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What is Dry Needling?

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

If you’re reading this then you’ve probably heard the word dry needling. But what is it and how can it help you?

In this short piece we are going to answer a few common questions regarding dry needling and explain what it is and how it can help you.

What is it?

Dry needling involves the placement of very thin needles into the body to create a response. Be careful not to mistake it with acupuncture, though!

Although the needles used are the same as those used by acupuncturists, acupuncture is a component of Chinese medicine and utilizes more set "points". Conversely, dry needling is approached with a strong understanding of human anatomy. The credentials required to perform each are also different.

Dry needling the neck for headache relief.

How can it help me?

Amongst other things, dry needling is used to create muscle relaxation, stimulate a healing response, or downregulate the nervous system to reduce pain. It is perfect for people who cannot effectively rehab a condition because symptoms are too great to allow for the performance of rehab activities.

Dry needling is really effective at helping nudge chronic conditions along the route of healing. Things like tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, and rotator cuff tendinopathy respond extremely favorably to dry needling.

Dry needling is also really good at calming down irritated nerves, reducing nerve pain and allowing you to perform the movements and exercises that will relieve your symptoms for good.

How does it work?

The most non-technical way to describe HOW this happens is that the combination of micro damage to the tissue and the chemical response to needle manipulation (transmission of chemical messengers being sent from local tissue to the brain) leads to a cascade of chemical events that can create these desired responses.

Electrical stimulation being applied during dry needling to maximize the desired effect,

Is there anything in the needle?

Nope! As the name might suggest, dry needling does not inject anything into the body.

Does it hurt?

Dry needling should not be painful. You might notice a brief prick initially and sometimes during manipulation there is a minor poke felt. You may also experience a reproduction of your symptoms or an aching sensation. This means that the needle is actually in the perfect spot and you are on your way to some relief!

There are different ways to perform this modality but we believe in performing it in a way that is highly comfortable and highly effective. Some people believe in being more aggressive, and there is a time and place for everything, but we reserve aggressive needling to very select circumstances.

What can I expect after dry needling?

After being needled you might feel a little sore around the area that was needled. In some cases, people respond strongly and become fatigued during or afterwards. This is just a physical reaction to the chemical response that is happening inside of the body. This is usually also a really good sign that relief is around the corner.

What should I do after being needled?

Immediately after being needled you should be doing something active to load the muscles surrounding the area that was just treated. Needling is great but it will not cure you, rather, it will help you gain access to the movements that will.

After that, if you’re too sore you can place heat or ice on the region if you want, it won’t hurt anything.

What if it doesn’t help the first time?

Sometimes dry needling takes a few sessions to be maximally effective. This may be the case for several reasons, perhaps the dosage was too low or the needle was not in the right location. Don’t get discouraged if it’s not feeling better after one treatment!

But there you have it, a few answers to some of the common questions that we get regarding dry needling.

Dry needling is a safe and effective modality for many musculoskeletal conditions but it definitely is not the end all be all. If you have any other questions be sure to let us know!

If you’re in the Phoenix area and thinking of having dry needling done, give us a call and let one of our providers help you down the road to recovery.

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