asked Questions About Dry Needling and Physical Therapy

Dry needling is used to treat many conditions, including (but not limited to):

  • Neck or back pain
  • Tendonitis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • TMJ
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sports injuries
  • Carpal tunnel

Using very thin needles, your physical therapist will push the needle into your skin and directly into the muscle to stimulate the trigger point; this can sometimes be done simultaneously with electrical stimulation. This process loosens the muscle to increase blood flow and reduce pain. Typically, needles are left in the muscle anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, but the length will vary according to your needs. Aside from this traditional trigger point dry needling, there are a few other techniques:

In-and-out technique: Sometimes called pistoning or sparrow pecking, this technique involves quickly inserting the needle, pricking the trigger point, and removing the needle from the skin.

Non-trigger point technique: To treat a broader area, needles may be inserted around the point of pain or tightened muscle instead of directly into it. This may be done if it’s believed the pain is a result of a greater muscular issue, not just due to a knotted or tensed muscle.

The thought of having needles placed into your skin may seem painful, but it’s not always! Dry needling may cause twitching or mild cramping due to the releasing of tightness in the muscle, but the insertion of the needles is usually not painful. Afterward, you may feel soreness, achiness, or mild discomfort for a few days, but this usually feels like sore muscles after an intense workout versus pain.

How do I know if dry needling is right for me?

Consulting with your physical therapist is the best way to decide whether or not dry needling is the right choice for you. Depending on your current condition and goals, your physical therapist may choose to add dry needling to your larger treatment plan. To speak with our certified physical therapist about dry needling, contact us today.

About Us

PhysioHealth Physical Therapy was founded by Dr. Christopher Gomes, DPT, OCS, CSCS. Our clinic provides specialized care within a friendly and professional environment. At PhysioHealth you will receive one-on-one treatment that is evidence-based and personalized to meet your goals. You will always receive comprehensive education on your injury and recovery plan in order to maximize your knowledge and results.