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The Advancements of Dry Needling in Physiotherapy

Dry needling physiotherapy is an innovative and non-invasive technique used in physiotherapy to target myofascial trigger points, providing effective pain relief and promoting healing. This blog aims to explore the concept of dry needling therapy, dry needling benefits, its significant advantages, and the various aspects associated with its practice.

Understanding the Pathophysiology of Trigger Points:

Trigger points are hyperirritable spots within muscles that can cause pain and restricted range of motion. Dry needling therapy involves the insertion of fine needles into these trigger points, addressing the underlying cause and promoting pain relief and healing. Trigger points are primarily formed due to the excessive release of acetylcholine from motor endplates, resulting in the formation of taut bands within the muscles.

Types of Dry Needling:
  • Superficial Dry Needling: This type of dry needling therapy technique involves inserting needles up to 10 mm into the subcutaneous tissue. Superficial dry needling therapy offers ease of administration, reduces the risk of tissue trauma or nerve injury, and enhances patient comfort. It can effectively target trigger points in areas such as the neck and shoulders, providing relief from chronic pain and muscle tension.
  • Deep Dry Needling: Deep dry needling physiotherapy involves inserting needles beyond the subcutaneous tissue, directly targeting myofascial trigger points within the muscles. This technique allows for a more precise and targeted approach to addressing trigger points and their associated symptoms. Deep dry needling is particularly effective in addressing chronic low back pain and promoting muscle relaxation, leading to improved mobility.
Understanding the Mechanism of Action:

Dry needling therapy produces immediate effects that contribute to pain relief and improved musculoskeletal conditions:

  • Local Twitch Response: The insertion of a needle into a trigger point triggers a local twitch response, which is an involuntary spinal reflex. This response results in a brief muscle contraction, releasing tension and promoting relaxation. The local twitch response is highly effective in addressing conditions such as tension headaches and fibromyalgia.
  • Effects on Blood Flow: Dry needling therapy stimulates vasodilation in small blood vessels, leading to increased blood flow and oxygenation in the targeted muscle area. This improved circulation facilitates the delivery of essential nutrients, and the removal of metabolic waste products, and supports the healing process. Athletes with sports-related injuries, such as tennis elbow or Achilles tendinopathy, can benefit from improved blood flow and tissue repair through dry needling therapy.

Indications for Dry Needling:

Dry needling physiotherapy is primarily indicated for managing myofascial pain syndrome, characterized by the presence of trigger points. However, it has also shown positive outcomes for various other musculoskeletal conditions:

  • Strains: Dry needling benefits individuals with muscle strains or tears by releasing muscle tension, reducing pain, and promoting faster healing. For example, incorporating dry needling into the treatment plan for a hamstring strain can significantly improve pain relief and accelerate recovery.
  • Osteoarthritis: Dry needling benefits are varied and have demonstrated promise in managing pain and improving function in individuals with osteoarthritis. By targeting trigger points, dry needling benefits include reduced joint pain, increased mobility, and improve daily activities.
  • Tendinopathies: Dry needling therapy is effective in treating various tendinopathies, such as Achilles tendinopathy, rotator cuff tendinopathy, and patellar tendinopathy. It reduces pain, enhances tendon function, and supports the healing process. Individuals with chronic shoulder pain due to rotator cuff tendinopathy may experience reduced pain and improved mobility after dry needling sessions.

Positive Results and Patient Experiences:

Dry needling physiotherapy has garnered positive feedback from individuals who have experienced significant improvements in their musculoskeletal conditions. These improvements include reduced pain levels, increased range of motion, improved muscle function, and overall enhanced quality of life. Patients have reported relief from chronic pain conditions, improved athletic performance, and a quicker return to daily activities and sports. For example, a patient with chronic neck and shoulder pain may experience a significant reduction in pain and increased mobility after a series of dry needling therapy sessions targeting trigger points in the affected muscles. This improvement enables them to engage in daily activities and work without discomfort. Similarly, athletes with sports-related injuries, such as tennis elbow, may find that dry needling therapy helps alleviate pain, promote tissue healing, and enables a faster return to training and competition.


Dry needling therapy is an invaluable modality in physiotherapy, offering numerous benefits for pain relief and functional recovery. At our facility, SAAOL Ortho, our skilled physiotherapists effectively address trigger points through superficial or deep dry needling techniques, providing pain relief, improved range of motion, and enhanced overall well-being. It is essential to consider contraindications and precautions to ensure the safety and satisfaction of each individual. By incorporating dry needling into comprehensive treatment plans, healthcare professionals can offer an effective option for musculoskeletal pain relief and improved functional outcomes.