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What is Dry Needling?

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

You may have heard of a treatment called dry needling and wondered exactly what it is and if it’s right for you. The name sounds a bit intimidating but rest assured, dry needling is safe, mildly discomforting while performed, and most often, a quite effective technique on those with musculoskeletal pain.

Dry needling is a skilled intervention performed by a physical therapist that uses a thin needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscle, fascia and connective tissue for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments. It is a safe and proven technique used to treat those with conditions like low back pain, chronic neck pain, knee pain, and shoulder pain from rotator cuff tears. Dry needling helps reduce and restore impairments which allows for improved levels of activity and participation so you can get you back to your favorite activities like yoga, hiking, pickleball, and running.

What to expect? Trigger point dry needling can be perceived as somewhat uncomfortable while it is being performed. Patients usually feel a deep ache and can experience a localized twitch response and pain referral patterns to areas away from the dry needling site. Short term pain for long term gain. A local twitch response is a brisk contraction of a taut band and is a clinically valuable sign that confirms the presence of a myofascial trigger point. Studies have demonstrated that getting a twitch response will change the biochemical makeup of that trigger point to make it much less irritable.

Many times, to make the technique more comfortable or tolerable, we will attach the needles to electrodes for intramuscular stimulation. This is very similar to using a TENS unit. The idea is to change the sensations that are input into the nervous system to then change the output, or in this case, pain.

Dry needing is rarely is a standalone procedure. Rather, it often is part of a broader physical therapy approach incorporating other traditional physical therapy interventions such as functional exercise into treatment.

If you suffer from muscle aches, joint pain, chronic widespread pain, or overall just feel tight and restricted then give us a call or book online at and come see Andrew and what dry needling is all about!

Contributed by Andrew Lantz, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, CMTPT

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