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What Is Dry Needling in Physical Therapy?

Written By West Georgia Medicine on June 29, 2021

Dry NeedlingPhysical therapists who are specially trained in the application of dry needling can use this technique to target problem areas of the muscles. Dry needling involves the insertion of very fine needles into precise locations. It’s called “dry” because the needles do not deliver medications.

It’s commonly thought that dry needling is virtually the same as acupuncture, but this isn’t the case. Rather, dry needling is supported by evidence-based, Western medicine.

What does dry needling in physical therapy accomplish?

Your physical therapist can insert thin, monofilament needles into the trigger points in your muscles. Trigger points are hyperirritable knots in the skeletal muscle. They are often tender to the touch, and they can result in referred pain to other areas of your body.

Trigger points often develop after a person has sustained an acute muscle injury. They can also form due to repetitive stress injuries. When your physical therapist inserts these specialized needles into your trigger points, they release or deactivate the knots of muscle. This offers the following benefits:

  • Decreased muscle tightness and stiffness
  • Reduced localized and referred pain
  • Increased blood flow (which promotes healing)
  • Restoration of physical functioning (including increased range of motion/flexibility)

Is dry needling right for you?

Only your physical therapist can determine if dry needling is appropriate for you. However, it can help virtually anyone who experiences chronic or repetitive muscle pain. Dry needling is particularly popular among physically active individuals, such as those who do CrossFit. Your physical therapist can perform dry needling to relieve a range of conditions, including back pain, neck pain, shoulder and arm pain, and hip and leg pain.

How can you tell if you have a trigger point that can benefit from dry needling? You might develop a variety of symptoms, most notably acute or chronic muscle pain and restricted range of motion. If you press on the trigger point itself, it will feel like a hard knot or a small marble under the skin. Note that some people report suffering from pain, sometimes intense, when pressing on a trigger point, while other people do not. As a result, you might not know that you have a trigger point until you go to a physical therapist for an evaluation.

What to Expect from Dry Needling

First, the physical therapist will conduct a thorough evaluation to ensure that dry needling is right for you. Your physical therapist will identify the locations of your trigger points and then insert the needles. 

Patients often do not feel any pain at all, as the needles are quite thin. The needles may be left in place for five to 10 minutes to release the tension in the muscle, or they may be moved up and down gently to release the trigger point. Afterward, you may feel slight muscle soreness, as if you had just exercised that muscle.

Physical Therapy Dry Needling Treatment in Columbus, GA

At West Georgia Medicine, our highly skilled physical therapist has extensive experience performing dry needling to help our patients overcome muscle pain. Visit our state-of-the-art office in Columbus, GA and experience for yourself the difference that compassionate, evidence-based care can make for your quality of life and overall health. Call us at (706) 507-3800 to request an appointment with our physical therapist.

Posted In: Physical Therapy Chiropractic Dry Needling