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Dry Needling – Not What it Seems

By Dr Emily Wills

What is dry needling? Is it like acupuncture? I get asked these questions all the time from patients who have never tried dry needles before, so I think it is about time that we fully understand what Dry Needling is.

Dry Needling uses acupuncture needles to breakdown myofascial trigger points (MTrP) within a muscle. A MTrP is a hyperirritable nodule felt within a taut band of the muscle and stems from the contraction of the muscle belly when it is not working properly1 – in other words it’s that lump you feel when your muscles are tight. The MTrP can cause pain over the area where you feel it, but can also refer into weird and strange places that may not quite make sense – but it is all to do with the nerves that innervate that muscle. By tapping needles into the trigger point (and surrounding trigger points) we can break down that lump and allow the muscle to relax and cause the MTrP to inactivate, relieving you of your pain1.

And this is different to Acupuncture. Both techniques use the same needles, and both are putting these needles in your body but that is where the similarities end. Where dry needling uses biomechanical concepts and principles, acupuncture comes from Chinese medicine. Needles are placed along the meridian lines of the body which are associated with organs and organ systems rather than muscle influences. The energy along this lines is then used to help relieve pain and stress. Quite different from the dry needling concept of making the muscle belly relax by breaking down the MTrP that has developed from overuse and incorrect function of that muscle.

So why should you give dry needling a go? Studies have shown that it has an immediate effect on pain levels, with a complete reduction in pain2. It has also been shown to improve the mental state and physical abilities of patients who have had the needling done. Inactivating the MTrP in turn then allows full function of the muscle1 and you can reach your peak ability. It is also a great option for me as a practitioner, especially if other manual techniques have not had the desired effect on your pain and functional levels, or if these other therapies are not able to be performed in a particular area1 – there is no place we cannot needle.

So how can you get dry needling since you now obviously need to try it? Call Nurture on 4772 2555 and book in for our In-Depth Initial Exam and Treatment and we will see if dry needling is right for you. Our chiropractors and Physios here are trained in dry needling and are able to combine this treatment in with their own specific skills to get you feeling and performing at your best. Health Rebates are available.


1. Simons. D, Travell. J & Simons. L. (1999) Travell & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction. The Trigger Point Manual. 2nd Ed. Baltimore, USA.

2. Tekin L1, Akarsu S, Durmuş O, Cakar E, Dinçer U, Kıralp MZ. 2013. The effect of dry needling in the treatment of myofascial pain syndrome: a randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled trial. Clinical Rheumatology Vol 32, 3.

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