Dry Needling

Schrier Physical Therapy has been using Dry Needling for over 10 years. We have seen incredible results in all age groups, ranging from high school athletes, to soccer moms, to seniors. There is very little risk of any kind in using this technique.

Dry Needling Questions


What is Dry Needling?

DN is a treatment technique where a trained physical therapist inserts a thin filiform needle through the skin into pathological areas of the muscle known as "trigger points" for the purpose of relieving myofascial pain and muscle spasm. Unlike "wet needling," the needles are solid rather than hollow, and no medication is injected.

Dry needling is one tool a physical therapist can use to treat patients. It may be one component of a therapy session that must be used in conjunction with other manual therapy techniques and therapeutic exercise.

When performing dry needling, the desired reaction is a "twitch response" where the specific band of muscle involuntarily contracts in response to insertion of the needle. While beneficial effects can occur without elicitation of the twitch response, patients who experience a twitch tend to have increased positive effects.

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What are Trigger Points?

Trigger points are small knots within muscles that are often tense or sore to touch. They can increase pain, limit motion, and decrease field performance. If go untreated they can get worse over time.

Dry needling can come with an element of pain or discomfort. The pain felt usually presents as a muscle cramp or burning that accompanies the twitch response, and it only lasts a few seconds. Most patients do not feel the needle itself at all because it is so thin.

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How Does Dry Needling Work?

Inserting a needle into a taut band of muscle tissue (trigger point) can cause a "twitch response" which allows for various neurological, chemical, and physical effects to occur in the muscle.

Increased Blood Flow: blood flow in the area will increase and continue to increase following removal of the needle, allowing increased oxygen and nutrients to flow to the area

Decreased Muscle Shortening: by releasing spasm, the muscle is able to return to a more normal resting length which allows for more efficient firing and thus stronger and more efficient contraction as well as decreased resting tension in a body area

Release of Waste Product Build Up: trigger points can hold on to the waste products that develop as a result of muscle contraction rather than allowing them to be excreted back into the blood stream. Releasing the trigger point can allow those waste products to be excreted into the blood stream.

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What is Dry Needling Effective for?

Dry needling is effective at relieving muscle tightness, soreness, and trigger points associated with many musculoskeletal conditions. Dry needling can also be effective at decreasing spinal compression associated with pinched nerves or herniated discs.

Your physical therapist will perform a detailed evaluation of your symptoms and come up with a plan of care. You can ask your physical therapist if he or she believes dry needling will be helpful in your treatment.

Running Injuries
•  Achilles Tedonitis
•  Shin Splits
•  Plantar Fasciitis (Foot Pain)
•  IT Band Syndrome
•  Hamstring Strain

Neck and Shoulder Pain
•  Disk and Nerve Problems
•  Neck Pain
•  TMJ
•  Migraines/Headaches
•  Rotator Cuff
•  Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
•  Upper Back and Shoulder

Low Back and Hip Pain
•  Low Back Pain
•  Herniated or Bulging Disc
•  Hip Bursitis
•  Sciatica
•  Stenosis
•  Scoliolis

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What is the Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture?

The only real similarity between dry needling and acupuncture is the actual needle used. The technique and philosophy used are very different. Acupuncture is a method used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. With acupuncture, the goal is establishing balance along a person's qi, or life force by inserting needles along specific meridian points in the body. With dry needling performed by a physical therapist, the goal is releasing muscular trigger points by inserting the needles directly in the painful/pathological muscle. All of Schrier's Physical Therapist are certified and trained to perform Dry Needling in the state of Maryland.

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What Happens During a Dry Needling Session?

The therapist will first examine the muscles looking for trigger points. He/she will clean the area with alcohol and then insert the needle just into the skin. He/she will push the needle deeper into the muscle, and may "piston" the needle up and down. Sometimes only one needle is inserted at a time, and sometimes several are placed into the same muscle. The therapist may also apply a small electrical current through the needle using a point stimulator.

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What Should I do After Dry Needling?

Some muscle soreness is normal after a session of dry needling, however some patients experience no soreness at all. The soreness should go away in 24-48 hours. If it does not, please inform your physical therapist.

In the day after a session there are 3 things to remember:
1) Drink lots of water to help flush the lactic acid and other metabolic waste products released by the muscle
2) Apply heat as needed (instead of ice) to relieve soreness
3) Keep moving. You may go about your normal activities and exercise programs as desired. Keeping the treated area still may increase the amount of soreness felt after a session.

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Is Dry Needling Painful?

For most people there is little to no discomfort with the insertion of the needle. However, once the needle hits the trigger point, you will experience a "twitch response" which often feels like a quick muscle cramp. Following this technique muscle soreness can be felt up to 24-48 hrs. The application of heat and drinking plenty of fluids usually reduces the soreness.

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4701 Randolph Road, #105
Rockville, MD 20852
Ph: 301-990-9599
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Gaithersburg, MD 20878
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