What is Dry Needling?
Functional Dry needling (FDN) is a technique used by physical therapists to address pain and movement disorders. FDN uses a thin, filiform needle which is then inserted through the skin, down to specific muscle tissue. The term is deemed “dry” in that nothing is inserted through the needle (no medicine or injection). The use of electrical stimulation to needles once they are inserted can also be a part of treatment.
Why Dry Needling?
The use of needles allows therapists to access tissue that they would not be able to access with their hands. Research shows that through targeting trigger points (taut bands of muscle that are normally tender and painful) we can release muscle tension, decrease pain, increase nerve conduction and allow patients to progress through rehab quicker.
Dry needling can be a small piece of a much greater puzzle and is rarely a stand-alone treatment. The benefits of FDN allow patients to then participate in corrective exercises and other rehab techniques for better pain control and movement.
Is It Safe?
Physical therapists graduate from PT school with expert understanding in musculoskeletal and neuroanatomy. Those wishing to perform FDN undergo extra credentialing to be trained and certified to use needles along with their base level of training. Trained specialist use sterile needles, gloves, and techniques that are consistent with Standard Precautions, OSHA and Guide to Infection Prevention in the Outpatient setting.
When needles are used properly, by a trained practitioner there are very little risks.
How Is It Different Than Acupuncture?
The only similarity between FDN and acupuncture is that both methods use needles. Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine, following Chinese meridians with the goal of altering a person’s “Qi” (energy) while FDN follows evidence-based guidelines targeting specific and dysfunctional muscle tissue with the goal of decreasing trigger points and pain.
Getting a full evaluation performed by a physical therapist is a start to see if Functional Dry Needling would be helpful for you!
Follow along for more information:
- Cummings MT, White AR. Needling therapies in the management of myofascial trigger point pain: a systematic review. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2001;82(7):986–992. Free Article.
- Kalichman L, Vulfsons S. Dry needling in the management musculoskeletal pain. J Am Board Fam Med. 2010;23(5):640–646. Free Article.