Dry Needling: A Comprehensive Guide For Patients

Dry Needling: A Comprehensive Guide For Patients

As physiotherapists, we are often met with questions about various treatment modalities, one of which is the ever-intriguing "Dry Needling." Today, we'll delve deep into this topic, aiming to address your doubts and curiosities.

 What is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?

While both dry needling and acupuncture use thin, sterile needles inserted into specific points of the body, their theories, practices, and intended purposes differ:

  • Origins and Philosophy: Acupuncture originates from traditional Chinese medicine and is based on the concept of 'Qi' (pronounced "chi") or life energy flowing through meridians in the body. Balancing this energy can treat a range of conditions. Dry needling, on the other hand, has its roots in Western medicine and is grounded in the understanding of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.

  • Purpose: Acupuncture typically focuses on treating imbalances in the body's energy flow and can address a variety of conditions, both physical and emotional. Dry needling is specifically used to treat pain and dysfunction caused by muscle tightness, trigger points, and fascia.

  • Points of Insertion: While acupuncture points are determined by the meridians or energy channels, dry needling sites are chosen based on palpable musculoskeletal trigger points or areas of tissue restriction.

 What are the potential side effects of dry needling?

Dry needling is generally considered safe when performed by trained professionals. However, as with any intervention, some potential side effects may arise:

  • Temporary soreness or bruising at the needle site.
  • Bleeding or spotting at the insertion site.
  • Fatigue after treatment.
  • Dizziness or fainting during or after the treatment.
  • Rarer complications like injury to an internal organ if the needle is inserted too deeply (extremely rare when performed by trained professionals).
 Pros and Cons of Dry Needling


  • Immediate Pain Relief: Many patients experience immediate relief from tension or pain.
  • Improved Range of Motion: Helps in releasing muscle tightness and fascial restrictions.
  • Addresses Trigger Points: Targets specific knots that cause pain or discomfort.
  • Complements other treatments: Can be effectively combined with other physiotherapy modalities.


  • Discomfort: Some might find the sensation of needle insertion or muscle twitch response uncomfortable.
  • Temporary soreness: Post-treatment soreness can last for a day or two.
  • Not Suitable for Everyone: Contraindicated for certain conditions like lymphedema or for those with a fear of needles.
Where Can Dry Needling Be Beneficial on the Body?

Dry needling is versatile, offering targeted treatment for various musculoskeletal conditions. Here are parts of the body where dry needling can be particularly helpful:

  • Neck and Shoulders: To address tension headaches, cervical radiculopathy, and shoulder impingement.
  • Back: For chronic lower back pain, lumbar radiculopathy, and certain types of sciatica.
  • Arms and Hands: Beneficial for tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Hips and Legs: Useful for hip pain like trochanteric bursitis and issues in the quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles, and the IT band.
  • Feet: To treat conditions like plantar fasciitis.
Frequently Asked Questions 
  1. Is dry needling painful? Some might feel a slight prick or a cramp-like sensation. The "twitch" response might be momentarily uncomfortable but is usually followed by relief.
  2. How deep do the needles go? Depth varies based on the targeted muscle and the individual's anatomy.
  3. How long is each treatment session? Typically, sessions last between 15-30 minutes.
  4. How many sessions will I need? The number of sessions depends on the condition and individual response.
  5. Is dry needling the same as a "trigger point injection"? No. While both address trigger points, trigger point injections introduce substances, whereas dry needling doesn’t.

In conclusion, dry needling offers a unique approach to pain management and musculoskeletal dysfunction. It's essential to have a thorough conversation with your physiotherapist to determine if it's the right option for you.

Stay informed, stay healthy!

PhysioChoice has 48 locations around Australia, please click here to find your nearest locations to book a consultation with our experienced Dry Needling physiotherapists.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or injury. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this blog. While we strive to provide up-to-date and accurate information, PhysioChoice does not guarantee the completeness, reliability, or accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and PhysioChoice will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of our website. From our website, you can visit other websites by following hyperlinks to such external sites. While we endeavor to provide only quality links to useful and ethical websites, we have no control over the content and nature of these sites. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.

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