By Ron Handshoe, MSPT
Regional Manager, ApexNetwork PT
Dry needling is a long-practiced technique that assists therapists in reducing muscle tension, relieving trigger points, and addressing pain throughout the body. Dry needling is based on Western Medicine and incorporates understanding of the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems. Dry needling is different from acupuncture in that Chinese medicine focuses on restoring “meridians” and energy flow.
The technique uses very thin, solid needles to stimulate trigger points in the muscle and connective tissues. Dry needling allows the therapist to target tissues that are not typically accessible using manual therapy. Dry needling is offered at the ApexNetwork PT locations in Mount Sterling, Stanton, Frenchburg and Morehead.
Dry needling can be used to address a variety of issues, including:
• Myofascial trigger points
• Joint problems
• Disk problems
• Migraine and tension headaches
• Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
• Repetitive motion disorders, such as carpal
• Night cramps
• Shingles pain
• Phantom pain
Dry needling is contraindicated in pregnancy; for those who have bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medications such as Coumadin; people who cannot understand the treatment; and those who are very afraid of needles.
The physical therapist will have a discussion and educate their patient on all the treatment effects, precautions, and benefits before beginning the treatment.
Where do the needles go?
The therapist determines treatment based on the patient’s report of their pain: where it occurs; what it feels like; how it changes; and other factors. The therapist performs a physical assessment, including range of motion, strength testing, posture assessment, and palpation of muscles. Using this information, the therapist will design a treatment plan that addresses the muscle groups most likely to benefit from dry needling.
What does dry needling feel like?
Most patients report feeling a slight sting or pinch when the needle first contacts the skin. Additional sensations may include cramping, reproduction of the chief pain complaint, muscle soreness, twitching, or aching. These are all considered to be a good sign, as they indicate the needle has been properly placed.
Needles may be placed either deeply or superficially. The length of time the needle is in place may vary from shorter periods (a few seconds) to longer (up to 15 minutes), depending on the type of pain being treated and the severity of the problem.
Is it dangerous?
Dry needling is very safe, with a very low risk of serious injury. Side effects are typically minor and may include soreness during or after treatment; bleeding at the needle site; fainting; fatigue and bruising.
Prior to performing the technique, physical therapists must complete an additional certification course that includes 30 hours of pre-class work and 54 hours of directly supervised training followed by a competency exam.
When do we do the treatment?
Dry needling is used as part of a larger plan of treatment developed by the physical therapist. Treatments are performed as part of the physical therapy visit, typically during the manual therapy portion of the treatment. Exercise may be completed after dry needling.
How will I feel afterwards?
Most people feel a decrease in muscle tension or reduction of tender point pain intensity within 24 to 48 hours after dry needling. There may be some residual soreness, but this usually resolves within a day.
Find out more
Discover more about dry needling and whether it might help you. ApexNetworkPT offers complimentary screenings, no referral is necessary. This direct access to your physical therapist provides immediate access to a specialist who can expertly coordinate your plan of care.
To find out more, visit or call any of our offices in Kentucky.
ApexNetwork Physical Therapy locations in Kentucky:
814 Highway 36
513 Maysville Road
272 Kroger Center Drive
156 W. College Ave.