Prevention and Wellness

Answers to Dry Needling Questions

Provider Frank Dossman, PT, DPT, answers frequently asked questions about dry needling.  

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is a pain relief option that involves stimulation of certain trigger points in a person’s body, according to the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental MedicineOff Site Icon (CCAOM). The needle is pressed into specific places to increase local blood flow and relax muscular tension, the CCAOM states.

Dry needling has been used in the United States since 1984, according to the National Athletic Trainer’s AssociationOff Site Icon (NATA).  

For more information about dry needling, talk to your doctor.

Learn more:

What issues can dry needling help with? 

Dry needling is primarily used to treat pain, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). Specifically, it can be effective in treating various types of joint pain, the NIH states.

The method is achieved by targeting trigger points in the body, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP). Trigger points are areas of skeletal muscle that produce pain locally, according to the AAFP.

Talk to your doctor about how dry needling is used.

Learn more:

How does it work?  

Dry needling is a method of pain relief, according to the National Athletic Trainer’s AssociationOff Site Icon (NATA). It does so by focusing on certain areas of the musculoskeletal system, the NATA states.  

The procedure is done with the patient in a relaxed position, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). A solid filament needle is inserted into the target area, then positioned or moved into the muscle by rotation, slow and steady lancing, or by in-and-out motion, according to the NIH.

For more information about the way dry needling works, talk to your doctor.

Learn more:

What does it feel like? 

For most patients, dry needling isn’t painful, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP). In some cases, depending on the point of entry, the patient may feel very little.

Most times, the feeling mimics that experienced when one gets a shot with a wet needle, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Talk to your doctor about dry needling procedure.

Learn more:

What should I do after having the procedure done?

Post-treatment care varies from person to person and depends on the type of pain one is experiencing, according to the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental MedicineOff Site Icon (CCAOM).  In most cases, there isn’t a great amount of discomfort involved, the CCAOM states.

It isn’t unusual to experience some soreness in the treatment area, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). This can be treated with a hot or cold compress as needed, according to the NIH.

For more information about dry needling post-treatment, talk with your doctor.

Learn more:

Once I am feeling better, how often do I need to come back to maintain progress?  

The type and amount of dry needling treatment is different for everyone, according to the National Athletic Trainer’s AssociationOff Site Icon (NATA). It also depends on the kind of pain and/or injury the patient has, the NATA states.

Some patients feel relief after one or two procedures, but others may need more follow-up, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). Typically, dry needling accompanied by other treatment methods like physical therapy and exercise can be effective ways of dealing with the pain.

Talk to your doctor about dry needling treatments.

Learn more:

What are the risks of dry needling?

Dry needling should only be performed by experienced and credentialed professionals, according to the National Athletic Trainer’s AssociationOff Site Icon (NATA). Not all providers are trained in dry needling procedure, so it’s important to seek out a professional who is equipped with that specific training, the NATA states.

Some may experience mild to severe side effects of dry needling, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). These may include bleeding or bruising, or pain, and in more serious cases, nerve damage or lung puncture.

For more information about the risks of dry needling, talk to your doctor.

Learn more:

Why do physical therapists do this? 

Dry needling may be used for some musculoskeletal conditions because it targets the tight points in muscular tissue that produce pain, according to the American Physical Therapy AssociationOff Site Icon (APTA). It can be effective in treating hip and back pain, the APTA states.

While dry needling may be itself effective in treating some form of pain, it may be paired with other forms of treatment, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). Providers may recommend physical therapy or exercise regime to supplement the patient’s treatment, according to the NIH.

Talk to your doctor about how dry needling could be a treatment option.

Learn more:

Is dry needling the same as acupuncture?  

Dry needling and acupuncture are not the same, according to the American Physical Therapy AssociationOff Site Icon (APTA). They may seem similar, but, the bases and origin of the two make them different, the APTA states.

Acupuncture is an Eastern treatment that’s been in use for more than 2,000 years, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). Unlike acupuncture, dry needling is based on modern science with clinical approaches, according to the NIH.

For more information about the differences between acupuncture and dry needling, talk to your doctor.

Learn more:

Can all physical therapists perform dry needling? 

Not all physical therapists are qualified to administer dry needling treatment, according to the American Physical Therapy AssociationOff Site Icon (APTA). The physical therapist must have specific training to perform the procedure, and it’s important for patients to seek out a professional who has completed the necessary qualifications before opting for the procedure, the APTA states.

Talk to your doctor about dry needling qualifications.

Learn more:


Source: Frank Dossman, PT, DPT, Premier Health Sports Medicine

Content Updated: July 25, 2018

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation.

This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.