What is dry needling?

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What is dry needling?

Physical therapists have an additional option for treating people who have muscle-related pain.

“Dry needling,” also known as myofascial trigger point dry needling, can be used for a wide variety of musculoskeletal issues, such as shoulder, neck, heel, hip, and back pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, the procedure is safe, minimally discomforting, and often an effective technique for reducing muscle pain and tension.

Dry needling is performed by skilled, trained physical therapists, certified in the procedure.

Fine microfilament needles are pushed through the skin into irritable muscle “knots” (called trigger points). This stimulates the tissue and helps relieve pain and restore muscle function. The needles may be placed deeply or at the surface of the skin, for shorter or longer periods of time, depending on what type of pain is being treated and how long it has lasted. The procedure is called dry needling because the needles do not inject any fluid or medication into the body.

Dry needling is rarely a standalone procedure. It is often used as a part of a broader physical therapy approach that includes exercise, manual therapy, heat therapy, and education.

Dry needling can help treat the following conditions:

  • Joint problems
  • Disk problems
  • Tendinitis
  • Migraine headaches
  • Jaw, mouth problems
  • Whiplash
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Spinal problems
  • Pelvic pain
  • Muscle tears

Dry needling is not the same as acupuncture, though both use fine needles to penetrate the skin.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that involves stimulating certain points on the body to target a person’s spiritual, physical, and mental ailments. Its purpose is to alter the flow of energy along traditional Chinese pathways associated with specific organs.

Dry needling is rooted in Western culture. It follows evidence-based guidelines and recommended “point” locations with goals of addressing neuromuscular conditions, relieving pain, and/or improving range of motion.