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  • Writer's pictureErienne Blanchard

Dry Needling...What is it?

What is Dry Needling? Do you mean Acupuncture? Why is it called Dry?


Let's talk about some key differences and why it is an amazing adjunct to Physical Therapy treatment. Dry Needling is the use of an acupuncture needle into the muscle of an area of dysfunction. As we discussed in the last blog, prolonged postures or overactivity of a muscle can deprive it of nutrients that allow it to move through the full range of the muscle, a trigger point forms. These points cause pain in the area that may stay there or radiate into other areas (think someone grabbing your upper back and putting a thumb in that point that radiates into your ear). These trigger points cause changes in the function of the muscle and pain.


Dry needles in the back along the spine to illustrate their usage

Manual therapy and other massage like techniques can help them break up but can take more time and pain as we try to get the muscle to let go. Dry needling is using the needle to go in and make the muscle let go quickly. The needling allows for a much better release than hands alone. Dry needling is dry because there is no medication in the needle. Some pain management physician may use wet needling for trigger point release in which lidocaine or other anesthetic is applied to the area.



A women's upper back showing the needles deep along the upper trapezius and supraspinatus muscles

How is this different from Acupuncture? Acupuncture works on the whole body to restore the flow of energy. Many of the points that physical therapists use cross acupuncture points. However, physical therapy goes much deeper into the muscle and at times down to the attachment near the bone. Acupuncture tends to stay fascia and skin deep. They are targeting the point because the thought is your bladder channel is not functioning well. A PT feels it is because there is spasm in the multifidi back muscle. We have deeper and different techniques than acupuncture and we have a different reason for the usage of the needles. We target the muscle, tendon, ligament of dysfunction to address healing. Both are helpful and both are applied differently.


Dry Needling is a technique that creates a localized but minimal inflammation in the area to promote healing in muscle, tendon, ligament, and tissues that have stalled in their own healing. Perhaps you had an injury over 2 weeks ago or 3 months ago and it just isn't changing. Dry needling will assist with restarting the healing process and benefits are usually seen within 1-3 visits. How many muscles and needles you receive in a session does depend on your overall pain, need, and tolerance. Several sessions may be required to reduce the response and keep it in a good range for healing.


Dry Needling being performed

If you feel that you have muscles that are continuing to limit you, cause pain, and are not releasing completely with other therapies, please try dry needling. You will be surprised how quickly it can assist with your pain management.


Call or text 352-727-0472 to get started today.


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