By Michael Moore, PT, DPT, physical therapist at The Rehabilitation Center in Boone
Dry needling doesn’t sound like a fun day at the park but intramuscular stimulation, as it is sometimes called, is a treatment used to target and restore muscle function while reducing muscle pain. During dry needling, a practitioner inserts several filiform needles into your skin. Filiform needles are fine, short, stainless steel needles that don’t inject fluid into the body. That’s why the term “dry” is used.
Practitioners place the needles in “trigger points” in your muscle or tissue. The points are areas of knotted or hard muscle. The technique may help release the knot and relieve any muscle pain, spams, or stiffness by improving blood flow and diminishing nerve sensitivity. In addition, easing the trigger points may improve flexibility and increase range of motion. That’s why this method is often used to treat sports injuries, muscle pain, and even fibromyalgia pain.
Is it the same as acupuncture?
Dry needling is not acupuncture, a practice based on traditional Chinese medicine and performed by acupuncturists. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the use of “meridians,” “pulses,” or “chi” drawn from ancient Chinese medicine and philosophy. Dry needling is a part of modern Western medicine principles, and supported by research accepted by physicians in the United States.
What can Dry Needling treat?
Evidence suggests the use of dry needling in treating many conditions seen by physical therapists such as:
- chronic neck and back pain
- cervicogenic headaches
- knee osteoarthritis
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- trigger point pain
- and more.
Dry needling should not be seen as a replacement for physical therapy. However, it is a very beneficial complement to physical therapy treatment as it can restore muscle function and reduce muscle pain.
If suffering with these conditions, contact The Rehabilitation Center to see if dry needling is right for you.
American Physical Therapy Association. Description of Dry Needling in Clinical Practice. http://www.apta.org/StateIssues/DryNeedling/. Published February 2013.
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;19:252–265. doi: 10.1179/108331913X13844245102034.