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Dry Needling

Dry needling is a technique physical therapists use (where allowed by state law) to
treat myofascial pain. The technique uses a “dry” needle, one without medication or
injection, inserted through the skin into areas of the muscle, known as trigger points.
Dry needling is not acupuncture, a practice based on traditional Chinese medicine
and performed by acupuncturists. Dry needling is a part of modern Western
medicine principles, and supported by research1
A trigger point is a taut band of skeletal muscle located within a larger muscle
group. Trigger points can be tender to the touch, and touching a trigger point may
cause pain to other parts of the body.
Dry needling involves a thin filiform needle that penetrates the skin and stimulates
underlying myofascial trigger points and muscular and connective tissues. The
needle allows a physical therapist to target tissues that are not manually palpable.
In cases when dry needling is used by physical therapists, it is typically 1
technique that’s part of a larger treatment plan.
Physical therapists use dry needling with the goal of releasing or inactivating
trigger points to relieve pain or improve range of motion. Preliminary research2
supports that dry needling improves pain control, reduces muscle tension,
and normalizes dysfunctions of the motor end plates, the sites at which nerve
impulses are transmitted to muscles. This can help speed up the patient’s return
to active rehabilitation.
As part of their entry level education, physical therapists are well educated in
anatomy and therapeutic treatment of the body. Physical therapists who perform
dry needling supplement that knowledge by obtaining specific postgraduate
education and training.