What is Dry Needling in Physical Therapy?

Sep 13, 2023
Dry Needling blog photo
One of the most common health issues physical therapists treat is pain. People experience pain for a variety of reasons, from injuries to chronic health conditions.

One of the most common health issues physical therapists treat is pain. People experience pain for a variety of reasons, from injuries to chronic health conditions. Pain management is a major focus in the medical field, and physical therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat pain. 

Within the field of physical therapy there are many different treatment methods, such as suspension therapy, massage therapy, and exercise therapy. Dry needling is another method used in physical therapy that can work in conjunction with other therapies to relieve pain. 

What is dry needling in physical therapy? The treatment process involves the insertion of thin, solid needles into the skin. The needles are so small and thin that you don’t feel them. What you do feel is relief of pain and tension in the area where the needles are inserted. The needles are strategically placed at trigger points in the body, or areas where there is tension that is causing pain. 

Why is it Called Dry Needling?

The term “dry needling” refers to the fact that there is no liquid or medication being administered through the needle. This is not an injection with a pain medication or a numbing agent. Dry needling involves inserting solid, dry needles into the top layer of skin. Needles used for injections are hollow inside so that liquid can travel through them into the skin. Dry needles are not hollow, but solid. 

What is a Trigger Point? 

Trigger points are places where the muscle is tensed up, either a band or a knot of tension in a muscle. Tendons and ligaments are sometimes trigger points for pain if they are too tight. The muscle can become irritated or inflamed at these points, causing pain. Dry needling is most successful when the trigger points can be identified so that the needles can be placed in those locations. 

Is Dry Needling Like Acupuncture?

While dry needling sounds very similar to acupuncture, the practice is quite different in origin and application. The only common element is the equipment used to administer the needles. 

Acupuncture is a form of eastern medicine that originated in China. Acupuncture uses an invisible map of meridian lines on the body that determine where the needles should be inserted. It is based on the concept of qi (pronounced chi) which is the flow of energy throughout the body. The needles are placed to unblock areas of the body where energy is blocked and causing pain. 

Dry needling is part of western medicine that involves different training. Practitioners who administer dry needling learn to identify the trigger points in the muscles that are the source of pain for the patient. Trigger point location is based on information from the patient and medical testing that reveals orthopedic issues that may be the cause of the patient’s pain.  

Does Dry Needling Hurt?

The insertion of the needles is not painful because the needles are extremely thin. The reason you experience pain with an injection needle is that it is thicker and a liquid is forced through it into your muscle. A dry needle is so tiny that you don’t even feel it. All you will feel is relief from the pain and tension in your muscles and joints.  

What Conditions Can Dry Needling Treat?

Dry needling is used to treat pain from a variety of sources, including fibromyalgia, tendonitis, muscle strains, back and neck pain, headaches, patellofemoral pain syndrome, and more. Physical therapy for fibromyalgia most often involves dry needling, as it helps to relieve the chronic, constant pain that results from the disorder. 

Manhattan Physical Therapy Specializes in Fibromyalgia Treatment

If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you know the debilitating effects of constant pain all too well. It can make it impossible just to carry out daily activities. Pain medication offers some relief, but the side effects can lower your quality of life. Dry needling as part of a physical therapy regimen can help to relieve the pain of fibromyalgia by treating it at the source, releasing the tension at the trigger points that are causing your pain. 

Call (212) 213-3480 or contact us today to request a consultation. We look forward to helping you relieve your pain and live a fuller life with physical therapy.