Dry needling is a treatment that uses thin, stainless steel needles (called filiform needles) that are gently inserted into tissue or muscle to stimulate the muscle to relax. The term “dry” is used because nothing is injected into the tissue.
Often focused on what are called trigger points, dry needling can relieve muscle pain and spasms. What is known as integrative dry needling is a technique in which needles are used to break up nerve signals that are causing pain. In some cases, this approach can provide relief with fewer needle insertions.
Is Dry Needling the Same as Acupuncture?
Dry needling and acupuncture both use the same type of filiform needle. However, the two forms of treatment are different in their methods and goals.
Acupuncture is intended to promote wellness by improving the flow of energy (known as chi) in the body. The needles are inserted just below the skin surface and are left in place for between 15 and 60 minutes.
Dry needling relieves pain and increases range of motion in knotted or injured muscles. The needles go beyond the skin layer and into the muscle and are left there only briefly. Dry needling is often used in conjunction with physical therapy to reduce pain and improve function. It is effective with a wide range of issues, including:
Dry needling provides excellent, often immediate results and is a fast, convenient, virtually pain-free treatment that complements other forms of therapy.
What to Expect with Dry Needling
While the thought of having needles inserted into your muscles can cause concern or anxiety, patients find that because the needles are so fine and inserted by skilled practitioners, there is little or no discomfort from the treatment. Plus, patients are prepared for the experience through:
Before inserting any needles, the practitioner explains in detail what will be done and what kinds of sensations you can expect. They also talk about the post-treatment experience, including soreness in the treatment area that is actually a sign the muscles are healing.
The practitioner carefully assesses the involved area so that the correct muscles are targeted.
Personalized treatment plan
Your condition, recovery goals, and other factors are taken into consideration in the development of a treatment regimen to meet your needs.
Following treatment, patients are assessed for range of motion and muscle strength to determine if the therapy has had a positive impact and whether additional dry needling sessions could be beneficial.