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.
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.