5 Most Asked Questions about Dry Needling

Dry needling is a technique that I would use most, if not every day as part of my Physiotherapy treatment for myofascial pain (pain coming from the muscles and surrounding connective tissue). And yet most people are quite unsure of what it actually is. So here are the answers to the top 5 questions I get asked about Dry Needling.

1). What actually is Dry Needling?

In the majority of cases when I ask some one if they have had Dry Needling before their response is one of two things, the first being “What is it?”. Dry Needling is a technique that involves using a very fine needle to relieve muscle tightness and pain. You know when you run your hands over a sore muscle and you can feel the tight/painful “knots”? These are called trigger points and in the same way that can use our hands to relieve these (eg. Through various massage techniques) we can also use Dry Needling. Once we have assessed you to determine whether it is appropriate to use Dry Needling for you, we use our skills of palpation to find these trigger points with our hands and then gently insert the needle into the muscle. It is called “Dry” Needling because the needle itself acts as the stimulus to relieve the muscle and there is not actually anything injected.


2). I have had Acupuncture, is it the same?

The second common response I get when I ask some one if they have had Dry Needling before is “you mean Acupuncture?”. These are actually 2 different techniques.

  • The reasoning behind Acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and focuses on the Meridian concept of balancing Yin and Yang
  • Dry Needling is based on an understanding of specific human anatomy and pathology and although some systemic (whole-body) effects are achieved, the primary goal is local muscle relaxation and pain relief

There are however a few similarities between Acupuncture and Dry Needling:

  • The same fine needles are used for both
  • Dry Needling can provide some of the more systemic/non-specific effects that Acupuncture can such as helping with mood, sleep and post-operative nausea/vomiting
  • Research has found that there is a 95% overlap between trigger points and acupuncture points suggesting that for pain, a similar result may be achieved from both


3). Does it hurt?

The question asked by EVERY person who has not had Dry Needling before..does it hurt? Anything that has “needle” in it’s title can be enough to put people off however these are NOT the same needles as those used for blood tests and injections! The needles are so, so fine that the needle itself should not be painful. On insertion of the needle you feel a “flick” sensation and then when it reaches the trigger point you feel a “twitch” from that muscle. This can be the part that feels a bit weird if it is your first time experiencing it. Also remember that if you have a painful trigger point/muscle and someone (ie your lovely Physio) pushes their thumbs into it, it will probably be sore! The same applies for the Dry Needling, because the needle is being used on the area that is causing your pain it is normal for it to be a bit sore at this point. The good part is that as the trigger point releases the muscle will relax and the pain will ease.

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4). How does it work?

A very fair question, if someone was poking me with a needle..I would definitely want to know why and if it will help! The reasons we might suggest Dry Needling for you are:

  • It activates various pathways within your body to provide pain relief
  • It relaxation muscles/relieves muscle tightness
  • It causes an increased blood flow and a “flushing out” effect at the trigger point – basically flushing the stuff out that is keeping that spot sore and allowing all the good stuff to flow though
  • All of this allows normalisation of movement which is vital for recovery from injury and long-term resolution of pain


5). Can I have it if I am pregnant?

It is possible to have Dry Needling during pregnancy however there are extra cautions to be taken as 1 in 4-5 pregnancies can have a natural miscarriage in the first trimester. If you are wondering about having Acupuncture or Dry Needling while pregnant it would be highly recommended to seek a Physiotherapist or Acupuncturist that has specific experience with pregnancy and discuss with them in detail prior to making you decision.


Several of our Physiotherapists are able to do Dry Needling for you and have completed additional training to be able to do so. Before having the Dry Needling done your Physiotherapist will complete a thorough assessment to determine that it is appropriate for you, every step will be explained for you and of course it is completely up to you to give the final okay for it to be done. If you think it might be helpful or you just want to know more about it just ask your Physio!



Allissa King


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