What is dry needling?
Dry Needling is a skilled intervention performed by a
healthcare professional. This professional uses a fine
filiform needle to penetrate the skin, creating a healing
response in the tissue that has been lesioned. Tissues
contributing to neuromuscularskeletal dysfunction
can be dry needled, including muscle, fascia, tendon,
capsule, ligament, peripheral nerve and microvascular
Why ATs are qualified to learn and perform dry
ATs (ATs) are qualified healthcare professionals, who,
with proper training, can perform dry needling. ATs
are educated in anatomy, physiology, biomechanics,
pathomechanics, neuroanatomy and more and are
trained to evaluate a variety of systems within the body5.
In addition to these evaluation skills, ATs are trained
in emergency medicine and acute care management,
making them fully capable to handle any adverse event
that can occur while dry needling5.
Who can benefit from receiving this therapy?
Anyone suffering from a neuromusculoskeletal issue
can benefit from dry needling. Patients who are in
pain, have lost range of motion or strength and those
who suffer from movement impairments are just a few
types of patients that can benefit from dry needling.
The possible patient population that can benefit from
dry needling is broad2, 3, 4. Therefore, the clinician should
conduct a thorough past medical history intake to
determine if any contraindications or precautions for
dry needling are present, as well as perform a proper
clinical exam to determine if dry needling is appropriate.
Research is still being done to identify those patients
who would have the best clinical outcomes.
How does dry needling therapy impact patient
Dry needling has been shown to be effective for pain
reduction and improving pain pressure thresholds
when compared to no treatment, sham dry needling
treatments or other interventions4. The use of specific
protocols for specific diagnosis are being studied
and are showing positive effects for decreasing pain
improving disability scores in rotator cuff tendinopathy6.
Improved outcomes in pain and functional disability
are also being seen with the use of dry needling and
chronic ankle stability3. More clinical outcome studies
are needed to determine best practices with dry
needling for a given diagnosis and patient population.
And anything else that the author feels is
Overall, dry needling in western medicine is not a new
practice7. Popularity over the last decade has increased,
making this a new area of focused research and clinical
practice amongst healthcare professionals. Like all
tools in healthcare, there is an overlap in application8.
Physical therapists, ATs, chiropractors and more all use
tools such as joint mobilization, instrumented assisted
soft tissue mobilization, taping techniques and
prescribe exercise. An intervention is used by different
healthcare professionals for different reasons. The
use of a fine filiform needle is no different.
1. Dunning J, Butts R, Mourad F, Young I, Flannagan S, Perreault T. Dry needling: a
literature review with implications for clinical practice guidelines1. Phys Ther Rev.
February 2014:108331913X13844. doi: 10.1179/108331913X13844245102034.
2. Clewley D, Flynn TW, Koppenhaver S. Trigger Point Dry Needling as an Adjunct
Treatment for a Patient With Adhesive Capsulitis of the Shoulder. J Orthop Sports
Phys Ther. 2014;44( 2):92-101. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2014.4915.
3. Salom-Moreno J, Ayuso-Casado B, Tamaral-Costa B, Sánchez-Milá Z, Fernández-de-las-Peñas C, Alburquerque-Sendín F. Trigger Point Dry Needling and
Proprioceptive Exercises for the Management of Chronic Ankle Instability: A
Randomized Clinical Trial. Evid-Based Complement Altern Med ECAM. 2015;2015.
4. Gattie E, Cleland JA, Snodgrass S. The Effectiveness of Trigger Point Dry Needling
for Musculoskeletal Conditions by Physical Therapists: A Systematic Review and
Meta-analysis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017;47( 3):133-149. doi: 10.2519/
5. NATA. competencies_5th_edition.pdf. Athletic Training Educaiton Compentencies
5th Edition. https://www.nata.org/sites/default/files/competencies_5th_edition.
pdf. Accessed April 22, 2016.
6. Saylor-Pavkovich E. STRENGTH EXERCISES COMBINED WITH DRY NEEDLING
WITH ELECTRICAL STIMULATION IMPROVE PAIN AND FUNCTION IN PATIENTS
WITH CHRONIC ROTATOR CUFF TENDINOPATHY: A RETROSPECTIVE CASE
SERIES. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2016;11( 3):409-422.
7. Lewit K. The Needle Effect in the Relief of Myofascial Pain (1979).pdf. Pain.
8. Dommerholt J. The dry needling issue. Qi–Unity Rep Am Assoc Acupunct Orient
Med. 2008. http://www.kinetacore.com/physical-therapy/The-Dry-Needling-Issue/ page42.html. Accessed July 7, 2016.
A Look At Dry Needling
Susan Falsone PT, MS, SCS, ATC, CSCS, COMT, RYT®
Founder and Owner, Structure and Function Education
Founder and Owner, S&F: Dry Needling