Dry needling is a treatment performed by a skilled, trained physiotherapist certified in the procedure. A small monofilament needle penetrates the skin and treats underlying muscle trigger points for the management of pain and movement impairments.
A trigger point is a local band of tight muscle than can disrupt function, restrict range of motion, refer pain, or cause local symptoms. When dry needling is applied to a muscle with trigger points it can decrease the tension of the band of tightness, increase blood flow, and reduce local and referred pain.
It is important to note that dry needling is not the same as acupuncture. It uses a similar tool but is performed by different practitioners with different types of training. Acupuncture is often based in Eastern medicine while dry needling is based on Western medicine and evaluation of pain patterns, posture movement impairments, function and other orthopaedic evaluations. Dry needling treats muscle tissue and the goal is to relieve pain and deactivate trigger points and restore function. It is rarely a standalone intervention and more often as part of a broader physiotherapy approach incorporating other traditional physiotherapy techniques.