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What is Dry Needling??

Updated: Feb 14


Are you familiar with the practice of dry needling? Don't feel bad, it's not commonly used in western medicine conversation; but it's been around in one form or another for thousands of years!

Dry needling is a treatment using a thin mono-filament needle (same needle used in acupuncture) for the intended treatment of an array of neuro-musculoskeletal pain syndromes.

Without an informed understanding of dry needling, the effectiveness and methods could be lost on those who could benefit the most from its practices. Dry needling is used to treat many limitations and symptoms in muscles, ligaments, tendons, subcutaneous fascia, scar tissues, peripheral nerves, and neurovascular bundles (1). Meaning there is very few areas in the body that could not be impacted or treated with dry needling.

What to expect from a dry needling session (if it is deemed from your physical therapist that it would be beneficial to your treatment goals)?

The treatment will last from 10-30 minutes depending on the assessment and treatment

During the treatment, you can feel sensations from a dull ache, tingling, pressure, warmth, coolness2,3, etc.

You could feel muscle twitching during the treatment

After the treatment is over, you could feel tired, sore, warmth, increased mobility, or decreased discomfort.

Some report the after sensation to doing an intense workout of those areas –soreness, fatigue, “weakness”

Usually, rest and proper hydration is recommended following a treatment

Instructions for exercises, resuming aggravating activities, and stretching will be provided on a case by case basis with the PT

Looking for an alternate view of the differences between Acupuncture and Dry Needling from a certified Acupuncturist? Check out this article . It does give an in-depth view of the history of acupuncture, but is missing some key details about dry needling I think are essential to the conversation. Such as, while Physical Therapists are trained in dry needling over a few weekend courses, they have a background and years of education and training of human anatomy and human biomechanics (6 years in my case) along with any continuing education training they may have taken prior to completing the certification of Dry needling.



1. Dunning J, Butts R, Mourad F, Young I, Flannagan S, Perreault T. Dry needling: a literature review with implications for clinical practice guidelines. Phys Ther Rev. 2014;19(4):252-265. doi:10.1179/108331913X13844245102034

2. Bovey M, Deqi Journal of chinese medicine. 2006;81:18–29. [Google Scholar]

3. Hui KKS, Nixon EE, Vangel MG, Liu J, Marina O, Napadow V, et al. Characterization of the “deqi” response in acupuncture. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2007;7:33. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

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