Dry Needling

9 Jun 2016 2:35 PM - What exactly is it?

Dry needling is the insertion of very thin needles, exactly the same ones used in the practice of Acupuncture.   The needling is considered “dry” because the needles aren’t injecting anything into your tissues- like an anaesthetic, corticosteroid or other substance. They can be inserted into or in the vicinity of muscles, ligaments, scar tissue and even nerve tissues. This practice differs from traditional acupuncture in that it does not necessarily follow the meridians nor is it based on the traditional Chinese theories.

What should you expect?

Dry needling can be done many different ways; consequently it is very unlikely for any two practitioners to use this treatment tool in exactly the same way. It is almost always used in conjunction with other treatments and tools, such as massage, stretching and movement retraining. Some forms of Dry Needling can pain free, and others are aimed to elicit a muscle twitch and pain response. However, everyone can have a different experience because of the brain and body’s fantastic and ever-changing sensitivity. Needling has been known to even cause changes to mood, alertness and create other strange nervous system responses!

Does it actually work?

It has been well documented that Dry Needling can cause an immediate and long term reduction in pain, can restore range of movement to a joint and cause a physical and chemical change within tissues. In these studies, a range of conditions were considered, including lower back pain, osteoarthritis, tendinopathies and neural pain conditions with focal pain and radiating pain.

How does it work?

There has been a shift in thinking over the last ten years concerning the Pain Sciences, and hence how practitioners believe Dry Needling actually works is evolving and ever-changing. At Prevent, we use needling to try to address the cause or driver of your presenting problem.

In some cases, muscular dysfunction and overuse can lead to the production of trigger points in tissues. Trigger points usually feel like painful lumps or knots in muscle tissue and are believed to be caused by a response from the nervous system when a structure is under stress or not working in perfect harmony. Under a microscope these trigger points are, in fact, collections of sensitised C-fibre nerve bundles in a relatively hypoxic collection of muscular tissue.

Dry Needling has been shown to change what is happening physically and chemically at these trigger points and can lead to a ‘deactivation’ of them in the short- or long-term. Hence, by stimulating them we can cause a neuromuscular change in the entire muscle tissue. This may be represented by a change in range of movement, amount of pain or even the way a structure is moving.

In addition, there is some very good evidence that non-trigger point Dry Needling is effective in some conditions, such as arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Practitioners predict this may be because of a strong nervous system reaction to the stimulation of small nerve endings in our tissues. So at Prevent we often Dry Needle where you are experiencing pain and sometimes in structures down the length of that limb, or in opposing muscles to elicit a change.

By Suzannah Michell



Dommerholt, J 2011, Dry Needling- Peripheral And Central Considerations, ‘Journal Of Manual And Manipulative Therapy’, vol 19, no 4

Dunning, J Butts, R Mourad, F Young, I Flannagan, S Perreault, T, 2014, Dry Needling: A Literature Review With Implications For Clinical Practice Guidelines, ‘Physical Therapy Reviews’, vol 19, no 4