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  • Writer's pictureMurray Kovesy

The Complete Guide to Dry Needling for Faster Injury Recovery

Updated: Mar 26


Dry Needling is growing in popularity as an effective supplemental therapy for Myotherapists treating chronic musculoskeletal pain and sports injuries. This technique involves inserting tiny needles into trigger points in the muscles to release tension and provide targeted pain relief.


If you are considering Dry Needling to help recover from an injury or manage ongoing pain issues, this ultimate guide will explain everything you need to know about this treatment method.


What Exactly is Dry Needling and How Does it Work?


Dry Needling, also known as intramuscular stimulation or trigger point dry needling, relies on modern principles of anatomy and neuroscience to treat myofascial pain syndromes. It differs significantly from traditional Chinese acupuncture in both theory and practice.


The extremely thin disposable needles used in dry needling are inserted into tight bands of muscle fibers called trigger points. Trigger points develop when muscles are injured or overworked. These hyperirritable spots in the muscle fiber send constant erroneous pain signals to the brain.


Needle stimulation of the trigger point disrupts this dysfunctional signaling pattern and activates the body’s natural pain relieving chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. This provides immediate relief of the referred pain caused by the trigger point. Repeated needling treatments can control or even eliminate the pain permanently.


Is Dry Needling Considered a Safe and Effective Treatment Method?


Extensive clinical research with thousands of patients demonstrates that Dry Needling performed by properly trained physical therapists, athletic trainers, and other healthcare professionals is very safe and effective. Dry Needling clinical practice guidelines are followed to be most effective (Dunning et al. 2014).


Side effects are typically mild and temporary, such as minor bleeding or bruising around the needle insertion site. Serious complications are extremely rare when proper needling techniques and safety protocols are followed.


High quality studies show Dry Needling can successfully treat many common chronic neuromuscular pain conditions including back pain, neck pain, tension headaches, plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, arthritis, nerve pain, and more.


It often provides significant pain relief and improved function when other non-invasive therapies such as medications, injections, massage, or physical therapy have failed. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials found dry needling provides greater reductions in pain compared to sham or no treatment for various musculoskeletal conditions (Gattie et al. 2017). The reduction in pain and muscle tension from Dry Needling will commonly last for several days or weeks before potentially the trigger point becomes active again.


What Conditions Can Benefit from Dry Needling?


In addition to common chronic back and neck pain, Studies have shown positive outcomes from dry needling for tendinopathies including lateral epicondylitis (Uygur et al. 2017), Achilles tendinitis (Bell et al. 2013), and rotator cuff disease (Rha et al. 2013). Dry Needling can provide natural, drug-free pain relief for a wide variety of musculoskeletal and neuropathic pain conditions such as:


- Repetitive strain injuries in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands

- Tension headaches and migraines caused by trigger points

- Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis joint pain

- Fibromyalgia tender point pain

- Tendinitis, bursitis, and scar tissue adhesions

- Neuropathic pain like sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, or radiculopathy

- Sports injuries such as hamstring strains or calf tightness

- Rotator cuff tears and shoulder impingement

- Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis

- TMJ dysfunction, jaw pain, and clenching/grinding

- Tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow

- And many other chronic pain problems


Dry Needling gives patients an effective alternative to medications or injections for treating stubborn, lingering pain from musculoskeletal and neuropathic conditions.




What Are the Benefits of Adding Dry Needling to Your Myotherapy Treatments?

When combined with massage techniques, stretching, joint mobilisation, and other myotherapy treatments, Dry Needling can accelerate injury recovery and provide lasting pain relief between sessions. Benefits include:


- Directly identifies and treats the trigger points causing pain and muscle tightness

- Provides immediate and substantial pain relief that continues between treatments

- Improves range of motion as muscles relax and release spasms

- Reduces local inflammation and stimulates tissue healing

- Avoids risks and side effects of NSAIDs, opioids, injections, and other medications

- Requires fewer myotherapy treatment sessions for full recovery

- Allows more aggressive massage, stretching, and joint mobilisation without increasing pain

- Helps break up scar tissue adhesions after injury or surgery

- Restores normal motor control patterns of movement

- Deactivates nerve pain signal amplification


What Should You Expect During Your Dry Needling Treatment Sessions?

The first appointment will include a thorough hands-on evaluation by your Myotherapist to identify active trigger points. They will palpate the muscles to pinpoint tight, painful bands and knots. This ensures accurate needle placement into the hyperirritable spots.


Your therapist will then insert ultra-thin disposable needles just under the skin into the trigger points. You may briefly feel the needle insertion and possibly an ache or muscle twitch as the needle contacts the tense knot. This is normal and even desirable.


The needles remain in place for 5-20 minutes depending on the protocol before removal. Most patients experience decreased muscle tension and pain relief immediately as the trigger point is inactivated. You may have some muscle soreness for 24-48 hours afterwards. This mild soreness indicates a positive local healing response.


Multiple Dry Needling sessions 1-2 weeks apart are usually needed to fully inactivate the trigger points and achieve optimal results. Other hands-on therapies like massage or joint mobilisation are often performed after needling to enhance the treatment effect.


How to Find a Qualified Dry Needling Myotherapist in Your Area

It is extremely important that any practitioner performing Dry Needling complete thorough certified training on proper techniques and safety protocols. Incompetent needling can potentially cause serious injuries like pneumothorax.


Accredited Dry Needling certification courses provide both theoretical education and extensive hands-on point location skills. Licensed physical therapists and myotherapists already have foundational medical training. Look for the letters “DN” after In their name indicating certification in Dry Needling.


When searching online for “Dry Needling near me”, carefully screen potential therapists. Confirm they completed certification from recognised dry needling training programs. Proper credentials ensure you will receive safe, effective treatment.


A Proven Treatment Option for Injury Recovery and Lasting Pain Relief

As research continues to validate its efficacy for treatment of musculoskeletal pain, dry needling is becoming a mainstream therapy alongside massage, physical therapy, and myotherapy treatments.


By directly targeting trigger points and releasing contracted soft tissues, dry needling can help you recover from injuries faster and manage chronic pain naturally. When performed by properly trained myotherapy practitioners, it is a safe and highly effective option for providing lasting relief.



References

1. Dunning J, Butts R, Mourad F, Young I, Flannagan S, Perreault T. Dry needling: a literature review with implications for clinical practice guidelines. Phys Ther Rev. 2014;19(4):252–65. Epub 2014/08/22. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4117383. doi:10.1179/108331913X13844245102034


2. Gattie E, Cleland JA, Snodgrass S. The Effectiveness of Trigger Point Dry Needling for Musculoskeletal Conditions by Physical Therapists: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017;47(3):133-149. doi:10.2519/jospt.2017.7096


3. Uygur E, Aktas B, Özkut A, Erinc S, Yilmazoglu EG. Dry needling in lateral epicondylitis: a prospective controlled study. International Orthopaedics (SICOT). 2017;41(11):2321-2325. doi:10.1007/s00264-017-3604-1


4. Bell KJ, Fulcher ML, Rowlands DS, Kerse N. Impact of autologous blood injections in treatment of mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy: double blind randomised controlled trial. Br Med J. 2013;346(apr18 2):f2310. doi:10.1136/bmj.f2310


5. Rha DW, Park GY, Kim YK, Kim MT, Lee SC. Comparison of the therapeutic effects of ultrasound-guided platelet-rich plasma injection and dry needling in rotator cuff disease: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil. 2013;27(2):113-122. doi:10.1177/0269215512448388

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Jul 30, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

This is a great read for many questions I’ve had about Dry Needling.

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