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  • Writer's pictureBen Rickert

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is also called trigger point dry needling or myofascial trigger point dry needling. It is used to treat myofascial pain. The word “myofascial” is made up of the roots “myo” (which refers to muscle) and “fascia” (which refers to the tissue that connects muscles). Muscles can sometimes develop knotted areas called trigger points or taut bands. These trigger points are highly sensitive and can be painful when touched. They are also often the cause of referred pain (pain that affects another part of the body). Certified dry needling clinicians push thin solid needles through the skin into trigger points. The needles are used to stimulate the tissue, not to inject any medication. The technique allows the practitioner to get directly to the site of dysfunction and disrupt the trigger point or taut band and cause it to relax.

Pain affects how your body moves. It is thought that dry needling changes the way the brain and muscles talk to each other to let the system return to a more normal movement pattern.

A patient may experience different sensations when being needled. Muscle soreness, aching and a muscle twitch when a needle is inserted are considered to be positive indications. The needles may be placed deeply or superficially, for shorter or longer periods, depending on what type of pain is being treated and how long it has lasted. Shorter periods would mean that the needle would stay in the muscle for seconds, while longer periods could mean 10 to 15 minutes.

Dry needling is almost always used as a part of an overall plan that will likely include some type of exercise, manual therapy, and education. At times, your physical therapist may use a form of electrical stimulation in conjunction with the dry needling technique.

Dry needling can be used to assist in the treatment of neck pain, headaches as a result of neck dysfunction, shoulder pain, low back pain, hip pain, knee pain, foot pain, etc.


Are there side effects from dry needling?

Most adverse effects have been minor and include:

  • Soreness during or after the treatment

  • Bleeding at the needle insertion site

  • Bruising

A very rare side effect from improper needle insertion could be a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) ,which is caused by puncturing the lung through needle insertion in the chest. A physical therapist trained in dry needling will take all measures to minimize this risk if working around the lungs.


Do insurance plans cover dry needling?

Insurance does not currently cover dry needling.

We offer dry needling in all 4 of our outpatient offices. If this is something you are interested in, give us a call today!


Ben Rickert, PT, MPT, OCS


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