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  • Writer's pictureMolly Stevens PT DPT MTC

Don’t miss the point: Why you should consider dry needling to help your pain.

Updated: Jun 7, 2018

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is a skilled manual therapy intervention where a solid but thin filament needle is inserted into the skin and muscle directly at a myofascial trigger point. A myofascial trigger point is a hyperirritable area that can be found as a taut band in muscle that may be painful with compression, stretch, or activity. We may feel trigger points as “knots” in our muscles. They may be tender and sore when touched and can lead to pain in nearby areas. Trigger points may arise from repetitive use, sustained activities, or an acute injury.

How does it work?

Dry needling has been shown to inactivate the trigger point and normalize muscle by eliciting a local twitch response. The effect involves shutting down the spinal cord reflex that is related to the persistence of the contractured taut band. The twitch response also facilitates biochemical change, which helps to reduce pain, and this can be an important step in breaking the pain cycle. The literature and research continues to grow in support of the usefulness and effectiveness of trigger point dry needling.

Is the procedure painful?

Most patients do not feel the insertion of the needle. The local twitch response elicits a very brief (less than a second) response that patients describe as a little muscle spasm; others feel it more like a cramping sensation and it may be painful to some. Obtaining the twitch response is the desirable outcome to break the pain cycle.

Are the needles sterile?

Yes, only sterile disposable needles are used.

What types of problems can be treated with dry needling?

Dry needling can be used to treat a variety of muscleoskeletal problems including neck, back and shoulder pain, arm pain (tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, golfer’s elbow), headache to include migraines and tension- type headaches, jaw pain, buttock pain and leg pain (sciatica, hamstrings strains, calf tightness/spasms), running injuries, pelvic pain.

What can I expect after treatment?

You may feel soreness in the area treated anywhere from a couple of hours to two days. Stretching, ice or heat are recommended after treatment.

How long does it take to work?

Benefits may be seen immediately, but most often are a cummulative as biochemical and mechanical changes are being made. Dry needling is used in conjunction with other manual techniques and progressions are made into exercise when appropriate

Who can dry needle?

Trained physical therapist’s utilize dry needling techniques that are based on Western medicine principles and research. The American Physical Therapy Association and the state of Ohio supports and recognizes dry needling as being part of the PT’s professional scope of practice.

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