What is Dry Needling and is it safe?

What is Dry Needling and How does it work?

Dry Needling involves inserting a very fine needle into the muscle fibres. Normally these fine needles are inserted into a “trigger point” (more commonly known as a “knot”) or an overactive motor point. The needle stimulates a response in the tissue. The aim of this technique is to get a twitch response that helps to relieve muscle tension and pain. There is no injectable factor associated with dry needling.

A muscle “knot” is often a painful and hard spot in the muscle when the fibres have tightened or gone rigid. The fine needle causes a tissue change in the muscular fibres of the “knot” allowing for the body’s natural healing process to begin and amplify. When dry needling is performed there is an increase of blood flow to the area which helps to speed up the healing process by providing nutrient rich blood to the injured area and increases the drainage of inflammatory mediators responsible for the pain away from the area.

What is dry needling used for?

Osteopaths use dry needling to help treat a range of conditions and pain presentations. Dry Needling is safe to treat people of all consenting ages and can be used to treat a variety of pain presentations, including:

  • Neck pain and neck stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Low Back pain
  • Adhesive Capsulitis (Frozen shoulder)
  • Shoulder pain and tightness
  • Tennis elbow
  • Knee pain
  • Hip pain
  • Lower limb tightness and tension (hamstring and calves)
  • Sprains and strains
  • Tendinopathies (e.g. achilles)

Benefits associated with Dry Needling

Many studies have been conducted around the effectiveness of dry needling and the therapeutic mechanism associated with being dry needled. Studies show the dry needling can be associated with a range of benefits, including;

  • Decrease muscle tension and tightness
  • Decrease in pain
  • Increased range of motion
  • Improved healing and rate of healing
  • Improved tissue regeneration
  • Improved sleep and relaxation

Is dry needling safe?

Dry needling is a safe and effective technique when utilised by trained professionals. To be certified in dry needling an individual must meet a specific criteria that includes: specific studies involving anatomy and clinical anatomy such as chiropractors, osteopathy and physiotherapy, the complete of an accredited and certified dry needling course and the completion of a theory examination of the application and safety considerations of dry needling. Only dry needling certified practitioners can apply this technique. This allows for minimal injuries or accidents to occur and decreases the risk associated with needling. If you want to know about the benefits and possible risks of being dry needled don’t hesitate to ask one of a certified dry needling practitioners.

Does Dry Needling hurt?

Dry needling utilises needles ten times thinner and smaller than needles doctors and nurses use when giving injections. This means that due to the small diameter of the needle and our practitioner expertise in applying dry needling techniques, the majority of individuals hardly feel like they are having needling applied to them.
Although many people hardly feel the actual implementation of the needle itself there are a variety of sensations people can exhibit. This includes: numbness, soreness, tightness feeling around the needle insertion site, radiating pain away from the insertion site, heaviness, sinking, tightness, euphoria and a deep ache.


Baldry, P., (2005). Acupuncture, trigger points, and Musculoskeletal Pain. Churchill Livingstone, 3rd Edition.

Dommerholt, J., Mayoral del Moral, O., & Gröbli, C. (2006). Trigger point dry needling. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 14(4), 70E-87E.

Gattie, E., Cleland, J. A., & Snodgrass, S. (2017). The effectiveness of trigger point dry needling for musculoskeletal conditions by physical therapists: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy, 47(3), 133-149.

Kalichman, L., & Vulfsons, S. (2010). Dry needling in the management of musculoskeletal pain. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 23(5), 640-646.

Lew, J., Kim, J., & Nair, P. (2021). Comparison of dry needling and trigger point manual therapy in patients with neck and upper back myofascial pain syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of manual & manipulative therapy, 29(3), 136–146. https://doi.org/10.1080/10669817.2020.1822618

Navarro-Santana, M. J., Sanchez-Infante, J., Gómez-Chiguano, G. F., Cleland, J. A., López-de-Uralde-Villanueva, I., Fernández-de-Las-Peñas, C., & Plaza-Manzano, G. (2020). Effects of trigger point dry needling on lateral epicondylalgia of musculoskeletal origin: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical rehabilitation, 34(11), 1327–1340. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269215520937468

Ritcher, P,. (2009). Trigger points and Muscle Chains in Osteopathy. Thieme, New York.

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