What is Dry Needling and is it Right for You?

Dry needling is an increasingly popular treatment option that can be performed by physical therapists to improve a patient’s pain and range of motion. A needle without medication (i.e “dry” needling) is inserted into a trigger point, or “knot” in the muscle. There are several techniques that can be used with dry needling but the overall goal is to reduce pain. Research shows that “deep” needling reduces pain better than “superficial” needling, but both techniques will reduce pain. There are a few things to consider if you are thinking about trying this treatment.

People who should not receive dry needling:

  • Those in their first trimester of pregnancy
  • Those with active infection
  • Those with genetic bleeding disorders
  • Those with a phobia of needles

Let your therapist know if you have cancer, are on blood thinners, or have a disease that can be transmitted through blood. While these factors may not necessarily preclude someone from receiving dry needling, they should always be communicated to your physical therapist for further discussion.

With dry needling, you can expect to have some discomfort during and after the session. During the session, you may feel a deep aching or cramping sensation. Sometimes you may have replication of your pain complaint, as is commonly the case in those receiving dry needling for headaches. After the needling session, you will typically have mild to moderate muscle soreness, as if you just had a hard workout for the first time in several months. The soreness typically goes away within the first 24-48 hours. You can help alleviate this soreness by using ice packs, performing gentle movements, and drinking plenty of water.

If you are interested in exploring dry needling, you need to find a physical therapist who is qualified to perform dry needling as this is a specialty skill set. You then need to contact your physician so they can write a prescription for dry needling. You can bring the prescription in with you or have it faxed to your physical therapist’s clinic.

Dry Needling is not tolerated by everyone, but it can be a valuable and game changing adjunct treatment for many!