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What is Dry Needling and how it can help you?

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Dry needling is a technique used by physiotherapists to decrease the pain or dysfunction within your muscles. It is performed with a small filament needle (acupuncture needle) that is directed into a trigger point and removed.

A trigger point (TP) is a very sensitive spot in a skeletal muscle that has a distinct referral pattern of pain.

Muscles with a TP appear weak, and are often associated with reduced range of motion or sensitivity to stretch. When needled, a local twitch response and/or pain referral in the same pattern you have presented with can mean this TP is responsible for your pain. Once the trigger point has been needled it essentially “resets” the muscle and provides the opportunity, in conjunction with other manual techniques and exercise therapy, to re-establish motor programming and restore normal function within the region.


Trigger points can occur due to many factors, some including: muscular strain, nerve impingement, overuse, poor posture, fatigue, mental/emotional stress, incorrect breathing patterns and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Dry needling has been shown to increase skin blood flow by 50% and increase muscle blood flow by up to 80%, which improves circulation and healing.

Some of the most common questions we get asked are:

What will I feel during the process?

Generally the needle insertion is not felt. During the process you may feel a dull ache within the muscle or heaviness within the limbs. If a local twitch response is elicited it may feel like a cramping sensation or a small electric shock. As mentioned previously the local twitch effect is good and a desirable reaction.

Will it be painful afterwards?

Post treatment soreness is possible and may last for 1-3 days after dry needling of active trigger points. The application of ice or heat to a painful area can assist this.

Although your muscles may feel achy and tired afterwards, it is encouraged to continue moving.

How often will I need to get it done?

Depending on your condition and if it is acute or chronic, the amount of sessions you may require will vary. Some people notice improvements following their first session, finding that the problem muscles are less taut and contracted, and that they are able to move with more freedom. Most people find that after 3-4 sessions they will have a significant change in their symptoms.

How long do the effects last?

Once the dysfunction or imbalance has been corrected with dry needling and other physiotherapy modalities, we give you an individual treatment plan that involves stretches and strengthening to enable the body to maintain the appropriate balance.

Will dry needling help me?

Dry needling is a very effective means of addressing a wide range of acute and chronic conditions that cause pain or hinder mobility, including but not limited too, back and neck pain, headaches, muscular tightness, sporting injuries, tennis/golfers elbow and rotator cuff injuries.

Dry needling vs Acupuncture:

The two techniques both involve the use of solid filament needles. The main difference is the theories that they are based on.

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese technique that aims to modulate ones internal chemistry. Acupuncture works on a principle of ‘chi’. Chi circulates in the body along twelve major pathways, called meridians, each linked to specific internal organ and organ systems. By inserting fine needles a small way beneath the skin into specific points along the meridians, it is believed the flow of energy (chi) can be redirected for the purpose of relieving tension, stress, or pain. Dry needling as mentioned focuses on relieving, pain and tension through release of myofascial trigger points at or close to the area of pain.

If you’re not sure if this would help you, chat to your physio today!

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