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Trigger Point Dry Needling

What is trigger point dry needling?

Trigger point dry needling, often referred to as dry needling or intramuscular needling, is a treatment that uses a thin needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points.1 Myofascial trigger points are highly irritable spots within a taut band of muscle fibers.2 Trigger points can result in tenderness and pain as well as limit the mobility or extensibility of the muscle tissue. This will limit the flexibility and function of the muscle as well as produce pain locally or referring to other areas. While an injury or trauma can cause trigger points, in some cases it is not exactly clear what the cause of the trigger point is.

Does trigger point dry needling hurt?

This can be a difficult question to answer in that the level of discomfort or pain varies from person to person. The most uncomfortable part of the needling process is the muscle twitching. In most cases, the patient is sore for up to 24 hours and then experiences relief of symptoms. However, in some cases the soreness can persist longer. The soreness following treatment can often be relieved faster with over-the-counter pain relievers and by drinking lots of water. Many patients state the relief they get from being dry needled is worth the temporary soreness.

How long does it last?

This can also vary depending on the individual- most often, relief lasts for days to months, sometimes even permanently. However, for a small percentage of patients, dry needling provides no relief.3 Trigger point dry needling is most effective when utilized in combination with other treatments, including manual therapy and exercise. Relieving the trigger point is not the end, rather it is the beginning of helping a patient regain normal mobility of a muscle in order to improve movement and function.

  1. APTA. Description of dry needling in clinical practice: an educational resource paper. Alexandria, VA, USA: APTA Public Policy, Practice, and Professional Affairs Unit; 2013.
  2. Simons DG, Travell J, Simons LS. Travell and Simons’ myofascial pain and dysfunction: the trigger point manual. Volume 1, 2nd ed. Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore;1999.
  3. Lewit K. The needle effect in the relief of myofasical pain. Pain. 1979;6:83-90.

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