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What is Dry Needling?

Updated: Aug 14, 2023


a woman receiving a dry needling treatment

The more we study dry needling, the more we understand its benefit and expand its use in the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries. Addressing everything from low back pain, migraines, and sports injuries; dry needling proves beneficial in the most common muscle, tendon, ligament, and joint issues.


What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a treatment technique, in which small filament-type needles are inserted into myofascial trigger points (known as painful knots in muscles), tendons, ligaments, or near nerves in order to stimulate a healing response with the goal of permanently reducing pain and dysfunction.


What is a Trigger Point?

A trigger point is basically a band of dysfunctional muscle tissue that is usually the result of overuse, postural abnormalities, muscular imbalances, or nerve impingement. Trigger points are frequently associated with tendinitis, bursitis, and neurological impingement of the spine among other things.


A woman laying on her stomach while receiving dry needling treatment on her back

Does Dry Needling hurt?

Each patient describes the processes of being needled differently depending on what tissues are being treated. Typically, patients report not feeling the needle actually penetrate the skin, and to most, the treatment is painless. Some patients feel a deep cramping of the muscle that the needle was inserted into along with some involuntary muscle jumps/twitches. This is called the local twitch response (LTR) and means that we are positively affecting the desired tissue. As the needle stays in the tissue, these sensations subside. Some post-treatment soreness or bruising may be felt in the area dry needled.


Commonly treated with Dry Needling?

  • Headaches

  • Neck Pain

  • Low Back Pain

  • Knee Pain (Osteoarthritis)

  • Shoulder Dysfunction (adhesive capsulitis, impingement, rotator cuff strain)

  • Tennis & Thrower's Elbow

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Hip Pain

  • IT Band Syndrome

  • Sciatica

  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner's Knee)

  • Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (Shin Splints)

  • Achilles Tendinopathy

  • Plantar Fasciitis

  • Ankle Sprains

  • Muscle Strains

What does the research say?

Chronic upper-quarter (neck/upper back/shoulder) headaches and spinal movement dysfunction have all been associated with myofascial pain syndrome (trigger points). Kietrys et. al. published a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of dry needling on this syndrome. Based on their research and findings, they recommend dry needling as an effective option for the treatment of upper quarter myofascial pain syndrome. They found that pain measures decreased for most patients immediately after treatment and at the four-week follow-up meeting. - Effectiveness of Dry Needling for Upper-Quadrant Myofascial Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. http://www.jospt.org/doi/pdf/10.2519/jospt.2013.4668.


A 2015 study looking at ankle sprain rehabilitation found that adding trigger point dry needling, of the lateral lower leg peroneus muscle, to a rehabilitation plan of proprioceptive/strength exercise the four weeks following an acute lateral ankle sprain, had greater improvements in function and pain than the controlled group of just exercise. - Trigger Point Dry Needling and Proprioceptive Exercises for the Management of Chronic Ankle Instability: A Randomized Clinical Trial. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/790209


It is normal to take several dry needling therapy sessions before the muscle is fully functional again. This is because trigger points are located under deep layers of muscles, so it typically takes several sessions for the changes to take full effect. But patients will usually notice the difference right after each treatment.


Have questions about dry needling? Feel free to contact us at Forward Chiropractic & Wellness or schedule your dry needling appointment at either of our Forth Worth locations!

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