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On Pins and Needles? All About Dry Needling!

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Dry Needling can be a powerful tool used by Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, and Doctors to assist with musculoskeletal painful conditions. It is the use of a thin, filaform needle to penetrate the skin to stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular and connectives tissues for the purpose of movement impairment and pain management for neuro-musculoskeletal issues.

Each filaform needle is individually packaged. The skin is cleaned with alcohol and the clinician is gloved. The tube surrounding each needle is pressed upon the skin and inserted with a strong finger tap into the skin and inserted in the tissue below. Check out my post to see it live! How Deep do the Needles Go?

dry needling
Dry Needling

  • The depth of penetration in based upon the tissue the clinician is trying to effect. For example, the gluteus minimus sits deep to the gluteus medius so the needle would be inserted deeper. The size and thickness of the needle would be dependent upon the area being treated. There are different sizes and thickness for different size people and areas!

Why is it called Dry Needling?

  • There is no medication involved with it! These needles are not hollow, are much smaller, and do not have a sharpened cutting tip. Multiple dry needling needles can fit into a blood draw needle. There is NO Injection of medication or removal of liquids from the body hence the name!

What are the benefits of Dry Needling?

  • Increases blood flow and oxygenation to the area

  • Brings inflammatory markers to the affected are to help the body repair tissue

  • Reduces muscle tension, active trigger points, and pain which can increase range of motion and improve muscle function

How many needles are used?

  • This is dependent upon the area being treated. As little as one needle could be used or as many as twenty depending upon size.

Dry Needling is not appropriate for everyone! Here are the reasons we would NOT do dry needling!

  • Needle phobia

  • Cognitive Impairment not to understand the procedure

  • Local or Systemic Infections

  • Localized Edema

  • Vascular Disease

  • Compromised Immune System

  • First Trimester of Pregnancy

    • can be used in later stages of pregnancy pending the area

  • Bleeding disorders

Here are some of the Indications that Dry Needling May be Helpful:

  • Acute Muscle Spasms

  • Headaches, TMJ Pain

  • Tendonitis, Tendonosis

  • Muscle Strains

  • Chronic Pain

  • C-sections scars

  • Enhanced Recovery

How does dry needling differ from acupuncture?

  • Acupuncture is based in Chinese medicine where the needles are placed along the meridian lines of the body. The meridian lines represent different organs in the body. The idea is restore the flow of energy throughout the body.

  • Dry Needling is intended to release taut bands of muscle throughout the body otherwise known as trigger points in order to restore function.

How does Dry Needling fit into treatment?

  • Dry Needling is typically used in conjunction with other soft tissue modalities, joint mobilizations, and exercise. Dry needling used by itself does not usually solve the problem, but when combined with other treatment modalities it can be a key player with getting muscle tension resolved.

Is it painful?

  • There can be some discomfort with needle insertion. While the needles are inserted it is possible to feel muscle twitching, aching, or no additional sensation. Post treatment soreness in common.

What are the risks?

  • Small risk of infection, bruising, and nerve damage

  • Risk of lung puncture

What Muscle Areas can be treated with Dry Needling?

  • Arms, Shoulders, hand

  • Neck, Mid Back, low back

  • Legs, Hips, Pelvis, feet

  • Abdominal wall, Jaw

Dry Needling Techniques:

  • Stagnant Needle

  • Spinning

  • Pistoning

  • E-stim

Check out my post to view what these techniques look like live! Hopefully this information paints a better picture of the how and why dry needling can be an integral part of a care plan! If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!


Butts R, Dunning J, Perreault T, Mourad F, Grubb M (2016) Peripheral and Spinal Mechanisms of Pain and Dry Needling Mediated Analgesia: A Clinical Resource Guide for Health Care Professionals. Int J Phys Med Rehabil 4: 327. doi:10.4172/2329-9096.100032

Dommerholt, J. (2023). Dry Needling Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. Myopain Seminars.

Dpmr-Admin. (2018, October 25). Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture | Denver Physical Med. Denver Physical Medicine & Rehab.

McAphee, D., Bagwell, M. S., & Falsone, S. (2022). Dry Needling: A Clinical Commentary. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 17(4).

Nuhmani, S., Khan, M. H., Ahsan, M., Abualait, T., & Muaidi, Q. I. (2023). Dry needling in the management of tendinopathy: A systematic review of randomized control trials. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 33, 128–135.

Pai, M. Y. B., Toma, J. T., Kaziyama, H. H. S., Listik, C., Galhardoni, R., Yeng, L. T., Teixeira, M. J., & De Andrade, D. C. (2021). Dry needling has lasting analgesic effect in shoulder pain: a double-blind, sham-controlled trial. Pain Reports, 6(2), e939.

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