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  • Writer's pictureKaye Cheong

Everything You Need To Know About Dry Needling by Physio Bernadette Emuang

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is the insertion of fine filament needles into nerve and muscle tissue by a trained and qualified therapist. The goal of dry needling is to reduce pain and spasms in the body. Dry needling is often said to target and treat trigger points, also known as muscle knots. These muscle knots commonly arise from lack of movement and mobility, poor posture, physical fatigue, sleep disturbance and stress.

Dry needling is recommended and used for a variety of conditions, including

  • Headaches

  • Neck pain

  • Low back pain

  • Shoulder dysfunction such as frozen shoulder and rotator cuff impingement

  • Tennis elbow

  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome

  • Muscle strains

  • Plantar fasciitis

  • Achilles tendinopathy

How does dry needling work?

When our body recognizes ‘injury’ or ‘tissue trauma’, a cascade of materials from our body are sent to that specific area to start the process of healing.

A similar process happens when we introduce a dry needle to muscle– the body recognizes a tiny amount of trauma to the tissue, and this kicks in the cascade of healing agents.

This natural response of the body brings good, healthy blood flow to the area where the needle is inserted.

With local insertion of a dry needle into a body area, blood flow increases and nerve receptors are activated. Chemicals such as nerve growth factors that assist with nerve health and nerve regeneration flow to the needled area. This can bring about pain relief.

Is it safe?

Dry needling must be performed by a trained therapist, which means not just any physiotherapist or chiropractor can perform it for you. It is important to ensure your therapist is trained so do not be afraid to ask to see their qualifications!

Dry needling is safe when performed by a trained professional, provided you are a good candidate for it.

Dry needling is not a treatment option for individuals with

  • Metal allergy

  • Rashes or skin lesions

  • Cancer

  • Severe needle phobia

  • Lymphedema

  • Blood clotting disorders

  • HIV or Hepatitis

Not to worry, a trained therapist will be aware of all contraindications and ensure this treatment method is suitable for your needs. For your ease of mind, feel free to disclose any health conditions or allergies that you have prior to your dry needling session.

What to expect before, during and after dry needling

Dry needling is generally recommended for a total of 2-4 sessions for maximum effectiveness. In some cases, more sessions will be required. Each session will take 20-30 minutes on average. In most cases, dry needling will be accompanied by other physiotherapy methods such as manual therapy and rehabilitative exercise, and therefore part of a longer treatment regimen.

During dry needling, patients may feel a dull ache that will last up to 24 hours post-treatment. It is normal to experience soreness after your session. Keeping active, gentle stretching and drinking water can reduce the duration and intensity of the soreness. Other side effects to dry needling include bruising and tenderness over the needled area.

Is dry needling effective?

Although dry needling is a fairly new treatment technique, its results are promising. Dry needling has shown to be more effective than sham or placebo treatment in reducing pain in patients with myofascial pain syndrome. (Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physiotherapy, 2013). In individuals with chronic tension headache, dry needling was shown to be safe and effective in reducing intensity and duration of pain (Gildir et al., 2019). Dry needling has also been shown to be an effective treatment option for tendon pathologies (Stoychev et al., 2020) and patellofemoral pain (Journal of Clinical Medicine, 2020). In terms of low back pain, dry needling has shown to reduce pain and disability equivalent to acupuncture (Hu et al., 2018).

Based on the current evidence, dry needling is not a replacement to manual therapy and rehabilitation and more research is repeatedly recommended by the studies mentioned. However, it can be a useful tool in pain management and helping someone more quickly return to the activities they enjoy!


To conclude, dry needling is a safe and effective treatment option for those seeking pain relief. Here at Relief Chiropractic, we offer dry needling services by a trained and qualified physiotherapist. If you would like to book a session with us, give us a call today!

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