In the ever-evolving landscape of modern healthcare, there are techniques that bridge the gap between ancient wisdom and contemporary science. One such practice that has gained traction in Western medicine is dry needling. At first glance, it may seem akin to the practices rooted in traditional Chinese medicine. However, a deeper dive reveals key differences and unique benefits.

Dry needling in physical therapy is a form of pain relief therapy done by a licensed professional in countries where it has been declared legal. Single filament needles are inserted into the patient’s trigger points to treat muscle overuse or injury.

Today, we’ll give you a quick rundown of dry needling in physical therapy and how it can help with pain, stiff muscles, and enhance your muscular abilities.


What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a treatment method where slender needles are placed into particular areas on the body, termed as trigger points. Unlike acupuncture, which is based on the flow of Qi (energy) and meridians, dry needling is primarily used to target muscle knots and alleviate neuromuscular discomfort. The name “dry” refers to the fact that the needles do not inject any substance into the body; they simply stimulate the targeted tissues.

Benefits of Dry Needling

This graph displays the percentage of patients reporting various benefits after undergoing dry needling. For instance, 85% reported improvements in pain management.

How Does Dry Needling Work? 

The procedure of dry needling is quite straightforward, albeit requiring precision. Filament needles are inserted into the muscle’s trigger points, which are taut bands or knots in the muscle fibers. By stimulating these points, dry needling aims to release tension, enhance blood flow, and subsequently alleviate pain. A common query many have is, “How long does it take for dry needling to work?” The response varies. While some individuals experience immediate relief, others might require multiple sessions to discern a significant difference.

The purpose of dry needling is to relax the muscle fibers and relieve pain in trigger points. A physiotherapist uses a dry needle to stimulate a ‘twitch’ response in the patient’s trigger points.

This action enables the nerve fibers to react by releasing substances that interrupt the pain signals. This in turn causes the muscle fibers to realign better, alleviating pain from the trigger points. 

Which Needle is Used in Dry Needling?

A medical practitioner uses a single filament needle to penetrate the skin and pass easily through the top superficial to the intermediate layer of tissue, where the muscle fabrics are taut against each other. Medical professionals can reach areas of the muscle that cannot be reached with bare hands by using needles.

Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture

At the heart of the distinction between dry needling and acupuncture are their underlying philosophies and objectives. Acupuncture, an ancient practice rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, seeks to balance the body’s energy by placing needles along specific energy pathways known as meridians. On the other hand, dry needling, with its foundations in Western medicine, focuses on the anatomical and neurophysiological aspects. Its primary aim is to address musculoskeletal pain by targeting specific trigger points.

Why Choose Dry Needling?

A physiotherapist performs dry needling as one of the harsher therapies for pain relief. Before performing such a procedure, doctors prefer first to treat the patient with conventional hands-on treatments a few times. The doctor opts for dry needling once they have fully assessed the patient’s pain levels and if the pain persists.

Research shows that dry needling exhibits a very low risk of infection or other common side effects in patients. However, certified physiotherapists are essential for providing maximum relief and safety.

Is Dry Needling an Approved Technique?

In recent years, dry needling has received a significant amount of popularity due to people’s changing preferences toward more natural medical procedures done without pain medications and other abrasive routes.  According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT), dry needling is an effective pain relief therapy, given it is carried out with safety protocols by a well-trained physiotherapist. 

Authenticate the credentials of your medical professional before starting this treatment to avoid complications.

Benefits and Considerations in Physical Therapy

Physical therapists often integrate dry needling into their repertoire for a multitude of reasons. For one, it’s an effective technique to reduce pain and improve a patient’s range of motion. Furthermore, by targeting specific muscular issues, it promotes faster healing and recovery. Yet, one might ask, “Is dry needling genuinely effective?” The majority of responses from professionals and those treated indicate a strong affirmative, especially when combined with different treatment approaches. However, like all treatments, it’s crucial to be informed. Post-treatment, patients are usually advised to rest the treated area and avoid strenuous activities for a short duration to optimize recovery.

What to Expect During Dry Needling in Physical Therapy?

The doctor will place you in a comfortable position during the session, where they will be able to see and access the area that requires treatment. The physical therapist will monitor you throughout the session to ensure you are calm and comfortable.

Once the doctor has located the underlying myofascial trigger points, they will gently insert the needle into the trigger points. Dynamic needling involves moving the needle, while static needling involves inserting it in one place. The doctor may insert the needle for 30 seconds to three minutes. This technique ensures maximum pain relief and relaxation of the muscles and tenderloins. 

Who Should Not Get Dry Needling in Physical Therapy Done?

Dry needling is safe for most people, but some should avoid it. Medical professionals advise pregnant women to speak to their doctor and discuss possible side effects before opting for this therapy. Additionally, doctors strongly advise people with Trypanophobia (extreme fear of needles) against this treatment option as it can be very stressful for them, which can further tighten their muscle fabrics and worsen the pain.

What are Some Side Effects of Dry Needling in Physical Therapy?

Compared to other pain relief therapy options, dry needling is considered much safer. However, as listed below, some common minor side effects may include: 

  • Muscle soreness 
  • Temporary increase in pain for the next day or two
  • Bleeding and bruising from the needle insertion
  • Your skin might react and cause red dots to appear
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Feeling faint due to blood loss

An organ puncture due to improper needle insertion is a rare side effect with very little probability of happening. 

Risks and Post-Treatment Care

While dry needling offers a host of benefits, it’s essential to approach the treatment with a comprehensive understanding of potential risks and post-care measures. Properly administered by trained physical therapists, dry needling is generally safe. However, potential side effects may include temporary soreness, bruising, or fatigue at the needle site.

A concern some patients voice is, “What happens if the needle hits a nerve?” With an expert at the helm, the potential dangers are considerably reduced. However, if a nerve is grazed, a brief, sharp sensation might be felt. It’s crucial to communicate any discomfort to the therapist during the procedure to ensure adjustments are made as necessary.

After a dry needling session, the body’s natural response might be to feel a bit fatigued or experience mild muscle soreness. This is comparable to the sensation felt after a rigorous workout. To aid in recovery:

  • Hydration is key. Drinking water helps flush out any toxins that may have been released during the session and promotes healing.
  • Gentle stretching can assist in maintaining the improved range of motion post-treatment and help in alleviating any residual tightness.
  • Avoiding strenuous activities for 24 to 48 hours allows the muscles to recover and maximizes the benefits of the treatment.

Applying ice to any sore areas can help reduce inflammation and provide relief.


In this guide, we have broken down the various aspects of dry needling to make this decision as easy as possible for you. We advise you to do your thorough research and consult your doctor for any possible side effects. 

This therapy will work best if you are calm and relaxed so try to eliminate any possible sources of stress before going to your appointment. It is a fairly simple procedure that can liberate you from the excruciating pain you are struggling with. We wish you all the best and hope that we were able to help. 

Kinito Therapy Clinic has always been about the customer. Our services are designed in a way that saves you time, effort, and money. If you want to book a therapy session or get a musculoskeletal ultrasound imaging done with one of our highly specialized physical therapists, dry needling experts, or certified strength and conditioning specialists (CSCS), contact us at (405) 633-0783 or simply drop us an email at contact@graysons1.sg-host.com.

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