Dry needling is a therapeutic technique in which a trained physical therapist uses a small, sterile filament needle to reduce or eliminate musculoskeletal pain or dysfunction.
Preliminary research 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.
How can dry needling help me?
Dry needling is used to treat a variety of musculoskeletal issues. It can be used for pain in the back, neck, shoulder, arm (tennis and golfer’s elbow), hip, leg (sciatica, hamstring strain, calf strain), knee and foot (plantar fasciitis).
An evaluation by a physical therapist trained in dry needling is necessary to determine whether dry needling would be beneficial for you.
Is dry needling similar to acupuncture?
While dry needling uses the same needle as acupuncture, the two are very different in theory. Dry needling is based on traditional, studied, and tested practices of Western medicine and research with a goal of restoring normal muscle function. It relieves pain and restores function within muscles.
In contrast, acupuncture is used to treat traditional Chinese medical diagnosis of visceral and systemic dysfunction. The goal of acupuncture is to achieve pain relief by the release of endorphins and creating balance in the body’s energy levels, or Chi.
At Genesis Physical Therapy, our therapists are not licensed acupuncturists and do not practice acupuncture. Instead, physical therapists utilize dry needling as part of a comprehensive program based on scientific neuro-physiological and bio-mechanical principles.
Is dry needling painful?
The needle used in dry needling is very thin and most people don’t even feel it penetrate the skin. A person may feel a twitch, associated small electrical shock, pain close to the needle insertion area, and/or pain along the referral zone of that particular muscle.
This is a positive and desirable response to needling. Some discomfort may persist for a few hours to a couple of days. Over this time, your therapist may recommend the use of ice or heat, gentle stretching and activity modification.
Are there any other side effects or risks to treatment?
Aside from soreness, a person may feel tired, nauseous, emotional or somewhat “out of it” for a short period of time. This is uncommon but normal and typically lasts only an hour or so after treatment.
Bruising may occur as well. For this reason, it’s important to let your therapist know of any bleeding disorders you have or blood thinning medications you may be taking. When using any needle, there is a risk of infection.
We use sterile needles so that risk is very rare. There is also the possibility of an allergic reaction to the nickel in our stainless steel needles. Although this rarely poses an issue, if you know of a nickel allergy, let your therapist know.
How many sessions does it take to notice results?
Most people see positive results with just a few sessions. It’s important to understand that dry needling is most effective when used in conjunction with other physical therapy techniques and treatments.
Needling is a specific tool used to reduce pain and improve tolerance to physical therapy and exercise. Our therapists will perform a comprehensive evaluation and tailor a specific plan that best meets your needs.
Will dry needling be performed at my first appointment?
We do not typically use dry needling at the first appointment unless you fit a classic presentation in which we are confident that needling will provide you with the greatest benefit. The first visit is usually used for evaluation, education on the procedure as well as risks, benefits and side effects. The needling procedure will likely be performed at the second visit, if deemed appropriate.