Dry Needling

Dry needling is an efficient and effective procedure using thin, solid core needles to treat musculoskeletal pain and impairments within the muscle fibers.


Dry needling (DN) is a skilled intervention that uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points (TrPs). TrPs are hyperirritable spots within a taut band of muscle fibers that produce local and/or referred pain when stimulated. Dry needling is an effective, drug free technique used to safely treat acute or chronic restrictions in movement and/or pain.

Indications for Use

When TrPs are present, they often lead to impairments in body structure, persistent pain, and functional limitations. In addition to treating pain, DN is indicated for treating restrictions in range of motion due to shortened muscle fibers or taut bands, or other soft tissue restrictions, such as fascial adhesions or scar tissue. TrPs have been identified in numerous diagnoses, such as muscle strains, radiculopathies, joint dysfunction, disk pathology, tendonitis, TMJ dysfunction, migraines, tension-type headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, computer-related disorders, whiplash associated disorders, spinal dysfunction, pelvic pain and other urologic syndromes, complex regional pain syndrome, nocturnal cramps, phantom pain, and other relatively uncommon diagnoses such as Barré Liéou syndrome, among others.

During the Treatment

During treatment, clients are placed in a comfortable position. The TrPs are identified and a needle is inserted into the skin. As the needle enters the trigger point and elicits a local twitch response, pain is produced temporarily. Often there is soreness in the muscle for a few hours or even up to 1-2 days. Stretching, ice or heat relieves these effects. On rare occasions, there is mild bruising at the site. Frequently, range of motion improvements are seen immediately, and restoration of function begins as well. Normal activities are resumed, and clients are advised of a recommended time to return to exercising. Usually more than one TrP is treated during a visit. Several other techniques are also incorporated, like soft tissue mobilization, stretching, and movement re-training.

*Above information revised from: APTA Public Policy, Practice, and Professional Affairs Unit