Understanding Dry Needling


Dry needling is a technique that has gained popularity in recent years as a treatment option for musculoskeletal pain. It involves inserting a thin, solid needle into a trigger point, or a tight band of muscle that can cause pain and discomfort. The goal of dry needling is to release the trigger point and promote healing by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the area. Along with positive effects on blood flow and oxygen, dry needling can also have a positive effect on the action of acetylcholine in muscle contraction, which can be otherwise inhibited by trigger points in the muscle.

The Science:

There have been several studies conducted on the effectiveness of dry needling on trigger points, with varying results. In a 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis of 21 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), dry needling was found to be effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with chronic low back pain, myofascial pain syndrome, and rotator cuff injuries (1).

Another study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy found that patients who received dry needling for shoulder pain reported a significant reduction in pain levels compared to those who received a sham treatment (2).

However, not all studies have found dry needling to be effective. A 2019 randomized controlled trial found no significant difference in pain reduction between dry needling and a sham treatment in patients with plantar fasciitis (3). But, in comparison to meta analysis, this study has shown to be rare in its findings.

Despite mixed results, dry needling is generally considered to be safe when performed by a trained professional and can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan for musculoskeletal pain.


In conclusion, while more research is needed to fully understand the effectiveness of dry needling on trigger points, the available evidence suggests that it can be a useful tool in managing chronic pain for some patients. As always, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine if dry needling is appropriate for your specific condition.


  1. Li X, Wang R, Xing X, et al. The effectiveness of dry needling for patients with musculoskeletal pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018;97(15):e0327. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000010327
  2. Ibarra JM, Ge H-Y, Wang C, et al. Effects of dry needling on shoulder pain and function: a systematic review with meta-analysis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017;47(1):51-61. doi:10.2519/jospt.2017.6598
  3. Phipps-Green AJ, Semciw AI, Murley GS, et al. A Randomized Crossover Trial Evaluating Dry Needling for Plantar Heel Pain. J Athl Train. 2019;54(1):84-92. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-366-17

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