Dry Needling Technique

Dry needling
Ashley Watson
Written by Ashley Watson

What is dry needling?

The main reason for the application of dry needling is the use of a thin pre-sterilised filiform needle with a rounded tip, known as an acupuncture needle to release myofascial trigger points (knots in the muscle). Although it can also be used to manage pain and stimulate muscles pre-physical exercise.

The insertion of the needle in many cases is painless, due to the combination of the rounded needle tip shape and insertion technique, although it may give symptoms of a small scratch when first inserted followed by a dull ache.

The depth of penetration of the needle is categorised into superficial dry needling and deep dry needling.

Superficial dry needling: No more than 1cm depth through the skin touching onto the muscle

Deep dry needling: More than 1cm depth through the skin into the muscle bulk

What is a trigger point?

“Highly sensitive local areas lying within a tight band of muscle fibres”

Symptoms of trigger points include pain, reduced flexibility, muscle tension and reduced muscle function.

Dry needling technique:

  • A manual therapist will be able to identify trigger points in the body via palpation and feedback from the client.
  • Once the trigger point is located and all the safety checks are completed; risks have been explained; skin is sterilised and consent from the client has been received, the therapist would insert the needle perpendicular to the skin or at an angle depending on the anatomical surface of the needle insertion to avoid penetration of neurovascular structures or the pleura (membranes that cover the lungs).
  • Needle insertion accuracy is made easy for the therapist as the needles come with a guide tube so once the needle is lined up the therapist just taps the needle in.
  • A needle stimulus is normally done by the therapist known as either probing, pistoning, rotating or electrical stimulation. These are specific techniques done with the needle to create a local twitch response (involuntary spinal reflex contraction) which is associated with decreased pain and tenderness.
  • Post needling, active range of motion exercises and a hot pack are normally considered.

Is dry needling acupuncture?

Dry needling

Dry needling is a more westernised technique and is separate from traditional acupuncture. In dry needling the needle is inserted into a specific trigger point to release it. In acupuncture medical conditions are treated with the focus on the meridian system and the flow of Qi (Chinese medicine).

My Experience using dry needling:

I have found that dry needling has been very successful with most of my patients, especially with chronic injuries, although I normally mix it up with other forms of treatment methods. An example of this may be:

  • Sports massage
  • Dry Needling
  • Muscle energy techniques
  • Exercise rehab