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Dry Needling Therapy & You

What is Dry Needling?

Author: Dano Napoli, MPT, OCS, Cert. DN

(Published in CLICK Magazine - April 2015)


Since I practice physical therapy in Mississippi, I am governed by the Mississippi State Board of Physical Therapy and their regulations on this procedure. Therefore, I will use their guidelines in defining dry needling (Intramuscular Manual Therapy) for simplification of what can be a very complicated explanation. Simply put, it involves the insertion of filiform needles to stimulate trigger points, diagnose and treat neuromuscular pain and functional movement deficits. The term “dry” means there is no injection of a substance or medicine with the insertion of the needle. It is the needle insertion in itself that is responsible for the stimulus that promotes the desired treatment response. We know, from research, that the injection of the source of pain results in a reduction of pain regardless of whether a drug is used or not. With the use of our hands, we are able to find sources of pain and restriction. Dry needling can have a tremendous effect on these tissues with less trauma and a faster recovery than with other traditional approaches. Dry Needling is also an advanced physical therapy procedure which requires specific extra education and certification in the state of Mississippi. A current list of Physical Therapists that are certified to perform Dry Needling can be found on the Mississippi State Board of Physical Therapy’s website.


How is it different from Acupuncture? Dry Needling is founded on Western medical research and principles, unlike acupuncture which is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine. We inject specific anatomic entities selected according to physical signs found with a hands on evaluation. We do use similar needles, if not the same, but we typically tend to inject deeper as opposed to superficial since we are targeting specific structures and not “points.” It is not intended to affect organ systems or move energy flow.


What can I expect after treatment and does it hurt? For the most part our patients report they feel no pain or discomfort during the treatment. Sometimes with needle manipulation of trigger points, patients will report a brief deep ache or cramping sensation as that muscle is released. There may be some minor soreness after treatment. We are looking for improvements even from the first visit such as improved movement, function, and decreased signs/symptoms. Dry Needling is one of the many tools we have as Physical Therapists and I often find it works great as an adjunct to many of the other techniques we use to promote a faster and less painful rehabilitation. 


What are some of the conditions Dry Needling can assist?

• Tendonitis/Tendonosis

• Sciatica

• Hip/Gluteal Pain

• Shoulder Pain

• Tennis/Golfers Elbow

• Plantar Fasciitis

• Neck Pain/Back Pain

• Myofascial Pain

• Headaches

• Knee pain

• Muscular strains

• Ligament Sprains