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How Does Dry Needling Work? The Only Guide You Need

One of the most common treatment techniques in orthopedic manual physical therapy is dry needling. It’s a form of alternative medicine, similar to acupuncture, and it’s quite popular among people nowadays. Its name may sound intimidating, but the truth is that this procedure is entirely safe – it includes the use of needles that penetrate your skin, and it’s performed by certified therapists. Dry needling is quite efficient for treating muscular and myofascial pain, and it’s practiced all around the world – the USA, Europe, Australia, and other countries. Due to many misconceptions about this procedure, we are going to provide you with comprehensive information about it.

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a form of treating muscular pain by placing the needles in “trigger points” that are situated in your muscle or tissue. Trigger points are knotted areas developed in muscles, and they are usually highly sensitive and painful when touched, and they often cause so-called referred pain, which affects another part of the body. It is believed that needles can stimulate the tissue and reduce the pain.

Dry needling needles are filiform, and they are fine, thin, short, and made of stainless steel. They don’t inject any fluid into the body, which is why the entire process is called dry needling. During a typical dry needling therapy, a practitioner places the needles deeply or superficially, for shorter or longer periods, depending on what type of pain is being treated, and how long it has lasted. That said, needles can stay in muscles for either a couple of seconds or 10 to 30 minutes. Besides, there are two less common types of needling:

  • The in and out technique: During this treatment, a practitioner inserts a filiform needle into a trigger point and removes it right away. Still, it’s less effective than a standard procedure.
  • The non-trigger point technique: While performing this technique, a practitioner will insert the needles into the surrounding muscle, instead of a trigger point.

Another name for this treatment is trigger point dry needling, and it’s mostly done by certified acupuncturists, chiropractors, doctors, and some physical therapists.

Dry Needling vs Acupuncture

Many confusions arise when it comes to dry needling and acupuncture. When you compare these two procedures with a photo, you’ll barely see any difference. Namely, they both use thin, stainless steel needles that are inserted into the skin, and they are both convenient for treating different types of pain – and that’s it.

Acupuncture is historically older than dry needling, and it’s been practiced for more than thousands of years as an alternative treatment, while dry needling has been adopted in the last couple of decades. Their goals are also different. That said, acupuncture is aimed at relieving pain, discomfort, and impacting the energy flow, or chi; on the other hand, dry needling is designed to stimulate trigger points or muscles that are tight or irritable.

What are the Benefits of Dry Needling?

Apart from providing relief for muscular pain and stiffness, needling therapy can make you feel better in general. It’s often used for treating sports injuries, muscle pain, fibromyalgia pain, and other muscular problems that can prevent you from performing everyday activities. Here are the 5 most prominent dry needling benefits:

1.      It Relaxes Tight Muscles

The major benefit of dry needling therapy lies in muscle pain relief and relaxation. Namely, physiotherapists will identify and treat knots or trigger points with needles, which is why this therapy helps the muscles restore their regular length. That way, we can say that needling effectively “resets” the muscles and helps them retrieve their normal condition.

2.      It Improves Blood Flow

Besides they can cause pain and discomfort, tight muscles can cause pain to other parts of the body. By relaxing and releasing tight muscles, needles impact the blood flow, which significantly improves your health condition.

3.      It Decreases Pain and Releases Neurotransmitters

The needling treatments activate the body and impact releasing opiate peptides such as beta-endorphins, enkephalins, and dynorphins. These neurotransmitters can block the transmission of pain information to the brain and spinal cord.

4.      It Improves Movement

Patients who decide for dry needling usually want to improve their range of motion, which is mostly reduced due to the pain and muscle tightness. As mentioned, this therapy impacts the blood flow, releases trigger points and reduces pain, which altogether improves movement.

