What is Dry Needling and How Can It Help You?

What is Dry Needling and How Can It Help You?

Top FAQ: “Is This Like Acupuncture?”

Let’s clear up the terminology! Acupuncture, developed in China, aims to improve energy flow and chi, helping the body produce endorphins or “feel-good hormones.” It involves placing needles along traditional Chinese meridian lines and theories, promoting stress relief, calming the central nervous system, and reducing pain.

While dry needling uses similar needles, it differs significantly. Acupuncture uses needles as a primary treatment, whereas dry needling is an adjunct therapy combined with hands-on and personalized exercise treatments.

Dry needling is based on evidence-based research, targeting beneficial “trigger points” for needle insertion without using acupuncture terminology or theories. It’s a tool in your recovery, meant to be part of a comprehensive care plan by your physical therapist.

Second Most FAQ: “Are You Injecting Pain Medication?”

No, dry needling does not involve medication. The term “dry” signifies that no substances are injected. The benefit comes solely from the needle insertion into the muscle.

Who Can Perform It and What Can It Treat?

In North Carolina, licensed healthcare providers must obtain a Certification of Dry Needling to perform the procedure legally. This certification is additional training beyond a Doctorate of Physical or Occupational  Therapy.

Who Can Benefit from Dry Needling?

Dry needling can treat pain and dysfunction caused by tightness in muscles, tendons, connective tissues, and joints. It’s effective for issues from head to toe, including:

  • Tension headaches
  • Neck pain
  • TMJ pain (jaw pain)
  • Lower back tightness/pain
  • Tight, painful hips and groin pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Plantar fascia pain (bottom of foot pain)

How Does Dry Needling Work?

The treatment involves using a thin needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate myofascial trigger points, muscles, and connective tissue. Treatment durations vary from 10 seconds to 15 minutes, depending on the targeted area.

When the needle is inserted, it creates a mini inflammatory response, increasing circulation and blood flow. This rush of healing cells promotes natural opioid production, providing pain relief without medication. The insertion also reorganizes muscle cells, allowing them to return to their resting length, resulting in immediate muscle tightness relief.

Ready to Give It a Try?

Many patients are hesitant about pain during treatment. Most patients don’t even feel the needle insertion. The primary sensation is a deep, dull ache from the needle entering deep muscle fibers—think of pressing on a bruise. It’s uncomfortable but tolerable. Remember, “short-term discomfort for long-term benefit!”

What to Expect During and After Treatment

During Treatment:

  • Deep, dull achy feeling
  • Twitch response (involuntary muscle contraction). Dry needling is beneficial even if the twitch response isn’t felt

After Treatment:

  • Soreness for 24-48 hours (like after an intense workout)
  • Fatigue, emotional, giddy, or loopy for an hour or two because of the calming effect throughout the nervous system! 
  • Rare bruising and bleeding

While dry needling is beneficial, it’s essential to see it as a tool for recovery. If you’re experiencing pain, schedule a full evaluation to identify the root cause rather than starting with passive treatment. Book an evaluation with us or a 30-minute dry needling appointment to learn how we can help you return to the activities you love!

We offer:

  • Free Screens
  • 1:1 Therapy Visits
  • Therapeutic Massage
  • Trigger Point Dry Needling

Learn more about our services

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Written by Dr. Rachel Hall

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