What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling (DN) is the process by which a thin, sterile needle is inserted into either a muscle, tendon or connective tissue. In muscle, the aim is to target a trigger point; a taut band within the muscle that may have developed from inflammation or tissue injury and can contribute to localised pain or send signals of pain to other locations.

DN can cause a “twitch” response from these trigger points and is a desired result, as it is the first step to releasing tight trigger points by ‘unlocking’ muscles that restrict movement and do not function normally.

How does it work? What are the benefits?

The needles cause biochemical, mechanical and neurological changes within the body, helping to break up adhesions and scar tissue, create a healing response and reducing pain. The decrease in pain is related to the removal of muscular compression on joint, nerve and vascular tissue by decreasing muscle activity that allows for relaxation around these structures.

Studies have also shown that DN stimulates the release of endogenous opioids, and initiates a “new healing process”; thus further reducing pain.

The benefits may be felt the same day or up to a couple of days after and the needles can target areas deeper and more specific than massage and manipulation with hands alone. However, conjunctive therapy techniques will also be applied to gain the best results. You will be advised of the correct exercises to perform in combination with your treatment and these will be progressed over time in order to complete your rehabilitation.

Is it the same as Acupuncture?

Although DN uses the same needles as acupuncture, it is not the same technique.  DN is based upon Western medicine principles of treating myofascial trigger points; a modern, science based intervention. Traditional Eastern medicine acupuncture aims to alter the energy flow of “Qi” as a holistic care for imbalances in energy systems of the body.

Does it hurt? Is it safe?

The initial insertion of the needle does not usually cause any discomfort. However, the local twitch response can cause a brief painful reaction.  Some patients have described a small electric shock or cramping sensation that can turn into a dull, throbbing sensation. However, many patients will describe a relaxation effect after the needle is inserted.

Are there any side-effects?

In some cases, the treated area can be sore up to 72 hours, this usually feels like delayed onset muscle soreness after a strenuous exercise session and considered normal. This can be reduced with cold/heat and gentle stretching. Minor, often painless bleeding/bruising may also occur and you may feel tired, nauseous, emotional,  and/or somewhat “out of it” after treatment. This is a normal response that only lasts an hour or two after treatment.

Is it the right thing for me?

Some common symptoms that may benefit from dry needling include:

  • Back Pain
  • Neck Pain
  • Chronic Pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Scar tissue
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Carpal Tunnel
  • Tendonitis
  • Bursitis
  • Headaches

Dry needling may not be appropriate for you if any of the following apply:

  • Fear of needles
  • Pregnant
  • Blood-borne infectious disease

Please let your experienced physician guide you with these circumstances as there are many other alternatives to obtain the same results!

Who can perform Dry Needling?

Highly skilled Physiotherapists, with advanced training in anatomy and musculoskeletal function and dysfunction have completed additional courses for the administration of safe and effective dry needling.

If you would like to trial dry needling, give us a call at Generation Physio and one of our friendly Physiotherapist’s will be able to come to your own home to deliver your safe and effective treatment. Call us on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today!


Article written by Jennifer Gangler

Physiotherapist – Gold Coast & Southern Brisbane

Jenny graduated on the Gold Coast at Griffith University and has a Musculoskeletal and neurological rehabilitation background. She completed a Bachelor of Exercise Science in 2016 before going on to complete her Masters of Physiotherapy in 2019.

She has previously worked at a private practice focused on musculoskeletal injuries and chronic pain and during her studies worked alongside clinicians focused on traumatic brain injuries, neurological conditions and orthopaedic rehabilitation. Jenny has a special interest in musculoskeletal and neurological physiotherapy.

Learn more about Jenny here.

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