5.      It Treats Acute and Chronic Pain

Both acute and chronic pain can cause discomfort and inconveniences, but the good thing is that both of them can be treated with dry needle therapy. No matter if you’re dealing with shoulder pain, neck pain, back pain, headaches, tennis elbow, sciatica, or something else, this therapy can help. Apart from the mentioned health conditions, needling can treat the following issues:

  • Joint and disk problems
  • Tendinitis
  • Migraine and tension-type headaches
  • Jaw and mouth problems
  • Spinal issues
  • Pelvic pain.



Does Dry Needling Hurt?

The entire description of the treatment sounds painful, but the truth is that it doesn’t need to be like that. Not everyone will feel the same amount of discomfort during the procedure, and apart from pain tolerance of the person, the pain will also depend on the location of the injury. The ache usually manifests in two ways:

  • When the needle is inserted through the skin, you may feel a slight contraction within the muscle, which is the factor that creates pain. Even though you may feel minor discomfort, such contractions are considered a positive response.
  • You may feel soreness after a treatment itself, and it may remain for up to 48 hours – that’s not something that should concern you, but if the pain continues even after two days, that may be the sign that dry needling doesn’t suit you.
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What are Dry Needling Side Effects?

Every person will have a different reaction to any therapy, which is also the case with dry needling. Side effects of this treatment are possible, but they are usually mild – some of the most common ones are:

  • Bruising: This is very common after the procedure, but large bruising is quite rare. Some body areas are more prone to bruising than others – shoulders, chest, face, arms, and legs. You can put some ice on the bruising areas to decrease the effect.
  • Temporary soreness: Soreness that you may feel before or after the treatment is normal, but not everyone will feel it. It usually feels like you had hard work at the gym, and it shouldn’t last longer than two days.
  • Tiredness: You may feel tired, energized, or emotional after the treatment, and it usually lasts about one day. If such feelings continue, this therapy may not be the right for you.

Other side effects that you may face are bleeding on the places where the needle was inserted, as well as fainting. Overall, if any of your symptoms become worse or if any of the mentioned effects last longer than recommended, you should consult your therapists, who can change your treatment plan so that it suits you. Severe side effects are rare, but you shouldn’t consider this therapy if:

  • You have a needle phobia
  • You’re pregnant
  • You are unwilling to do the treatment

Overall, if you’re considering the therapy, you should talk to your doctor first – this is especially important for those who are taking blood thinners and those who are recovering from surgery. That way, you’ll avoid potential dry needling risks.

What to Do After the Treatment?

No matter if you are facing some of the side effects or not, there are some tips on how to feel better after the needling therapy:

  • Drink more water than usual to reduce soreness
  • Stretch
  • Lightly massage the needled areas
  • Continue with your prescribed medications

However, there are some things that you should avoid after the treatment:

  • Avoid intense workout to the muscles that have been treated
  • Don’t go for any new physical activities or sports
  • Don’t do more than you would normally do

How Much Does Dry Needling Cost?

Every provider offers different pricing plans, which mostly depend on the provider’s level of training, post-graduate specialty studies, and years of professional experience. Some specialists will require an initial visit – it’s commonly used for examination and treatment, and during the first visit, a provider can determine whether you can be accepted as a patient. The decision is made after the in-depth diagnosis. At Makari Wellness we often combine Dry-Needling Orthopedic Acupuncture with manual therapy (Active Release Techniques) and functional rehabilitation to stop pain and resolve its causes.

Makari Wellness – Safe and Effective Approach to Dry Needling

Makari Wellness is known for its fast and effective treatment of pain and orthopedic conditions, which includes relieving muscle pain and improving movement functions of the body. We offer a unique and efficient system of treating pain and enhancing body performance, which is a result of a powerful combination of trigger point needling, orthopedic dry needling, and exclusive neurological reset training.

If you are tired of acute or chronic muscle pain, nerve impingement, tendonitis, or any other issue that affects your health condition, don’t hesitate to contact us at (888) 871-8889 and book your appointment for the best therapy of dry needling San Diego can offer.