Dry Needling - What Is It, And How Does It Work?

At Terrace Physio Plus, out physiotherapists often use dry needling as well as acupuncture to successfully treat a number of conditions.

Eastern medicine has been using needles as a treatment technique for thousands of years (in the form of acupuncture and Chinese medicine), and more recently, an increasing amount of research has come out showing the effects that needling can have on the body.

dry needling terrace physio plus

Is Dry Needling different to acupuncture?

Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine are based on meridians and 'energy channels' that forms patterns in the body and connect the various body parts and organs.

The theory is that by altering the movement of energy within these channels the function of the body and health of the person can be improved.

However, Dry Needling is based more on western medicine.

When we insert needles this is to create a local reaction that causes a change in the local tissues and function of the area where the needle is inserted.


How will dry needling help my injury?

  • Increased blood flow: When a needle is inserted into the body, blood vessels in that area open up and temporarily increase blood flow through this area. The area is normally about the size of a 20c piece or roughly 2-3cm across. You will often be able to see a small red area around the needle. This increased blood flow helps to increase oxygen flow through the injured area which can be vital in injuries where there is poor blood supply to the area

  • Localised immune response: the insertion of a needle is the invasion of a foreign body into a sterile system (sounds scary, right!). The body reacts to this by firing its local immune defenses. Some people have a more noticeable reaction and the removal of the needles will reveal small bumps similar to a mosquito bite that return to normal after 5-10 mins. This immune reaction is also useful in areas where there is poor healing.

  • Altered nerve activity: the presence of the needle can stimulate the nervous system. There are a number of theories on how exactly it does this, but the normal effect is a decrease in the tightness of the treated muscles.

Common Questions

Does it hurt?

Most of the time no. You may feel a deep, dull, achy or heavy sensation while the needles are in place, a lot of people describe it a bit like a dead leg feeling.

Some people don't feel anything at all. Most people will feel a prickle with the initial insertion of the needles but many people feel nothing at all. The occasional spot can stimulate a nerve that winds around sweat glands.

These are invisible to the naked eye and can sting a little, if this occurs the needle is removed and inserted again. Some people also report a gentle throb or tingling sensation. These are all just signs that the body is reacting to the needling.

What conditions can needling treat?

  • A range of injuries including: plantar fasciitis, shoulder impingement/rotator cuff problems, low back pain, sciatica and muscle tears.

  • It is not used on its own but is used in conjunction with other treatment techniques, so if you don't like needles we can help you achieve your goals through other methods.

Are there any dangers with Dry needling?

Yes – if you receive needling from someone who has not been trained correctly or practices carelessly there can be negative outcomes including:

  • Infection: we use alcohol gel, alcohol wipes and sterile single use needles to avoid this.

  • Punctured lung: when treating the traps or upper back area its essential to angle the needle correctly. All our therapists have been officially trained and assessed for safety in this technique.

  • Bruising: this occasionally happens and results is a small round bruise usually about the size of a 10-20c piece. This is not a major issue and will not have any further negative effects.

We would love to help you and answer any questions you have regarding dry needling or acupuncture. Our clinic can also provide acupuncture, and if you would like to make an appointment, give us a call on (02) 4983-1765 or click HERE to book online now!