How Does Dry Needling Therapy Work?

How Does Dry Needling Therapy Work?| HealthSoul

If you have ever opted for acupuncture therapy for a treatment, you would have surely come across the term ‘dry needling. If you are inquisitive to understand more about how this acupuncture technique works, then peruse the coming enlightening section.

Dry needling or intramuscular stimulation (IMS) is an acupuncture procedure that follows anatomical and muscle needling. It is quite different from the traditional form of needling that merely focuses on specific acupuncture points of the body.

The prefix “dry” is associated with this procedure since the acupuncture needles used in this type of technique are solid and fluid-less, unlike the hypodermic needles.

It is a specialized treatment method that aims to identify and release the myofascial constriction areas to help deactivate the trigger points that results in the release of tight bands of muscle.

While many people would construe the process to be invasive and painful, the fact is that dry needling is minimally discomforting. It is a safe method and is found to be very effective in treating musculoskeletal issues.

The Concept of Trigger Points

Before we elaborate on the process of dry needling, it is important that we understand what the trigger points are?

Basically, a trigger point is a tight band of the muscle fiber, also known as a local contracture. These are the points that cause various types of discomforts, such as disrupted functioning, restriction of motion, pain, or tenderness. Sometimes, they are also referred to as “muscle knots.”

Understanding the Process of Dry Needling

Over the years, many skilled and trained chiropractors, therapists, and acupuncturists have used dry needling to relieve the patients from pain, deactivate the trigger points and restore normal functioning.

Unlike the traditional acupuncture techniques based on Eastern medicine, dry needling has its roots in Western medicine. Dry needling requires proper evaluation of pain patterns, movement impairment, posture problems, and orthopedic tests. The treating expert may advise dry-needling with a combination of traditional therapy sessions for better results.

What is the process of dry needling?

The process of dry needling requires the treating expert to insert sterile and disposable needles into the trigger points of your muscles. Sometimes, the needles are inserted around the trigger points.

The determination of the trigger points is done before the treatment begins. More than one trigger point may be responsible for the patient’s discomfort and pain. If left untreated, the number of trigger points might increase over time.

The type of needles used in this therapy is almost eight times smaller than those used for vaccines. Since these needles are dry, no fluid is injected, but the only purpose is the stimulate the muscle tissue.

The number of needles, the depth of insertion, and the duration of treatment would depend on the type of ailment. Needles may be kept inserted in the muscle tissue from a few seconds to several minutes.

How does dry needling work in relieving pain by targeting trigger points?

Pain is usually caused by the tightness of the muscles at the trigger points. It usually restricts the blood flow that results in a domino effect, and the pain starts radiating throughout the body. Therefore, it is important to identify the trigger points before treatment. Many common trigger points are the same as acupuncture points.

The dry needling technique basically pokes the tight muscles (trigger points) with the help of dry needles. It helps the muscles contract involuntarily and helps restore their proper functioning.

The process also brings the muscles closer, i.e., to a normal state, which normalizes the blood flow in these muscles. It alleviates the pain in bones and joints that were caused due to inflammation.

In terms of penetration depth, dry needling is either done on a superficial level or in deep tissue. The selection depends on the type of pain. Deep dry needling results in a local twitch response or LTR. It is an involuntary spinal cord reflex that is also responsible for activating endogenous opioids.

After the treatment, some patients experience temporary soreness, muscle fatigue, or bruising. The intensity of these aftereffects depends on the severity of pain before treatment. If you had more pain before the treatment, you could expect a higher level of soreness and other symptoms and vice-versa.

When should you opt for dry needling treatment, and what can you expect from it?

If you are suffering from myofascial pain, musculoskeletal issues, or muscle pain, then dry needling can help you ease the pain. Several studies have shown immediate and short-term improvement in pain or disability through dry needling acupuncture technique. More research is still required to validate the effectiveness.

The treatment of dry needling acupuncture differs from patient to patient. Some patients experience immediate relief, while others see the results within 24 to 48 hours of treatment. Dry needling used in treating chronic pain might require more than one session.

When the needles are inserted into the muscle tissue, it creates a lesion that triggers the physiological mechanism. It helps to remodel the inflamed tissue and replace it with fresh tissue. One may also deduce that dry needling induces the body to fix itself through natural healing.

Many patients prefer this non-surgical pseudoscientific treatment as an alternative to surgeries. Here are some of the ailments that dry needling is found to be effective in treating:

  • muscle spasms
  • headaches
  • knee pain or shoulder pain
  • fibromyalgia
  • back pain
  • muscle tightness
  • sciatica
  • athletic injuries
  • neck pain
  • arthritis


While there is a need to carry out a comprehensive study on a more diverse group of patients, people across the globe are already availing the benefits of dry needling. One can expect fast pain relief, better circulation for improved movement, recovery acceleration, and improvement in chronic pain using dry needling therapy.

Depending on the type of problem you are experiencing, your therapist would better advise on the course and combination of treatment that would work best for you. Consult an experienced acupuncturist to get detailed information about the best course of treatment for your ailment.

Hopefully, the detailed information presented in this write-up helped you to gain a better insight into the process of dry needling and its effectiveness.