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What is Dry Needling?

by Dr. Madeline Goldberg, PT, DPT

Dry Needling, also called Trigger Point Needling, is a physical therapy technique used by trained clinicians for neuromuscular pain and movement issues. This treatment goes beyond hands-on work since it can target deep tissue to reduce muscle spasm and pain. It is used in the clinic as an adjunct therapy along with movement therapy and manipulation.

Dr. Madeline answers some Frequently Asked Questions about Dry Needling....

What is a "Trigger Point"?

Myofascial trigger points (aka muscle “knots”) are one of the most common musculoskeletal dysfunctions. A trigger point is a nodule within a muscle that is hypersensitive when touched, stretched or contracted. Trigger points may result in a phenomena known as “referred pain,” in which pain can radiate in predictable patterns to surrounding areas. They can cause spasm, weakness, inhibition, muscle imbalance, and nerve pain. Trigger points can develop with repetitive overuse, trauma or stress.

What is Dry Needling?

Functional dry needling is a technique used by physical therapists which involves the insertion of a thin, sterile, filiform needle through the skin and directly into the trigger point. It is called “dry” needling because there is no medication, injection, or drawing of blood. The intention of dry needling is to elicit a “ local twitch response,” which is an involuntary reflex causing muscle fibers to contract and then relax. The needle allows a physical therapist to target tissues that are not manually palpable through pressure or massage.

What are the benefits?

Research supports that this modality is extremely effective in reducing pain by activating the endogenous opioid system and changing the biochemical environment of the affected muscle. Dry needling can also improve muscle function by decreasing muscle tension, spasm and connective tissue restriction. It will stimulate the healing process of soft tissues and facilitate a return to active rehabilitation.

What is the Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture?

The objectives and philosophy behind the use of dry needling by physical therapists is not based on ancient theories of traditional Chinese medicine. The performance of dry needling by physical therapists is based on western neuroanatomy and modern scientific study of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Both dry needling and acupuncture use the same needle filament.

Does Dry Needling hurt?

Most people don't feel the insertion of the needle. As the needle is manipulated to elicit a twitch response, you may experience a very brief deep aching or cramping sensation. It is common to have some soreness or bruising after the session, which can last from a few hours to a few days.

What are Some Conditions Treated with Dry Needling?

  • Sciatica / Piriformis Syndrome

  • Bursitis

  • Headaches

  • IT band syndrome

  • Knee pain

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Neck/Back Pain

  • Plantar fasciitis

  • Tennis Elbow / Golfer's Elbow

  • Tendonitis

  • Chronic pain

  • Athletic performance


Electric-stimulated Dry Needling in Action


Want to try Dry Needling? Right now, Dr. Madeline is offering a FREE FIRST SESSION at The Facility.

Get to know Dr. Madeline Goldberg at The Facility in Denver, Colorado


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