What is Dry Needling(DN) or Trigger point Dry Needling (TPDN)?

Dry needling is a technique that physical therapists and other trained healthcare providers use to treat acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain and movement issues. It’s almost always used as part of a larger pain management plan that could include exercise, stretching, massage and other techniques. During this treatment, a provider inserts thin, sharp needles through your skin to treat underlying myofascial trigger points.

Dry needling vs. acupuncture — what’s the difference?

Dry needling isn’t the same as acupuncture. Both procedures involve penetrating your skin with needles. They use the same type of needles, but that’s where the similarities end.

Different providers with different training perform dry needling. Acupuncture is performed by licensed acupuncturists and based in Eastern medicine, while dry needling is based in Western medicine and evaluation of pain patterns, postures, faulty movement patterns and orthopaedic testing.

Acupuncture treats musculoskeletal pain but also treats other systems of your body. Dry needling treats muscle tissue with the goal of reducing pain, inactivating trigger points and improving movement. Typically, it’s used as part of a broader physical therapy approach that includes other physical therapy treatments


DN treatment of active trigger points improves healing time and reduces pain by:

  • Increasing blood flow to the muscle tissue
  • Improving muscle’s ability to stretch/relax with movement
  • Decreasing tension in the muscles to help reduce pain
  • Deactivating painful trigger points
  • Improve the brain’s ability to activate muscles, inhibit pain and improve function.

Common Diagnoses

Muscular spasms and trigger points are common following an injury and can compress nerves and surrounding tissues. Introducing a dry needle into these active trigger points can provide immediate and significant relief of symptoms. Commonly treated issues include:

  • Joint issues
  • Muscle spasm
  • Whiplash
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Tendonitis and muscle strain
  • Spinal issues
  • Sciatica
  • Neck pain and tension headaches
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Fibromyalgia