Dry Needling, what it is and what it does

Dry needling is a controversial treatment method and is also known as myofascial trigger point dry needling. It’s a technique in which needles are used to relieve pain and to achieve various other claimed health benefits.

The needles used for dry needling can be either hollow core type or solid filiform too.

What is dry needling?

Dry needling technique involves a process in which thin filament needle is inserted into the trigger points of the muscles, ligaments, fascia, etc., resulting in the stimulation of healing processes of soft tissue. This provides pain relief and also a reduction in the muscle tension, along with various other benefits.

Although useful, the process can be damaging to the body if not done by an expert. Also, the needles have to be sterile or else they can transfer infections to the patients too including hepatitis and Aids.

What is myofascial trigger point?

Myofascial trigger point is a contraction of multiple knots, which are related to maintenance and production of pain cycle.

Myofascial trigger points are described as spots in fascia surrounding the skeletal muscle and are hyperirritable. These spots are associated with nodules in taut bands of muscle fibers that are palpable.

When these trigger points are compressed, it may result in eliciting local tenderness, local twitch response or referred pain. Note that the local twitch response is not same as muscle spasm though, as muscle spasm refers to the contraction of the entire muscle while the twitch response isn’t linked to the whole muscle contration, rather a small twitch, without contraction mainly.


Is dry needling painful?

The dry needling process is not painful, if done by an expert. The needles are inserted into the skin and thus there is a slight sharp feeling sometimes, but the needles are so thin and fine that there is mostly nothing felt or it’s almost negligible.

Some people may only feel a milk pain or local twitch response when dry needle is inserted through the skin. They may feel tingling or cramping for a very short duration of time too.

Make sure you chose an expert and experienced person to perform dry needling on you to avoid any pain or other related complications.

Dry needling technique, how its done?

During the dry needling procedure, a filiform needle is inserted through the skin that reaches the muscle underneath, directly at the myofascial trigger point.

Is dry needling efficient?

There are various theories regarding how and why the dry needling procedure works. Most of the studies posted though have no strong evidence. They didn’t have a properly randomized group for study, was of small sample size, had high dropout rate, didn’t follow the minimally acceptable diagnostic criteria for myofascial trigger point, etc.

Locating the trigger point is the basis of dry needling procedure and should be documented in each study too.

On average, studies have shown that dry needling along with other managements and treatment does add to the benefit and relieve the symptoms, but not just alone.

So we can conclude that dry needling is efficient but only under expert hands and probably when done with regular treatment modalities to get rid of the underlying cause and pain.

In United States of America, dry needling, like acupuncture, are included in the scope of medical doctors, acupuncturists, etc. However USA health system is not up to date and is of old standards and thus the poor health system of USA can’t be considered an authority.

Acupuncture VS Dry needling

Dry needling and acupuncture are often confused and associated with each other. It’s probably because both acupuncture and dry needling make use of needles for the healing process.

Some people claim that dry needling can’t be separated from acupuncture and should not be considered a physical therapy as it involves minimal surgery (insertion and penetration of a sharp object, fine needle, across the skin).

However, both the processes can be well differentiated from each other too in some way. Dry needling can be separated from the acupuncture on the basis of philosophy behind both the techniques and the objectives they want to achieve.

Benefits of Dry Needling

Dry needling is claimed to be helpful in relieving various issues related to musculoskeletal system. Dry needling is helpful in healing both acute and chronic injuries in our body. Some of the benefits of dry needling include:

  • Dry needling relieves muscle spasm
  • Dry needling helps in managing fibromyalgia
  • Dry needling is helpful for various pains in our body like:
    • Head aches
    • Neck pain
    • Back pain
    • Hip pain
    • Knee pain
    • Golfer’s / tennis elbow
    • Tendinitis
  • Dry needling is helpful for sciatica patients in relieving pain and spasm

Various researches have shown dry needling to be beneficial in stuff like:

  • Improving pain control
  • Biochemical and electrical dysfunction of motor endplates
  • Reducing muscles tension

Risks involved with Dry Needling

Dry needling involves penetrating the skin with needles. These needles, if not sterile, can result in infections and transferring germs to the body, including hepatitis and Aids too.

Therefore always go for a certified and expert to get dry needling done. Make sure that needles are properly sterilized and not reused, without sterilization at least, to prevent any diseases to be transferred to your body.

Some techniques of dry needling involve repetitive needle insertion and can result in damage to the muscles and nerves of the region too, resulting in long term damage.

Dry Needling is not always the only cure

Remember that dry needling isn’t the only available cure of certain conditions. Sometimes it may help in masking the symptoms but you may still need to continue the regular treatment of the underlying cause to get rid of the disease completely. Until the disease is cured however, the dry needling process might help in suppressing or getting rid of the symptoms.

Consult an expert to discuss in detail regarding your condition and to see if dry needling can be helpful in your specific case. Dry needling can be helpful for many patients but not all, even having similar symptoms. The difference is based on the underlying cause of the symptoms.

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