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  • Writer's pictureDr. Taylor Ferguson

Dry Needling - What is it & What does it help with?

At this point, many of you have heard of dry needling. Whether it was from a friend/coworker who swears by it, you read it on a website or advertisement, or maybe one of our doctors has mentioned it to you. However, just because people have heard of dry needling, does not mean they have a complete understanding of what dry needling is or how it can help. One of the most common questions we get asked is, “What is dry needling” and a close second is, “Are dry needling and acupuncture the same thing?” Dr. Taylor is on the blog this month to answer these questions for all who have been wondering or need a quick refresher.

Dry needling is a form of soft tissue therapy that involves the use of thin, solid needles to stimulate specific points on the body. It is also known as intramuscular manual therapy (IMT) or trigger point dry needling (TDN).

The technique is based on the principles of traditional Chinese acupuncture, which has been used for over 2000 years to treat a wide range of conditions. However, dry needling is not the same as acupuncture. The two techniques utilize the same style of single-use needles but differ both in application and philosophy. While acupuncture focuses on the flow of energy (Qi) through the body for general system balancing, dry needling targets specific muscle tissue and trigger points for skeletal muscular relief.

Dry needling is used to treat a variety of conditions including chronic and acute pain, muscle tension, as well as sports injuries. The needles are inserted directly into the muscle tissue, which can help to release tension, improve someone’s range of motion and promote healing. This also makes dry needling unique. Many of our other soft tissue techniques are trying to target muscle tissue but are still working through the layers of tissue that lay over the top of our muscles, such as skin and fascia. It is also believed to increase blood flow and oxygen to the treated area, which can help to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

The procedure is relatively quick and easy, needles are typically inserted and then quickly removed. This is another example of a difference between acupuncture and dry needling. At times, the needles may be stimulated with an electrical stimulation unit to help increase muscle activation or decrease pain. During the procedure, the patient may feel slight discomfort as the needle is inserted, but most patients report little or no pain. As the needle is advanced into the tissue it can create a feeling of achiness. Most typically, when the needle contacts the targeted muscle tissue an involuntary muscle twitch is elicited. This can be surprising to patients but is again typically painless. Soreness following treatment with dry needling is very common and totally normal. The soreness typically dissipates within 24-48 hours of treatment.

There are several potential benefits of dry needling, including:

  • Relief of chronic & acute pain

  • Improved range of motion

  • Increased muscle activation

  • Reduced muscle tension

  • Improved flexibility

  • Decreased injury recovery time

It should be noted that dry needling is not appropriate for everyone. Obviously, if you have a fear of needles, dry needling is not for you. Other contraindications for dry needling include a diagnosis of a clotting disorder or individuals who take anticoagulant medication. Pregnancy can also be a contraindication for dry needling depending on the site of pain. It is important to consult with a trained professional prior to receiving dry needling to ensure that you are a good candidate and that dry needling will be of benefit to you.

In conclusion, dry needling is an effective form of soft tissue therapy that can be used to treat a wide range of conditions. It is a minimally invasive, as well as a relatively quick and easy treatment that can provide significant benefits to patients suffering from chronic pain, acute pain, muscle tension, and sports injuries. If you are interested in trying dry needling, please contact our office to determine if it is right for you.


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