What is dry needling?

Trigger point dry needling, a skilled intervention, uses a thin needle to penetrate the skin to stimulate the myofascial triggers and muscles. It is also used for managing neuromusculoskeletal pain. Dry needling is an effective therapy that is increasing in popularity.

Trigger point dry needling can be used as part of a comprehensive care plan to restore function and movement. Dry needling will allow for a quicker progression to corrective exercises that can be used to increase participation and activity restrictions.

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What is a trigger?

Trigger points are a dysfunction in a muscle, such as hard or knotted muscle tissue. While “active” trigger points cause pain right now, “latent” trigger point can be activated to create the pain. Trigger points can also alter motor patterns, causing abnormal muscle firings and mechanics. Trigger points may be either superficial (skin-level) or deep (intramuscular).

Who does dry needling benefit?

Dry needling is more efficient than traditional physical therapies for patients suffering from deeper trigger points. This is particularly true when there is a localized “hot spot” in the muscle. Dry needling can relieve the pain faster and more effectively than manual treatment.

Conditions to be considered

  • Headaches
  • Shoulder pain
  • Elbow pain
  • Neck pain
  • Pain in the back
  • Hip pain
  • Knee pain
  • Pain in the feet and ankles
  • Scar tissue

What type of needles is used?

Dry needling uses filiform needles, which are solid, sterile, and one-use. This is similar to acupuncture. Dry needling isn’t able to inject fluids, unlike needles used to inject vaccines.

Is there any side effect to dry needling?

Side effects of dry needling are the same as any other needle stick: there’s the risk of bleeding, bruising or infection. Soreness is the most common side effect. It’s as if the muscle has had an intense workout.

Is dry needling similar to acupuncture?

Both disciplines use the same type of filiform needles, but the similarities end there. Dry needling uses Western medicine to treat dysfunctional parts of muscles. Acupuncture, which is a form of Eastern medicine, uses superficial needles (at the skin level) to aid in the flow or energy (or chi) within the body.

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Why should you see a physical therapist?

We are experts in this modality due to our extensive knowledge of the musculoskeletal system as well as the pathologies that go along with it. These patients require high levels of clinical reasoning to be selected. We must examine and review systems in order to identify patients who may benefit. However, we also need to screen out those patients who may not be suitable.


Oakland, CA Pain Management Clinic

Dr. Ben Bagge

Pro+Kinetix Physical Therapy & Performance

"We Help Active Adults & Athletes Get Back To Workouts and Sports They Enjoy without surgery, stopping activities they love, or relying on pain medicine."
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