Dry Needling: What Is Dry Needling?

What is dry needling?

By James Cleal

Dry Needling is becoming a more common treatment option for a wide variety of conditions.

It is very similar to Acupuncture and overlaps a lot in respect to how the treatment works however the sites chosen for needle insertion and the reasoning for this is where the two types of “needling” differ the most.



Whilst I don’t claim to truly know or understand Acupuncture, my basic understanding in how it differs to Dry Needling is that Acupuncture targets the restoration of energy pathways or “Qi” through the body.

Acupuncture practitioners target blockages to the flow of Qi by needling along specific energy channels called meridians linked to specific dysfunctions and abnormalities.

This is why they might insert needles in your leg to treat a lower back complaint.



At the most basic level, dry needling uses fine needles to treat areas of pain and tightness within a muscle, called “trigger points”.

Muscles with trigger points often do not work optimally as they will fatigue faster and produce less force when contracting.

Trigger Points will also create pain when stretched making it difficult to see improvement from strengthening or stretching exercises till they are released.

Trigger points result from a variety of issues including emotional stress, muscle overuse, nerve irritation, injury, fatigue or lack of sleep, infections, even caffeine consumption has been shown to excite and increase the presence of trigger points.

To put this into a real world situation I see daily - those who are stressed don’t sleep well and to combat this will drink coffee, become restless and fatigued toward the end of the day and often consume alcohol to relax in the evening leading to further poor sleep, waking at night to use the toilet and the cycle continues.

This leads to trigger points, muscular pain and dysfunction even in those who can’t identify a recent injury or event to explain their issues.



This is where Dry Needling can help – to release the trigger points, optimise muscle function and activity and restore normal function.

When the needle is inserted most patients will feel little more than a twitch and are often unable to detect when the needle has been inserted or removed.

In some cases where larger trigger points have caused the muscle to become sensitive and shortened you may experience a minor cramp or ache sensation similar to a green ant, quite mild and very different to the sharp pain or discomfort you may be thinking about when the term “needle” is used.

The needles we are talking about are tiny.

Much smaller than anything you’ve experienced giving blood or receiving an immunisation and as a result any discomfort experienced will be significantly less as well.

We often successfully treat those who HATE needles and they report afterward that they barely felt it however you will never be pressured to receive dry needling if this is not something you wish to use in your treatment from our clinicians.


Whenever dry needling is used your therapist will discuss options and alternatives and the reasons why dry needling is recommended.

They will warn you for any risks that may be associated with needling but realistically these risks are small and occur less regularly than risks we attribute to other treatments without even thinking about it.

Prior to any treatment commencing your therapist will ask for your consent and if you have any questions or concerns you should not hesitate to ask so you can be relaxed and have full confidence in what is being done.

You can rest assured you’re in safe hands at Terrace Physio Plus when this treatment is being used on your issue.