What is Dry Needling, and Why Do We Use It?

What is Dry Needling, and Why Do We Use It?

What is Dry Needling, and Why Do We Use It?

Guest Blogger

Adam Clark PT, DPT, CIMT, Cert DN


A question I get asked almost everyday is, “What does dry needling actually do?”  A good question to ask right before letting someone you just met turn your body into a pin cushion. In this blog, I will give you a valid answer to this question.


As physical therapists, we treat a wide variety of conditions ranging from post-operative care and rehab to treatment of joint and muscular pain. Our goal is to find the root or driver of your specific pain, not just the symptom. We do this by assessing your movement, identifying where your movement is lacking and restoring normal motion. In the presence of abnormal motion, tissue (muscles, tendons, fascia) will become stressed and eventually damaged.  Restoring normal motion will reduce the stress on the tissue, but now that there is damage, we need to address this area as well.


Muscles that are stressed for prolonged periods of time develop areas of restriction. You may hear us use a bunch of different words to describe these areas, such as tightness, spasm, increased tone or “knots.” Patients will notice that these areas are very tender to palpation and will often times reproduce their specific symptoms. Yes, those spots are hurting because we are pushing on them, but, I assure you, muscles in a healthy state should not be painful to our palpation. We will often make the comparison of the injured side to the non-injured side to demonstrate this. This is where dry needling makes an appearance.


Now that we have identified the area of stress or damage, our goal is to reduce the remaining tightness/tone present. To do that, we take a pre-packaged, sterilized monofilament needle and insert it into the targeted tissue. A common reaction that patients have from the dry is an ache or a “twitch” once the targeted tissue is hit. Studies indicate that this ache, also known as durchi in the acupuncture literature, is associated with optimal results. We then attach an electrical stimulation device (when no contraindications are present) to the needles that creates a rhythmic, low-level twitch to the muscle. In short, the twitch is further reducing the tone or tightness in that particular area of restriction. By doing this, we can help our patients achieve goals, such as reducing pain, restoring range of motion and facilitating tissue healing.

Typically, a needling session will last 15-20 minutes.  Afterwards, we will often finish with moist heat to help reduce the soreness that will sometimes come with dry needling.  Soreness will typically last no more than 24-48 hours after the session.


We have seen great benefits and results by adding dry needling to our holistic approach of treatment. Dry needling is intended to be an adjunct to our treatment, not just a single entity.  Remember, we are trying to identify what’s driving your symptoms, not just the symptoms alone.


I hope this short description gives a basis on why we use dry needling in our treatment and how it may be beneficial to you.  Of course, if you have further questions about this topic or if you are a candidate for physical therapy, reach out to your local Dynamix clinic and set up a free consultation with one of our therapists. Check out our Locations Page to find one closest to you.