What is Dry Needling?

 

Dry Needling is a skilled technique performed by a physical therapist using thin filiform needles to penetrate the skin and/or underlying tissues to affect change in body structures and functions for the evaluation and management of neuromusculoskeletal conditions, pain, movement impairments, and disability. (Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy)

Dry Needling is a general term for a therapeutic treatment procedure that involves advances of a filament needle into the muscle in the area of the body which produces pain and typically contains a ‘Trigger Point’.  There is no injectable solution and typically the needle which is used is very thin.  Most patients will not even feel the needle penetrate the skin, but once it has and is advanced into the muscle, the feeling of discomfort can vary drastically from patient to patient.  Usually a healthy muscle feels very little discomfort with insertion of the needle; however, if the muscle is sensitive and shortened or has active trigger points within it, the subject may feel a sensation much like a muscle cramp — which is often referred to as a ‘twitch response’. The twitch response also has a biochemical characteristic to it which likely affects the reaction of the muscle, symptoms, and response of the tissue. Along with the health of the tissue, the expertise of the practitioner can also attribute to the variation of outcome and/or discomfort.  The patient may only feel the cramping sensation locally or they may feel a referral of pain or similar symptoms for which they are seeking treatment. A reproduction of their pain can be a helpful diagnostic indicator of the cause of the patient’s symptoms. Patients soon learn to recognize and even welcome this sensation as it results in deactivating the trigger point, thereby reducing pain and restoring normal length and function of the involved muscle. Typically positive results are apparent within 2-4 treatment sessions but can vary depending on the cause and duration of the symptoms, overall health of the patient, and experience level of the practitioner. Dry needling is an effective treatment for acute and chronic pain, rehabilitation from injury, and even pain and injury prevention, with very few side effects. This technique is unequaled in finding and eliminating neuromuscular dysfunction that leads to pain and functional deficits.

Dry Needling can also be used for spinal conditions in which the underlying pathology may have triggered a movement disorder. This can result in the presence of reduced ROM or pain due to abnormal muscle tone or spasms. Such conditions may include:

  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Headaches
  • Sciatica
  • Hamstring issues

Common lower extremity conditions treated with Functional Dry Needling include:

  • Patellar Femoral Syndrome
  • Patellar tendonitis
  • Hamstring Strain
  • Groin Strain
  • Shin-splints, Compartment Syndrome
  • Achilles tendonopathies

Common upper extremity conditions treated with Functional Dry Needling include:

  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Lateral Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
  • Medial Epicondylitis (golfers elbow)
  • Impingement syndromes