Dry Needling - what is it?
Updated: Sep 6
Dry Needling is a technique many physiotherapists use to treat muscle related pain. Dry needling uses sterile, single-use, fine filament needles which are the same as acupuncture needles. These needles are inserted into muscle trigger points with the aim of decreasing pain and improving function. The term ‘dry’ refers to the fact that these needles are without medication or injection.
Many people ask if dry needling is the same as acupuncture. It is not. There are similarities, however the theory and rationale behind treatment differ significantly. Dry needling is a western medicine approach, targeting the local tissue. Whereas acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique aimed at restoring the flow of energy through key points of the body to restore balance and harmony.
How does dry needling work?
Dry needling works on the pain gate mechanism. The needle is inserted into the tissue sending signals to the brain to set about a sequence of events to help repair the tissue. Dry needling will often provoke a local twitch response followed by relaxation. The relaxation may feel like a dull ache or heaviness around the needle – this is referred to as deqi. As the muscle relaxes, inflammation reduces and circulation improves through the area improving the tissue function.
Following treatment patients can experience local muscle soreness and heaviness for up to 24-48 hours post treatment. Ensuring you drink plenty of water following treatment can help reduce this effect.
Why have dry needling?
Dry needling is one tool physiotherapists use. It is a piece of the puzzle and may be used as one part of your treatment plan in conjunction with exercise, advice and manual therapy. It is used to treat many conditions, which include:
Post muscle tear
The goal of treatment is release muscle tension, manage pain and restore function and movement.
Is it safe?
Dry needling by a trained health professional is a safe technique, however every form of treatment has associated risks. Your physiotherapist will guide you through this. Dry needling is performed with a sterile, single use needle and disposed of in a certified sharps container – this helps reduce the risk of contamination. Side effects may include bruising, fainting, altered energy levels, nausea and residual discomfort. These symptoms should last no longer than 24-48 hours.
Dry needling is an evidence based treatment option that will help promote muscle flexibility and movement and help reduce pain. Ask them about it today.
Our Physiotherapist, Jessie Mayo is a certified provider of dry needling and works out of our clinic in South Melbourne.