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What are the pros and cons of dry needling?



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Dry needling is a therapeutic technique that is gaining popularity in physical therapy. During dry needling, a certified physical therapist manually inserts thin, sterile needles into specific points of the body, known as trigger points or muscular knots, to help alleviate pain and improve muscle function. Dry needling has shown promise in treating various conditions seen through physical therapy, and like all treatments, it comes with a set of pros and cons. 

Pros of dry needling

This noninvasive procedure can be beneficial for those seeking relief from a variety of physical therapy. The pros of dry needling can include:

  • Pain relief — One of the main benefits of dry needling is its ability to provide pain relief. By targeting trigger points, dry needling aims to help release tension in muscles. It can also reduce pain that is associated with musculoskeletal conditions. 
  • Muscle function improvement — Dry needling can help improve muscle function. It can help by promoting better blood circulation and oxygen flow to the targeted area. This can also help reduce muscle stiffness and improve your overall flexibility and range of motion. 
  • A complement to other therapies — Dry needling can be used on its own or in conjunction with other physical therapy modalities. It can complement treatments like therapeutic exercise or manual therapy.
  • Quick recovery — After a dry needling session, patients can have a quick recovery. This is because dry needling is a noninvasive procedure and can allow you to resume your regular activities shortly after the treatment is over. 
  • Effectiveness — Dry needling has been shown to be effective in helping to treat a wide variety of physical therapy conditions. It can be beneficial in helping myofascial pain syndrome, tension headaches, fibromyalgia and various sports-related injuries.
  • Minimally invasive treatment — When compared to surgical interventions, dry needling is minimally invasive. The thin needles used in this technique can cause minimal discomfort. It is also unlikely to cause other serious side effects when performed by a certified practitioner.
  • Patient-specific treatment — Dry needling can be highly adaptable to your individual needs. Practitioners can customize the treatment to target specific trigger points. This can help address the unique characteristics of your condition. 

Cons of dry needling

While it can be an incredibly beneficial treatment, dry needling does come with some drawbacks. The potential cons and considerations can include:

  • Temporary discomfort — Some patients may experience temporary discomfort during or after a dry needling session. If discomfort is experienced, it usually goes away quickly. However, it can be a concern if you have a low threshold for pain. 
  • Bruising and soreness — It can be common to experience bruising or soreness at needle insertion sites. Although these side effects are usually mild and temporary, they can be a source of discomfort for some people. 
  • Risk of infection — Like any procedure that involves penetrating the skin, there is a minimal risk of infection that comes with dry needling. Certified practitioners must follow strict hygiene protocols to minimize the risk of infection. 
  • Not suitable for all — Dry needling may not be a suitable treatment option for everyone. Those with certain medical conditions or those who are pregnant should not receive a dry needling treatment. It’s essential for certified practitioners to assess each patient before recommending or using dry needling as a treatment. 
  • Skill dependent — Dry needling should only be done by a certified practitioner. If an unqualified person does the treatment, there is an increased risk of complications. 

Conditions that can benefit from dry needling

Dry needling has shown promise in helping address a variety of conditions, including but not limited to:

  • Neck pain — Dry needling can be an effective treatment in helping chronic neck pain. This is due to targeting trigger points that can help relieve muscle tension in the neck and shoulder area. 
  • Back pain — People who suffer from back pain may find relief through dry needling. It can help release tension in affected muscles in the upper, middle or lower back. 
  • Elbow pain — Conditions like tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow may benefit from dry needling. It can help alleviate muscular tightness.
  • Pelvic pain — For people who suffer from pelvic pain, dry needling can help target trigger points in the pelvic muscles. It can help contribute to pain reduction and improved function. 
  • Repetitive strain injuries — Dry needling can be added to rehabilitation treatments for repetitive strain injuries. It can help address muscular imbalances and promote improved recovery. 
  • Tendinitis Tendinitis can be managed by dry needling. It can help reduce inflammation and improve tendon function. 
  • Disc problems — People who are dealing with herniated discs or disc-related problems may find relief with dry needling treatments. Dry needling can help target muscles that help support the spine. 
  • Joint problems — Dry needling can help manage joint problems by addressing muscular issues around affected joints. This can lead to improved mobility and joint function. 
  • TMJ disorders TMJ disorders can cause jaw pain and dysfunction. Dry needling can help address muscular issues that can contribute to TMJ disorders. 
  • Headaches Tension headache sufferers may find pain relief with dry needling treatments. It can help alleviate muscle tightness in the neck and shoulder muscles. 

Dry needling can be a beneficial physical therapy treatment that can provide pain relief and improved muscle function. However, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons before receiving this treatment. 

REPAIR SI offers dry needling that can help reduce your pain

At REPAIR SI, we offer three dry needling techniques. Our expert team will determine which is the best technique for your symptoms so we can help you get back to your normal routine. However, we understand you may have reservations about this technique and can help you weigh the pros and cons to see if dry needling is the right treatment for your specific needs. We strive to ensure that each patient receives compassionate and effective care on their journey toward their optimal health and well-being. 

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.