2 Your Health: Using Dry Needling for Pain


What is Dry Needling? Dry needling is a technique used by physical therapists who successfully complete a certification process. It is a treatment rooted in Western medicine. Dry needling uses acupuncture needles with a different approach (no “chi” or energy effects intended). We place the needle right in the muscles/tissues where you are having pain or dysfunction.

How can dry needling help with my pain? Dry needling is intended to help the body “reset” the natural healing process when there is an injury. By inserting a needle into the connective and muscle tissues, dry needling seeks to create a “micro-damage” (not permanent or harmful) to the tissues that sends a signal to the brain calling for help. The brain then responds by kickstarting the healing process and sending healing cells to the area to repair the damage.

How long does it take for dry needling to work? Some patients feel the benefits of dry needling immediately or as soon as the same day following treatment. Others may not feel any difference until they have had two to three treatments. Everybody heals differently and responds to different types of treatment.

How do I know if dry needling is right for me? If you have pain, especially pain that won’t seem to go away, dry needling may be the catalyst you need to help your body heal. The No. 1 reason against dry needling is a fear of needles. Otherwise, the risks associated are relatively low.

Does dry needling hurt? You will typically feel the initial “prick” of the needle as it breaks through the outer skin layer and may feel a temporary “zing” lasting for no more than 15 seconds. If the needle is an area with significant muscle tightness, you may feel a dull ache while the needle is in. Some patients feel sore, much like the kind of soreness you have after an intense workout (fatigue, achy, tender).

How long does a typical dry needling treatment session last? This depends on the technique used by your therapist. In most of our clinics there are three common techniques (from most gentle to more aggressive):

* Winding: the needles are inserted and left in place for 10-20 minutes. At periodic intervals, the therapist will gently wind the needles and then remove them all after the set time frame.

* Electro-dry needling: the needles will be attached to an electrical stimulation unit that will cause the needles to “thump”/tap/vibrate gently during the treatment. This is typically left in place for 10-20 minutes and then removed.

* Pistoning/fanning: the needle is inserted into a tight muscle and moved repeatedly up and down or around the muscle tissue, often causing it to twitch strongly. This process can take as little as seconds to a few minutes. The needle is not left in place.

Keep in mind that dry needling has been found to be most effective when combined with other therapeutic interventions. Dry needling is one of many treatment options AzOPT licensed physical therapists utilize to help you on your journey to living better!

Be sure to call AzOPT at 623-242-6908 regarding any further questions or concerns you have regarding use of dry needling to treat your pain. You can request an appointment online at www.AzOPT.net.