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Dry Needling… So I’m A Human Pin Cushion?!

Let’s start out with what the heck is dry needling?! It seems like it is the new phase or buzzword in rehab, maybe you have heard about it, maybe you haven’t. Today’s blog is to give you the what of dry needling, the benefits and the risks.

Let’s start out with the needles. The reason it is termed dry needling is because us as therapists use a solid filament needle. Unless you have undergone acupuncture, the majority of needles you have encountered are considered wet needles. Wet needles are hollow point needles that allow for something to be injected into the body. Dry needles are much thinner than your needle experience at the doctor’s office. They vary in lengths depending on the desired depth, body part and goal of the needling therapist.

Now that we have gotten the scary part out of the way (unless you like needles, then you have been all in from the beginning with this blog). Why undergo dry needling? Dry needling works on many levels. By placing a needle into a desired area, we as therapists create a lesion. This lesion is caused by the puncture of the skin and the movement of the needle which stretches the tissue (Gargano, F.). This process creates both physical stretching and biochemical stimuli (Gargano, F.). The introduction of the needle into the given area increases circulation, decreases tissue tension and normalizes the physiological processes by promoting tissue remodeling. Needling creates local effects as previously noted and systemic effects - larger/whole body effect.

There are different methodologies and techniques for dry needling based on the therapist performing the needling. But generally speaking, negative side effects range from pain where the needle was inserted, bruising, pain other than the site of needling, faint/dizzy, worsening of condition, nauseous, sweating, bleeding, irritation/burning/tingling sensation, ache at needlepoint (Gargano, F.). Positive side effects have been reported as relaxation, energized, tiredness, decreased tightness (Gargano, F.).

Clients interested in needling should talk to their physical therapist/qualified healthcare provider and be aware of the known risks associated with needling which are as follows: bruising secondary to bleeding due to puncture of capillary or other small vessel, puncture of lung/internal organ, and infection. These side effects are mitigated heavily by therapist knowledge of human body and safety in points, angles and area of needling and providing clean skin, environment and handling of needles. All benefits, risks and alternatives should be discussed with your healthcare provider prior to embarking on the journey of becoming a human pin cushion.

The physical therapists at Ground to Overhead Physical Therapy (GOPT) are qualified and trained in dry needling and use it as an adjunct to various rehab models, philosophies and on patient’s that would benefit. We strive to find a plan of care tailored to the individual, injury and dysfunction we are presented with. If you are interested in dry needling or have struggled with pain, injury, or need more from your rehab process, we at GOPT look to:

1. Fixing your pain.

2. Figuring out the root cause.

3. Providing you the necessary tools to get back to being active and not dealing with this again.


Gargano, F. Dr. Ma’s Integrative Dry Needling: Pain Management and Sports Rehabilitation. Integrative Dry Needling.

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