Dry Needling: What, When & Why?

By Sarah Johns (nee Kociolek)

In the world of physiotherapy, there’s a technique called dry needling that’s gaining popularity for helping with muscle pain and injuries. But what exactly is dry needling, how does it work, and who can benefit from it? Let’s delve deeper into this method, addressing common questions along the way.

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a treatment used by qualified Physiotherapists, Remedial Massage Therapists and other health professionals to target tight spots or knots in muscles. Unlike acupuncture, which focuses on energy pathways, dry needling aims to release tension in muscles and reduce pain. During a dry needling session, thin needles are inserted into specific points in muscles, tendons, or connective tissues. These points, known as trigger points, are areas of tightness or dysfunction that can contribute to pain or restricted movement.

Is Dry Needling Safe?

Safety is paramount in any medical procedure, including dry needling. When performed by a qualified and experienced Physiotherapist, dry needling is generally considered safe. The needles used are sterile and disposed of after each use to prevent infections. However, like any procedure, there are some risks, such as bruising, soreness at the insertion site, or in rare cases, puncture of nearby structures such as blood vessels or nerves. It’s essential to discuss any concerns with your Physiotherapist before undergoing dry needling.

Is Dry Needling Evidence-Based?

Research has shown promising results regarding the effectiveness of dry needling for various musculoskeletal conditions. Several studies have demonstrated that dry needling can help reduce pain and improve movement in individuals with back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, and other musculoskeletal issues. While more research is needed to fully understand how dry needling works and its optimal application, the existing evidence suggests that it can be a valuable addition to physiotherapy treatment for muscle-related problems.

Who Benefits from Dry Needling?

Dry needling can be beneficial for a wide range of individuals dealing with musculoskeletal issues, including:

  • Muscle Tightness: If you have tight muscles causing pain or limited movement, dry needling may help release the tension and improve muscle function.
  • Chronic Pain: People suffering from chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia, may find relief through dry needling. By targeting trigger points associated with pain, it can help reduce pain intensity and improve overall quality of life.
  • Sports Injuries: Athletes recovering from sports-related injuries, such as muscle strains or tendinopathy, often incorporate dry needling into their rehabilitation programs. It can aid in speeding up recovery, reducing pain, and restoring optimal muscle function.

When Should I Avoid Dry Needling?

While dry needling is generally safe, there are instances where it may not be suitable or advisable:

  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women should consult with their healthcare provider before trying dry needling, especially during the first trimester. While some pregnant women may safely receive treatment, certain precautions may be necessary to ensure the safety of both the mother and the baby.
  • Bleeding Disorders: Individuals with bleeding disorders or those taking blood-thinning medications should be cautious when considering dry needling. The risk of bleeding or bruising may be higher in these cases.
  • Skin Infections or Lesions: If you have an active skin infection or lesion at the site where dry needling is intended, it’s best to avoid treatment until the area has healed to prevent complications.

Will Dry Needling Fix My Problem?

While dry needling can be an effective part of a comprehensive treatment plan for musculoskeletal issues, it’s essential to manage your expectations. Dry needling is not a standalone solution but rather a tool used in addition to other physiotherapy techniques, exercises, and lifestyle modifications. Your Physiotherapist will assess your condition, develop a personalised treatment plan, and discuss realistic goals and outcomes with you.

So, Should I Ask for Dry Needling?

Dry needling offers a safe and targeted approach to addressing musculoskeletal injuries and pain. When performed by a qualified Physiotherapist, it can be a valuable tool in managing various conditions and improving overall quality of life. If you’re considering dry needling as part of your treatment plan, be sure to consult with a trusted Physiotherapist who can assess your individual needs and guide you through the process. By working together, you can work towards pain relief, improved function, and better musculoskeletal health.

If you are interested in Dry Needling, or have questions for your practitioner at PhysioWest, book online now!

Several of our Physiotherapists are qualified and experienced in providing Dry Needling as part of their clients treatment programs. We love to provide the most up to date, evidence-based approaches for our clients. To check which of our Physiotherapists are qualified, check out the ‘Our Team’ section of our website and book online via the link in their bio! Alternatively, click the link in the top right hand corner, or give us a call on 8352 3582 to book your next appointment — and don’t forget to mention that you want Dry Needling!
We can’t wait to see you in the clinic soon!



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