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Dry Needling

Dry Needling

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a specific physical therapy treatment technique that uses a solid filament needle to treat muscle trigger points that are creating pain and discomfort. A trained physical therapist inserts these small needles into the skin and muscle directly at a myofascial trigger point. A muscle trigger point is a localized taut band of skeletal muscle fibers which are painful to palpation. These trigger points play a role in producing and sustaining pain and discomfort. Trigger points may even refer pain to other parts of the body.  For example, a trigger point in your piriformis muscle can refer pain to your calf and foot, which may cause you to feel pain in your calf when the pain is actually generating from your piriformis muscle.  Active trigger points impair a person’s ability to lengthen, strengthen or contract the muscle. As a result, the muscle shortens and compresses the structure around it causing pain. Trigger points develop in muscles for various reasons, including inflammation, tissue injury, dysfunctional movement patterns or other causes. 

How does Dry Needling work?

The stimulation of the muscle produces a strong twitch of the muscle fibers. After this process the muscle activity dramatically reduces resulting in relaxation and decrease in pain and dysfunction. Occasionally, insertion of the needle will also reproduce “referred pain” symptoms. This is often a positive sign confirming the trigger point as the cause of the pain.  


Dry needling also has a biochemical effect. Research has shown that when a needle is successfully inserted into a trigger point and generates a local twitch response, over time, it can return the electrical and chemical environment within the muscle to it's normal, relaxed state. Following dry needling treatments, we see improved muscle length, strength, flexibility and corresponding decrease in pain in our patients.

How can Dry Needling help me?

Dry needling can be used to treat many different musculoskeletal issues, including: neck, back, hip, knee, shoulder pain, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, golfer’s elbow, headaches (migraines and tension-type), TMJ pain, sciatica, hamstring strains, calf tightness/spasms, plantar fasciitis and many other injuries and dysfunctions.


Is Dry Needling the same as Acupuncture?

Although both they both use the same thin filament needles, acupuncture and dry needling are different treatments. Dry needling is strictly based on Western medicine principles and research. Acupuncture is used to treat Traditional Chinese Medical diagnoses of visceral and systemic dysfunction, while dry needling is used to assess and treat myofascial pain. Dry needling reduces pain by reducing trigger points within muscles to restore normal muscle function. Traditional acupuncture follows Eastern Medicine's principle of holistic treatment, and is based on normalizing the energy imbalance, or Chi, in the body to cure syndromes.


Dry Needling and other physical therapy procedures are based on scientific neurophysiological and biomechanical principles. At Dynamic Edge Physiotherapy, our physical therapists are certified in Functional Dry Needling (FDN). They are not licensed acupuncturists, not trained in acupuncture, and do not practice acupuncture.


Is Dry Needling painful?

The needle used in the procedure is very thin and most patients don’t feel it penetrate the skin. Once we reach the dysfunctional tissue or trigger point, you may feel an achy pain or a cramping sensation which subsides once the needle is removed. You might have a twitch response, which is a positive and desirable reaction. Pain may also be felt in the referral zone, an expected response to treatment.

Is medication used with the needle?

No medication is used with dry needling.  Dry needling uses a solid filament needle, which is not made to inject medication. We only use sterile, disposable needles.

Are there any side effects to the treatment?

Most patients report feeling sore following the procedure. Symptoms are usually described as muscle soreness near the treatment area and in the areas of referred pain. Typically the soreness lasts 24 to 48 hours after treatment. You may want to apply heat or ice over the area, gently stretch, and modify your daily activities, depending on your individual response to the treatment. After a dry needling session, it is important to stay properly hydrated.

How long does it usually take to notice results?

It normally takes a few visits before patients notice positive results.

Is Dry Needling covered by my insurance?

Unfortunately, This specialty service is not covered by insurance yet.  Please ask your physical therapist or contact the office if you'd like more information.

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