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An Overview of Trigger Point Dry Needling

Dry needling is a frequently asked question by patients or potential patients. Some may have heard about it from friends or family members who have undergone the procedure, while others may have no idea what it is or why it is performed. As acupuncturists, educating patients on their impairment and effective treatments is crucial to our work. Therefore, we take the time to explain what dry needling is, what it is not, and how it treats myofascial dysfunction. It is essential to understand that dry needling is a therapeutic technique that involves the insertion of thin needles through the skin into trigger points or muscles to release tension and promote the body's natural healing process. Unlike hypodermic injections, dry needling does not inject medication or any solution into the body.

Introduction to Dry Needling

Dry needling, also known as Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN), is a technique used to treat myofascial pain. This involves inserting a solid filiform needle into muscle trigger points through the skin. Trigger points are bands of dysfunctional muscle tissue that may result from overuse, postural abnormalities, muscular imbalances, or nerve impingement and are commonly associated with tendinitis, bursitis, and neurological impingement of the spine.

Development of Dry Needling Technique

Dry needling was developed from trigger point injections, where an anesthetic or corticosteroid is injected into a trigger point to induce relaxation. However, because of the limit to how often medication can be injected into the body, studies were conducted to observe the response of a trigger point when only a needle was inserted. Results showed that inserting a "dry needle" could produce a similar response, leading to the development of a new form of treatment. The technique has been found to reduce spontaneous electrical activity in trigger points and can cause the trigger point to relax to its normal resting tone.

Risks and Benefits of Dry Needling

Dry needling lasts a few minutes, with most of the time spent on preparation, including using sterile needles and gloves and cleaning the treatment area with alcohol to minimize the risk of infection. After the procedure, muscle soreness and bruising may occur, but these are temporary and usually resolve within a few days. The primary risk is causing a punctured lung (pneumothorax) when treating around the chest. Still, the risk is low when performed by a licensed healthcare professional who has passed the appropriate certification standards.

What Dry Needling is NOT

While dry needling is a therapeutic technique that involves the insertion of thin needles into trigger points in muscles to release tension and promote the body's natural healing process, there are some misconceptions about what it is not. This article aims to clarify these misconceptions.

Dry needling is not a stand-alone treatment technique. It is a complementary tool to facilitate the treatment plan, particularly for myofascial pain. Once pain reduction is achieved, the root cause of the pain can be addressed more effectively through other physical therapy treatments.

Dry needling is only suitable for some. Patients who have recently undergone surgery, have needle phobias, or whose pain originates from something other than their muscles are not appropriate candidates for dry needling. Although dry needling is an excellent service, patients willing to experience it should be allowed to undergo the treatment. For this reason, written consent is obtained from each patient who agrees to undergo this treatment.

How Dry Needling Can Help You

Dry needling is a versatile technique that can treat various orthopedic issues. This article will discuss how dry needling can help manage impairments, including bursitis, tendinitis, and muscle spasms caused by spinal derangement.

Benefits of Dry Needling

Dry needling can provide instant relief for many conditions. By resetting dysfunctional muscle tissue, dry needling can relieve stress and inflammation on the bursa and tendon, allowing the muscle to function as designed. This can help manage a variety of impairments, from cervicogenic headaches to plantar fasciitis. Common conditions that benefit from dry needling include:

  • Tennis/golfer's elbow.

  • Subacromial bursitis (shoulder).

  • Rotator cuff tendinitis.

  • IT band syndrome.

  • Achilles tendinitis.

  • Patellar tendinitis.

Dry needling is a valuable technique that can help manage orthopedic issues. However, it is important to note that it is not a stand-alone treatment and should be used with other physical therapy treatments. If you have any questions about dry needling or want to know more, call 323-461-7876 or email

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