Unlike wet needling (which is performed with a needle carrying a solution like a steroid or anesthetic), dry needling does not inject anything into the muscle. Dry needling creates a muscle-twitch response through the needle in and around the trigger point, and this is therapeutic.
A physical therapist trained in the technique uses the thin, sterile needle to release muscle tightness and ease acute inflammation and promote healing. The treatment can also reduce pain and improve mobility and range of motion to enable better performance in sports, work or everyday movements.
There are a variety of treatment approaches for muscular trigger points including massage, myofascial release and stretching. Adding dry needling as another tool to treat these musculoskeletal problems can provide additional benefit and help relieve the pain that can limit daily activities.
The treatment is safe and effective for most patients. The most common side effect of the treatment is a local soreness in and around the area of the trigger point for 24-48 hours following treatment. Applying ice and drinking plenty of fluids can decrease this soreness.
It is important to note that, despite its effectiveness, dry needling does not treat the underlying cause of pain for example it will not reverse osteoarthritic changes in the hip that can lead to chronic muscle pain. For this reason it is important to have a thorough evaluation with your physical therapist before receiving this treatment. They can evaluate if you are a good candidate for the treatment and work with you to decide on the best course of action.