Dry Needling

Dave and his staff have always provided spot-on treatments including dry-needling. I won’t deny that it has some discomfort however it is only for a millisecond with almost instant relief where other home-remedy treatments have failed.”

– M.J. Z


What is dry needling?

Dry needling is a medical technique that uses a sterile, filament acupuncture needle to treat myofascial dysfunctions called trigger points. A sterile filament acupuncture needle is inserted through the skin into muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other pain producing tissues to immediately reduce pain, decrease muscle tension and increase mobility. The needle is guided in and out of the trigger point causing a “twitch” response and relaxing the muscle spasm. This treatment technique creates an environment that enhances the body’s ability to heal, ultimately reducing pain. Physical therapists often use this technique to reset or relax the muscle, increase blood flow, and return the injured area to a more normal state of function.

Take a closer look at dry needling with David Tranchita as he does a live demonstration in our Greenfield clinic.


What causes trigger points?

The cause of trigger points is multi-factorial. They are formed in response to a combination of overworking/over stressing muscles, poor posture/static or sustain posture, misuse and under use, and from direct trauma to muscles. Trigger points are found in a muscle or fascia tissue and lead to myofascial pain. This pain and the location of where it is located is what causes an entire muscle to be tight, weak and easily fatigued.

How are the trigger points found and treated?

The physical therapist will first palpate specific muscles in the affected area, so that they can locate the route of  pain. The trigger points lie along the route of pain/taut band, creating a knot in the muscles. Once the trigger points are identified and the patient has confirmed the source of pain, they are treated with several methods of therapy such as dry needling, acupressure (manual compression), manual therapy, myofascial release, graston technique, massage, stretching, moist heat, ice and a home exercise program. These forms of therapy are used to deactivate the trigger points. Once the trigger points are deactivated, the muscles spasms are reset and relaxed. The patient’s blood flow will also increase and the injured area will return to a normal state of function (homeostasis).

Who can perform dry needling?

This Intramuscular Trigger Point (IMTrP) treatment can only be performed by a licensed physical therapist.  Our physical therapists are certified through Myopain Seminars, the only certification program for physical therapists, so that we can provide our patients with the highest level of care and utilize innovative healing techniques.

Is this acupuncture?

Dry needling is not acupuncture. Dry needling is based on a modern scientific study of musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems where the physical therapist works to change the biochemistry and biomechanical factors of the tissue to help manage pain. Acupuncture, on the other hand, is an ancient Eastern Medicine technique that utilizes meridians to change the Chi (energy flows) in the body.

Who benefits from dry needling?

Dry needling can be used for a variety of musculoskeletal problems, especially when in combination with traditional physical therapy. Our advanced manual therapy techniques have successfully treated a wide array of musculoskeletal problems such as: neck, back, shoulder (frozen shoulder), headaches/migraines, arm (tennis/golfer’s elbow), hip, buttock, leg (sciatic), jaw (TMJ), carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle strains, fibromyalgia, overuse injuries,  and more.

Dry needling is also commonly used to help athletes overcome delayed onset muscle soreness. Oftentimes dry needling can be used to speed up an athlete’s recovery time, getting them back to their sport faster. Dry needling has the greatest effect on reducing pain in the body especially when used in combination with massage and stretching techniques.

Is dry needling painful?

For most people, there is little to no discomfort when the needle is inserted into the skin. We strive to make the treatment virtually painless; however, some patients experience a “twitch response” which is often described as “nervy”, “shocky”, or “a muscle cramp or ache.” These sensations are normal and even desirable at times. This therapeutic response occurs in response to the elicitation of the local twitch, creating a good and desirable reaction.

Occasionally patients will experience a mild discomfort, but it’s often described as “good pain” and is rated on a low standard pain scale. Patients actually welcome this “pain” and return for more. After the treatment, muscle soreness can be felt for up to 24-48 hours. Typically the soreness improves with each session. Some patients also get a “Sympathetic Reaction” that includes a “fight or flight” response such as sweating, increased heart rate, dizziness and nausea, but this reaction is less common.

How long does it take for it to work?

The results of dry needling vary from patient to patient and from condition to condition. However, it typically takes several treatment visits for a positive reaction to take place. Chronic condition also may take longer to see positive results. Regardless, the physical therapist will set up a plan of care based on the individual’s condition.

Dry needling is meant to cause a mechanical and biochemical change without using any drugs or pharmacological means. In other words, we are using a natural approach with a cumulative response to achieve a certain threshold. To achieve this threshold, we must break the pain cycle, which is what provides the patient with pain relief and improved functional mobility.

What should I do after dry needling?

We recommend applying heat or ice to the treated area and drinking plenty of fluids afterward to help reduce soreness. Gentle stretching, modification of activities (light exercise), applying moist heat to increase blood flow and promote healing, icing to decrease inflammation and swelling if present.

Dry needling is a powerful treatment technique that when used in conjunction with our manual physical therapy treatments, can help relieve pain and improve functional mobility more quickly. Call us today to learn more about dry needling and how it can help you Get Better, Faster.