What is Dry Needling?

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. The goal is 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 and improve function. There are a few things to consider if you are thinking about trying this treatment.

You should not receive dry needling if:

  • Are in your first trimester of pregnancy
  • Have an active infection
  • Have a genetic bleeding disorders
  • Posses a  fear 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.

What to expect:

You can expect to have some discomfort during and after the needling 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.

Steps to take before you schedule your appointment:

If you are interested in exploring dry needling, you first need to find a physical therapist who is qualified to perform dry needling as this is a specialty skill set. Every state is different in what is required to receive this treatment so be sure to talk with your physical therapist about what is required.  In the state of Virginia, you need a prescription for dry needling from your physician. To obtain this, you can contact your physician directly or have your physical therapist reach out to obtain the prescription. Next, you will need to 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!


Dr. Etheredge is a physical therapist who specializes in treating patients with headaches, neck pain and dizziness. Many of her patients have multiple diagnoses and complex needs. Dr. Etheredge is certified and dry needling and has been using this modality for years to assist her patients in achieving their goals. Learn more about Dr. Etheredge here .