What Is Dry Needling and What Are the Benefits?

Person Undergoing Dry Needling

Dry needling is becoming the preferred form of treatment for pain. 

One study conducted by the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy in 2017 concluded that patients who received dry needling in physical therapy reported it as their preferred treatment method for pain. 

But is dry needling right for you? 

Here’s everything you need to know about this exciting new (and science-backed) approach to pain management and well-being! 

What Is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a way to decrease muscle pain and restore muscle function, by poking “trigger points” or specific tissues with small needles.

Dry needling is very similar to acupuncture in that needles are used to help regulate and cure a specific ailment. During an appointment or consultation, a patient will discuss their specific problems with a practitioner, and together they will decide what the best approach is. 

During a treatment, the practitioner will insert needles into areas of the body that they believe is collecting tension, and therefore creating pain. Sometimes these areas can be obvious, sometimes they are not. 

The needles are like thin sewing needles, versus a thicker needle that might be used to inject a person with some form of liquid. That’s how “dry needling” got its name. 

Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture

If you looked at one photo of dry needling, and another of acupuncture, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. 

But, as Physio auckland explains, dry needling involves a process of rapid, short term needling into altered or dysfunctional tissue in the body to restore muscle function. 

Aside from the process, the intention and philosophies behind dry needling and acupuncture are very different. Acupuncture’s roots are in Chinese medicine, and its goal is to restore the overall energy flow (Qi) of the body. Whereas dry needling is more medical-based. 

The philosophies and beliefs behind these procedures ultimately dictate how a practitioner will approach treatment. 

Key Benefits of Dry Needling

Dry needling is backed by research as having legitimate benefits that can aid health and well-being. Honor Health explains that the main benefit of dry needling is its ability to reduce pain and soreness. 

They explain that the insertion of the needle into the tissue can help release muscle tightness that’s causing pain. They also note that dry needling can relieve the symptoms of tendonitis and help the body reduce inflammation. 

Trigger points are located in skeletal muscle, and are what we often refer to as “knots.” Dry needling can be especially helpful for those experiencing shoulder, knee and hip pain. Headaches, sciatica, plantar fasciitis and more.

Is Dry Needling Right for Me? 

Don’t let the idea of needles scare you away from this treatment. They are incredibly light and slender. The only discomfort can come in the form of a twitch, which means that the tension in the trigger point is releasing. 

Any type of athlete can benefit from dry needling. Runners, cyclists and basketball players are only a few of the types who most commonly use it.

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