See our COVID-19 policies and procedures to keep everyone safe and healthy! CLICK HERE

Tips & Techniques to Get You Back to Full Strength

Understanding Dry Needling and How It Could Help You!

Abby Schenk 
June 11, 2020
Understanding Dry Needling and How It Could Help You!

Dry Needling is a skilled intervention performed by a Certified Dry Needling Specialist.  Dry Needling is the use of a filiform needle that penetrates the skin to stimulate the underlying myofascial trigger points, connective tissue, and muscular junctions for the management of neuromuscular pain and movement impairments.  This technique uses the needle to diminish the persistent nociceptive input.  Nociceptors are sensory receptors that help us perceive pain.  The needle activates new input to the brain, diminishing the bad/painful input, and stimulates release of myofascial and skeletal muscle dysfunction, thus restoring impairments and function leading to decreased activity and participation tolerance.

The use of the needle allows for a chemical reaction to happen through mechanical transduction once the needle is in place.  The hypothesis behind a trigger point within a muscle is ACh or acetylcholine has an abnormal release into the neuromuscular junction.  This abnormal release causes tension in the muscle fiber constricting blood flow, decreasing mitochondrial metabolism, increasing nociception or release of sensitizing substances, resulting in pain and tenderness.  The effects of needling are to help promote normal muscle activation patterns, change local circulation, create a central nervous system effect, anti-inflammatory effect, autonomic nervous system change, change in muscle thickness, range of motion, and strength.

The intervention is performed after the skilled clinician has performed a thorough functional screen, and palpated or scanned the soft tissue to identify areas of muscle, fascial trigger point, or movement dysfunction.  Often the patient will have initial pressure or pinch with penetration and sometimes will experience short bouts of ache, burning, or twitch response in the muscle.  The skin will often produce a vasomotor response of redness, puckering, and less often referral pain that subsides once the needle is removed.  The initial response usually lasts a few seconds followed by no symptoms.  Some patients will experience mild soreness, bruising following intervention.  We recommend heating and resting following a session.

Dry needling is used to treat many different conditions.  However, to name a few:

Joint dysfunction

Disk Pathology



Complex regional Pain syndrome

Vestibular Conditions





Post-surgical with guidelines


Let us explain the difference between Dry Needling and Acupuncture.  Both forms of intervention use a filiform needle in which the needle penetrates the fascial and skeletal muscle to produce an improved outcome.  The main difference is the principle and reasoning for the intervention.  Acupuncture was founded 2,000 years ago based upon the principle of Chinese Medicine to normalize energy balance or Chi.  The Acupuncturist address the systemic system effecting illnesses.  Dry Needling addresses the neuromuscular, myofascial, and autonomic system to stimulate an immune response.  The process of Dry Needling is founded on the principles of scientific research and the chemical responses the body has shown under ultrasound guided dry needling as well as the functional responses noted in multiple research studies.  Therefore, same needle and similar technique with different principles to address and promote healing and stimulate a positive change within the body.

Lastly, some dry needling side effects are normal and usually very minimal.  Some side effects include fatigue, occasional pain, and very rarely bleeding and bruising.  There are areas of the body that we do not treat in which we call the no go zones.  The clinician is skilled to understand the anatomy for safe needle technique and placement. This is not to say we do not have contraindications or conditions that we may direct a client in a less invasive intervention or treatment.

Meet the Author
Abby graduated with her doctorate in Physical Therapy from the St. Francis University in 2013. Since graduation she has been spending her time advancing her manual and professional skills through additional certifications. Her vision is to be able to offer elite services to her patients through spending quality one on one time in order to education, specify individualized therapy sessions, and make a greater long-term impact by creating adaptable changes. Her mission is to refine the physical therapy experience by creating a path of recovery unique to each and above the standard of care. Abby ran cross-country, track, and was on the high school swim team. She went on to run cross-country and track in college and was All- American, and captain. She loves working with the fitness athlete, the collegiate athlete, and the active adult population because she understands personally what it feels like to be both on the injury and recovery side. Abby understands life happens and the body gets tired of our daily poor movement habits, however her intention is to prevent injuries from interfering with your health and fitness goals. Her mission is to empower her patients to be their very best self and move freely without pain or restraints. The outcome is accelerated healing by providing the highest level of skilled services for each patient’s needs. Combining a patient’s dedication, higher level sport-specific conditioning, and movement re-training, the result will be the best you. Some of Abby’s advanced training includes: Rock tape and Certified Rock Blades Technique Specialist, Blood Flow Restriction Certified, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, Myofascial Decompression, Myofascial Release, Pose Certified Running Technique Specialist, amongst other advanced education.