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Does Dry Needling Hurt?

Does Dry Needling Hurt?

by Stacie Cornwell, PT, DPT, OCS, Astym Cert.3 Comments

You may have heard of (or saw pictures of) dry needling before. A common question for those unfamiliar with this treatment is, “does it hurt?”

The answer is yes and no; let me go into some detail of why:

Dry needling is a skilled intervention performed by a licensed physical therapist that uses a solid, thin needle to penetrate the skin and muscle to release underlying muscle myofascial trigger points. The treatment is directed at a specific muscle, tendon or ligament, and it does NOT involve any medication infiltration or fluid to be drawn out. When we receive an injection or donate blood, those needles have a greater diameter because a substance must move through it. Dry needling is much smaller and simpler. When we have strained or taut muscles, a small flexible needle can be placed into the trigger points to release the tension.

The general population has some fear of needles and don’t like the thought of the pricking sensation and pain that follows. If a patient is already in pain, dry needling typically doesn’t sound appealing. However the prick sensation is not as bad as you might think. Physical therapists utilize little guide tubes that make for a quick placement. Basically, the needle gets though the skin, where pain receptors are, without much stimulus; thus NO pain.

Now, when the physical therapist begins getting closer to the injured tissue or trigger point, one of two things will happen: either a patient will report that they can feel some recreation of “their” pain and they feel an ache, or they won’t feel anything. When they feel an ache, this is usually followed by a twitch response, where the muscle will jump reactively. Then, release will occur. If the ache or recreation does not occur, then the therapist will re-angle the needle to get the sought after response.

On some occasions, patients report an immediate relief of their pain and spasm. But most often, it takes 2-3 days to reach the full benefit from needling.

So, does dry needling hurt?

The prick you may experience from dry needling is nothing like an injection – in most cases patients can hardly feel it. But yes, it will recreate similar pain symptoms for the condition the patient has – with the goal to get relief long term. It may be achy for a few days after a session, but in most cases patients are relieved when the needle soreness wears off. The ability to reach overhead, get up from a chair or sleep through the night will ultimately improve.

If you have any questions regarding whether or not dry needling will be beneficial for your condition, click the button below to request a free assessment at an Athletico near you.

Request a Free Assessment

Physical therapy is usually the thing you are told to do after medication, x-rays or surgery. The best way to fix your pain is to start where you normally finish – with physical therapy at Athletico. Schedule a free assessment in-clinic or virtually through a secure online video chat where our team can assess your pain and provide recommended treatment options.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

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Stacie Cornwell is a Doctor of Physical Therapy with an Orthopedic Specialty Certification who practices in Vandalia, Ohio. She enjoys giving back to the physical therapy profession, and her passion for ongoing learning is evident through her promotion of continuing education and mentorship. If you value professional growth and want more information about Athletico's great benefits, go to


  1. steve coleman

    Good morning. I have been going to PT for about 10 weeks, not every week, but altogether about 15 sessions so far. The issue I have been dealing with is an injured hip flexor.

    The therapist has suggested I try dry needling, but I am not so sure. I do feel much better as of late and have been doing the stretching exercises and walking daily.

    I feel I should stay on the program I am on and skip the dry needling part. Any opinion from you would be much appreciated.

    Thank you,

  2. Sherry L Porzelt

    Hello Steve,
    I used Athletico several years ago and knew it would be my choice to use them again. I am so glad I have. I have great experiences here. I have 2 area issues they are working on. The right hip and the lumbar in my back. To make a long story short, I had my first session of Dry Needling done by Claire. I normally go to the pain center at Barnes Hospital and have the injections on either side of my spine for the back and then another round of injections for my lower back. I have been going since 2017. In all that time I have never heard of Dry Needling and was apprehensive. I am glad I did the procedure. I can say that after the first session on June 15, I jumped for joy, sang, cried and kicked up my heels. I am a little sore but PAIN FREE. I even postpones a scheduled pain injection that I scheduled for Monday, June 19. I would rather have pain free needles without the use of medicine than have a more intrusive procedure WITH medicine and NOT feel any real results until hours or weeks. If I were you, I would really give Dry Needling a go. I think you will be amazed. Wish you luck which ever you decide.

  3. Carole DM Willis

    I quit taking opiods . With ‘ibs’ it was a good idea to do. I still have pain. But, I’m in charge of my life, now. My oldest son has had his “dry needling” 2times and he is so excited about being pain free. I would like to give it a try. I’m 67, with hip pain, shoulder pain, retired hairdresser pain

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