6 Common Questions About Dry Needling

Table of Contents

1) What is it?

Dry needling is a specialty offered by some physical therapists and MDs who take continuing education on use of acupuncture needles for treatment of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and around nerves.

2) Is it the same as acupuncture?

Although we use acupuncture needles for the treatment, dry needling is NOT acupuncture. Rather than Eastern medicine philosophies, practitioners of dry needling are using their knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, as well as evidenced-based techniques, to specifically needle areas of pain and dysfunction.

3) Does it hurt?

There can be a little discomfort upon needle entry, as well as with needle manipulation (twisting the needle either one direction or both directions). This pain is usually just temporary, and while the needles are in the body there is usually little discomfort. HOWEVER, if you already have a fear of needles then dry needling is probably not for you.

4) What does it treat?


Dry needling can be an effective adjunct treatment for an extensive list of conditions, including but not limited to:

  1. Cervicogenic headaches
  2. Plantar fasciitis
  3.  Knee/hip osteoarthritis
  4. Chronic neck/back pain
  5. Sciatica
  6. Shoulder pain
  7. Tennis/golfer’s elbow
  8. Carpal tunnel syndrome
  9. Piriformis syndrome
  10. Post-operative pain, including excessive scar tissue build-up

5) Is it safe?

Provided a practitioner has been trained properly, there is very little risk of injury with dry needling. However, the following conditions are some of the contraindications to being needled:

  1. Pregnancy-although there is no case reports linking dry needling to miscarriages the number of needles used, duration in place, intensity of needle manipulation, and use of electrical stimulation with the needles should be limited.
  2. Post-surgical lymphedema-no dry needling should be done into a site of post-surgical lymphedema. Also, there
    should be no needling distal to the site of lymph node removal with a patient who has had a mastectomy.
  3. As stated earlier, those who have a fear of needles should not be treated with dry needling.
  4. Electrical stimulation should not be used with dry needling with anyone who is contraindicated for electrical stimulation (pacemaker)

In addition to the above contraindications, you should not allow anyone needle you who practice the technique of reinserting the same needle into the body once it has been removed from the body. This increases the risk of infectious diseases.

6) Is it right for me?

Dry needling is meant to be an adjunct treatment, and not to be done in isolation. Once pain is reduced many times exercises, patient education, or other manual techniques need to be applied to keep pain at bay.

If you’re interested in knowing more about dry needling, feel free to set up a phone consultation to discuss whether or not it may be right for you!

– Tony