What is trigger point dry needling?

Trigger point dry needling is a therapy that involves inserting needles into specific points in muscles. This helps jump-start the healing process. It can also reduce pain and improve your ability to move your muscles.

During this procedure, a thin needle pierces your skin and goes into the muscle. Because you're not being injected with a medication or other solution, it's called dry needling. The needle itself is the treatment.

Trigger points are knots in your muscles that can cause pain. Inserting needles into these points helps release the knots to reduce pain. While trigger point dry needling and acupuncture might seem like the same treatment, they are only similar in their use of sterile filament needles. Trigger point dry needling differs in how doctors use it and what it does.

What to expect from trigger point dry needling

Before heading to your appointment for trigger point dry needling, be sure to change into loose, comfortable clothing. You'll need to be able to roll or pull up your clothing so that the therapist can access the area they're treating.

You'll sit or lie on the exam table in a position that lets the therapist access the affected muscles. The therapist inserts the needles slowly into the proper positions. You'll experience a local twitch response (LTR) after. This is an involuntary reflex and part of the treatment process. There is very little pain involved with the treatment. The twitch feels like a muscle cramp.

Trigger point dry needling sessions usually last about half an hour. The time varies depending on the patient and the treatment. You can expect to feel some improvements within the first 24 hours. Long-lasting effects require weekly sessions spread out over a few weeks.

There are few side effects with this treatment. You may experience some bruising or muscle soreness following your session.

Common conditions requiring trigger point dry needling

Trigger point dry needling is effective in treating a variety of pain issues, including:

  • Sciatica
  • Arthritis
  • Tendonitis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Herniated discs
  • Overuse injuries
  • Muscle and ligament strains

Mercy Health locations that can treat you