DRY NEEDLING: WHAT IS IT AND HOW CAN IT HELP ME?

by Cory Wilcox, PT, DPT

Dry needling is a technique performed by a physical therapist which involves placing a thin needle (approximately 1/8 the thickness of a hypodermic needle) into specific muscles to decrease pain. Dry needling works by addressing muscle spasms from the inside out at the cellular level. When a muscle spasms or guards to protect the body, a chemical called acetylcholine accumulates in the muscle fibers which tells the muscle to contract continuously, and over time that can cause pain as well as other muscles and joints to over compensate. A physical therapist is an expert in anatomy and after a hands on evaluation will determine which muscles and what part of the muscles have the spasms or as physical therapists call them, trigger points. By placing a needle in that specific part of the muscle it breaks the cycle of spasm causing the muscle to finally relax and then be properly stretched and retrained to allow for decreased pain and less compensation from other muscles.

Dry needling requires additional training and certification, but is great tool in a physical therapist’s tool box to treat many different conditions for many different people. Dry needling can be used to treat most trigger points in the body, chronic pain, headaches, TMJ, and even carpal tunnel syndrome. A common description patients use to describe their pain prior to dry needling is they feel a lot of spasms, pressure or tension in their muscles and have tried pushing/rubbing or even a formal massage session which seems to help but is not long lasting. If this description seems to fit you, see a physical therapist sooner than later because you may benefit from dry needling and other hands on techniques to reduce your pain and improve your life!