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Dry Needling: What You Need to Know

Dry needling is a technique that physical therapists and other trained healthcare providers use to treat musculoskeletal pain and movement issues. It’s almost always used as part of a larger pain management plan that could include exercise, stretching, massage, and other techniques. 


What is dry needling?

Dry needling involves inserting thin filiform, stainless-steel needles through your skin into specific points in your muscles or tissues. These points are called trigger points, and they are areas of knotted or hard muscle that are highly sensitive and can cause pain when touched. Sometimes, trigger points can also cause referred pain, which is pain that affects another part of your body. 


Dry needling is different from acupuncture, which is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that aims to balance the flow of energy (qi) in your body by inserting needles into specific points along energy pathways (meridians). Acupuncture is based on a holistic view of health and wellness, while dry needling is based on a biomedical understanding of anatomy and physiology. 

How does dry needling work? 

The exact mechanism of how dry needling works is not fully understood, but there are some possible explanations. One theory is that stimulating a trigger point with a needle helps draw normal blood supply back to the area and release tension. This can reduce the acidity and inflammation in the tissue and decrease the sensitivity of the nerves that cause pain. Another theory is that the needle prick sensation can also fire off nerve fibers that stimulate your brain to release endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. 


During a dry needling session, your physical therapist will first examine you and locate the trigger points that are causing your pain or movement problems. Then, they will insert one or more needles through your skin directly into the trigger points. They might move the needle around a little to try to get what’s called a local twitch response — a quick spasm of your muscle. This reaction can be a good sign that your muscle is reacting. The needles will remain in your skin for a short period of time, depending on your provider’s preference and technique. 

What are the benefits of dry needling?

Dry needling can help relieve pain and improve mobility for people with various musculoskeletal conditions, such as: 


- Neck pain 

- Back pain 

- Shoulder pain 

- Tennis elbow 

- Carpal tunnel syndrome 

- Headaches, Migraine 

- Knee pain 

- Shin splints 

- Plantar fasciitis 

- Pelvic Pain 

- Jaw & mouth pain 

- Whiplash 

- Joint pain 

- Repetitive motion disorders 




Dry needling can also help reduce muscle tension and stiffness, increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to the tissues, and promote healing and recovery. 

What are the risks of dry needling?

Dry needling is generally considered safe when performed by a trained and qualified provider. However, like any invasive procedure, it can have some potential risks and side effects, such as: 


  • Bleeding 

  • Bruising 

  • Infection 

  • Nerve damage 

  • Pneumothorax (collapsed lung) 

  • Allergic reaction 

  • Fainting 

  • Soreness 

  • Fatigue 


Most of these risks and side effects are rare and mild, and they usually resolve within a few days. Your therapist is a reputable provider who is trained in the best practices to minimize associated risks. They use sterile needles and follow proper hygiene practices. You should also inform your provider of any medical conditions or medications you have before undergoing dry needling. 

How to find a dry needling practitioner?

Contact us if you are looking for a practitioner. Our therapists have received extensive training in dry needling as part of their formal training or continuing education.  

Contact | Jubilant Therapy Services

What to expect from a dry needling session?

If you decide to try dry needling, here are some things you can expect from your first session: 


  • Before the session, your provider will ask you about your medical history, current symptoms, and goals for treatment. They will also perform a physical examination to assess your posture, movement, and muscle function. They will identify the trigger points that are causing or contributing to your pain or movement issues. 

  • During the session, your provider will insert one or more needles into the trigger points. You may feel a slight prick or pinch when the needle enters your skin. You may also feel a twitch, cramp, ache, or pressure when the needle reaches the trigger point. These sensations are normal and usually last for a few seconds. Your provider may manipulate the needle by moving it up and down, rotating it, or applying electrical stimulation to enhance the effect. The number of needles used and the duration of the session will depend on your condition and your provider’s preference. A typical session lasts between 15 and 30 minutes.


  • After the session, your provider will remove the needles and apply pressure or bandages to any bleeding or bruising sites. They may also give you some instructions on how to care for the treated area, such as applying ice or heat, stretching, massaging, or resting. They may also recommend some exercises or activities to improve your mobility and function. You may feel some soreness, stiffness, or fatigue in the treated area for a few hours or days after the session. This is normal and usually means that your body is healing and adapting to the treatment. You can use over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs to ease any discomfort. You should also drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol and caffeine to help flush out any toxins released by the treatment. 

  • You may notice some improvement in your pain and mobility after one session of dry needling. However, most people need more than one session to achieve optimal results. The frequency and number of sessions will depend on your condition and your response to the treatment. Your provider will design a personalized treatment plan for you based on your goals and progress. 

Is dry needling right for you?

Dry needling may be a helpful option for you if you have chronic or acute musculoskeletal pain or movement issues that have not responded well to other treatments, such as medication, other physical therapy interventions, massage, or acupuncture. Dry needling may also be a good choice for you if you prefer a minimally invasive and drug-free approach to pain management. 


However, dry needling may not be suitable for everyone. You should avoid and/or be cautious of dry needling if you have: 


  • A bleeding disorder or take blood thinners 

  • A pacemaker or other electrical implant 

  • A needle phobia or anxiety disorder 

  • An active infection or skin condition in the area to be treated 

  • A compromised immune system or take immunosuppressants 

  • A history of adverse reactions to needles or injections 

  • A pregnancy or plan to become pregnant 


Your physical therapist will also consult with your primary care provider before trying dry needling, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions or take any medications that may affect your treatment. You should also inform your dry needling provider of any allergies or sensitivities you have to avoid any potential complications. 


Dry needling is not a substitute for regular medical care. You should continue to follow your provider’s advice and recommendations regarding your health and wellness. Dry needling is meant to complement and enhance your existing treatment plan, not replace it.  


If you are interested in trying dry needling or learning more about it, you can contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our certified dry needling practitioners. We are happy to answer any questions you may have and help you achieve your health and wellness goals. 

Contact | Jubilant Therapy Services

Book Online | Jubilant Therapy Services

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