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What Happens to Your Body After Dry Needling?

Dry Needling

Dry needling is a modern technique that physical therapists use to help treat musculoskeletal pain. It’s often combined with other methods like exercise, stretching and massage to achieve lasting results.

Trigger points (myofascial knots) can cause chronic pain in the muscle and often lead to referred pain in other parts of the body. Dry needling helps break the cycle of trigger point pain by directly targeting these painful spots.

1. Muscle Relaxation

Dry needling is a safe and effective Dry Needling Durham NC method of managing neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments. It involves insertion and repetitive manipulation of a “dry” thin monofilament needle in the trigger point to produce an involuntary spinal cord reflex, also known as a local twitch response (LTR).

LTR creates lasting muscle relaxation by deactivating or releasing shortened bands of muscle fibers found in overactive tight muscles, as well as activating under active weak muscles.

Trigger points are a common source of chronic muscle pain and dysfunction. They are typically located in the shoulder, neck and back.

Clients may experience a sensation of small twitches after the needle is inserted into the trigger point, but this should dissipate quickly.

Dry needling is used to treat a wide range of musculoskeletal injuries, such as Achilles tendinitis, tennis and golfers elbow, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and shoulder impingement/rotator cuff dysfunction. Many clients report experiencing significant relief and improved function from their first treatment, but additional treatments can provide longer-lasting benefits.

2. Increased Blood Flow

During dry needling, your physical therapist inserts a needle into an irritable spot in your muscle known as a trigger point. This irritable spot is usually tender to palpation and may cause pain, stiffness, and limited mobility.

Research shows that dry needling can relieve chronic muscle pain. The treatment works by relaxing the knot and improving blood flow to your muscle.

The increased blood flow causes your muscles to get more oxygen and nutrients. This helps them heal faster and reduces pain and stiffness.

Dry needling is used to treat a variety of conditions, including myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia. The results can be immediate, but some patients need several sessions to see a significant improvement in their pain and mobility.

3. Increased Range of Motion

As muscles relax and blood flow improves, they are able to move through greater ranges of motion. This can be especially helpful for athletes, since greater movement and flexibility helps them perform more efficiently.

Physical therapists use dry needling to treat myofascial trigger points, or knotted muscles. These painful spots often cause pain in other parts of the body, which is known as referred pain.

This treatment is used for a wide variety of conditions and has been shown to produce both short-term and long-term improvements in pain and function.

This specialized technique is effective for treating a variety of musculoskeletal problems including low back pain, neck and shoulder pain, headaches, TMJ disorder, tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, and more. It is an important component of any physical therapy treatment plan and should not be overlooked!

4. Pain Relief

Dry needling is a common treatment used by physical therapists to reduce pain and improve mobility. It works by locating knotted muscles called trigger points.

When these areas become tense, they cause pain that spreads to other parts of your body. When these knots are treated, they usually disappear.

Your therapist will find the knot by testing your range of motion and how your muscle feels when you stretch it. Once a knot is identified, they will insert a needle through your skin directly into the point.

The insertion creates a local twitch response that tells your muscles to contract and release. Your pain improves as the knot relaxes and blood flow increases.


A review of studies on immediate to 12-week effects of dry needling shows moderate-quality evidence that this treatment reduces pain8 and increases pain-provoking tasks (PPT)9,10,12,22,33. However, a few studies showed higher levels of post-needling soreness that could overlie the original myofascial pain and influence patient’s pain ratings.