Trigger Point Dry Needling

An effective treatment for myofascial (muscle) pain.

Dry needling is a technique used to treat myofascial pain syndromes. The entire team at VSI Physical Therapy are all certified in dry needling and use it when appropriate as part of a patient’s treatment plan. Modern dry needling techniques can be traced back to the 1940s and have continued to evolve and became a more popular treatment technique over time. Dry needling doesn’t require a prescription and is an included service as VSI Physical Therapy, meaning there isn’t an upcharge for it to be used during your appointment. This allows you and your therapist to make the best decision for treatment at the time of your appointment.

Crop anonymous male doctor putting needles on back during acupuncture therapy session in rehabilitation salon

Conditions Treated

Trigger Point Dry Needling can be used to treat these and other conditions:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  • Knee pain
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Other myofascial related disorders
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Frequently Asked Questions about Trigger Point Dry Needling

A trigger point is a discrete, focal, hyperirritable spot located in a taut band of skeletal muscle that often refers pain. Trigger points develop in muscles, mainly in the center of a muscle belly and present with palpable nodules and taut bands found within the tight muscle. Trigger points can be found in any skeletal muscle of the body.  Trigger points can be caused by acute trauma or repetitive muscular stress causing micro trauma to the muscle.  When a trigger point is palpated properly it often has a twitch response or jump sign associated with it. A twitch response is when the trigger point can be touched in a way to cause a mini contraction. A jump sign is when the trigger point is pressed firmly causing the patient to jump or move due to pain caused by the pressure. 

Trigger points are often associated with chronic musculoskeletal disorders. Common causes of trigger points include:

  • Aging
  • Traumatic Injury
  • Poor Posture
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Repetitive Muscular Stress
  • Muscle overuse and microtrauma
  • Chronic Stress Conditions (Anxiety, Depression, Psychological Stress Trauma)
  • Vitamin Deficiencies
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Joint Laxity or Hypermobility Syndromes

The primary similarity is that trigger point dry needling and acupuncture use the same type of needles.  Other than the needle, the two techniques have very different methods of treatment.  

Acupuncture is a highly recognized alternative treatment technique that addresses energy flow in the human body.  Meridians are energy highways that acupuncturists will evaluate by assessing their pulses. The goal of acupuncture is to rebalance a patient’s energy flow.  Poor energy flow can be associated with poor health, dysfunction, medical conditions, and disease. 

Dry Needling is a well-recognized specialized therapeutic skill to address myofascial pain syndromes.  A physical therapist who is certified in dry needling will assess the patient for trigger points by locating palpable nodules within taut bands in the surrounding tissue of the injury.  

Improvement after dry needling is determined not only by whether your pain has improved, but by how much your body shows improvement in your functional movements. Generally, it takes a few sessions to have a positive effect, though many people can feel an immediate decrease in pain and an increase in mobility. When your body is aligned properly, moves better, and functions better it often responds by reducing the pain you feel. You often will show improvements in the muscle tightness, improvements in joint motion, and improvements with dysfunctional joints after one treatment. However, to eliminate a patient’s pain requires sustained improvement in all the categories discussed above. Maintaining improvement often requires several treatment sessions that combine myofascial techniques (including dry needling), manual therapy techniques, and targeted exercise that specifically address your body’s biomechanical dysfunctions. As your body progressively improves your pain will diminish over time and often resolve.

It is common to have soreness in the muscles that were needled for 24-48 hours.  Soreness can linger sometimes, but should dissipate each day.  

Following dry needling treatments, you should:

  • Promote circulation in the muscle that was needled.
    1. Keep Moving: you want to frequently and repetitively move the body part that was needled.   
    2. Avoid sedentary positions (long drives, prolonged sitting) after dry needling. 
    3. Use heat, not ice.  Heat will increase the circulation in the area that was needled.  Taking a hot bath, hot shower, or heating pad will help promote circulation.  Ice will restrict microcirculation of a muscle and should not be used immediately after needling. 
  • Stay Hydrated.
    1. Drink lots of water to help promote better cellular circulation and health.
    2. Limit diuretic drinks by limiting caffeine and alcohol in your drinks. 
  • Light stretching of the muscles that were needled.

Talk to our team to see if you could benefit from trigger point dry needling