Using Dry Needling for Pain By Genevieve Afan, PT, DPT AzOPT Buckeye Doctor of Physical Therapy What is Dry Needling? Dry needling is a technique used by physical therapists who successfully complete a certification process. It is a treatment rooted in Western medicine, unlike acupuncture, which is rooted in Eastern medicine. Dry needling uses acupuncture…
What is dry needling?
Dry needling is a technique physical therapists use for the treatment of pain and movement impairments. The technique uses a “dry” needle, one without medication or injection, inserted through the skin into areas of the muscle.
Other terms commonly used to describe dry needling include trigger point dry needling and intramuscular manual therapy.
Who is allowed to perform it?
On October 22, 2013, the Arizona State Physical Therapy Board determined that Dry Needling is within the scope of physical therapy practice and can be implemented only by licensed physical therapists throughout the state of Arizona.
Our Doctors of Physical Therapy are well educated in anatomy and therapeutic treatment of the body. Additionally, physical therapists who perform dry needling supplement that knowledge by obtaining specific postgraduate education and training. At AzOPT, most of our Doctors of Physical Therapy hold Certifications in Dry Needling (Cert DN).
Why will I benefit?
Dry needling is most often used in conjunction with manual therapy interventions and your larger treatment plan. Dry needling releases or inactivates trigger points to relieve pain and improve range of motion. 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 your recovery.
What is a trigger point?
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.
Is dry needling the same as acupuncture?
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 research.
What kind of needles are used?
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.
Who can benefit from dry needling?
Dry needling is used in conjunction with an overall treatment plan incorporating exercise, manual therapy, and other modalities. Most pain and limited motion can benefit from dry needling. Your physical therapist can discuss your specific diagnosis to educate you further on how this will benefit you.
Is it painful?
No. Uncomfortable – possibly. But that is short lived. Some patients report mild bruising and/or soreness lasting up to 24 hours which can be treated with heat and movement.
Is it safe?
Physical therapists wear gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when dry needling, consistent with Standard Precautions, Guide to Infection Prevention for Outpatient Settings, and OSHA standards. The sterile needles are disposed of in a medical sharps collector.
Are there side effects?
No, other than what was already stated (mild bruising and/or soreness), there are no known side effects.