What is dry needling?

The procedure termed dry needling refers to the use of a sterile needle (hypodermic or solid filament) to stimulate a tissue. The most frequently used terms include trigger point dry needling (interaction with fibers within a muscle that provide a referral of symptoms when provoked), functional dry needling (interaction with intention to change mobility and or strength), and intramuscular manual therapy. The most common tissue intended for treatment is muscle, with application of treatment where small nerve fibers stimulate the muscle. For the purposes of my treatment I would strictly use a sterile solid point needle with interaction at muscles only.

The procedure is often confused with trigger point injections (injection of a substance after identification of the nerve to muscle interface) and with the Traditional Chinese Medicine technique of acupuncture. The intention of trigger point injections and dry needling is the same; the rationale for using a substance would be based on the substance used. One of the benefits of dry needling over trigger point injection is the lack of ‘false positive’ interactions when anesthetic is used for trigger point injections.

Will I get the same experience every time? The actual experience during treatment can vary based on the area (or specific muscles) that are treated. The experience can also be influenced by the style of application. The style of application may include (1) brief entry and removal of the needle from a specific muscle, (2) single skin puncture to enter the muscle, then multiple directions to interact with multiple points <termed coning> (3) repeated entry into the same direction within the muscle with the intent of gaining multiple twitch responses <termed pistoning>, and (4) maintained entry in a single site- often in combination with electric stimulation (if two sites). I use the first two styles with the selection between the two versions based on the muscle size (small muscles often addressed with a single direction of application).