Trigger point dry needling (or TDN) is a common therapeutic pain relief option that falls in the wheelhouse of physical therapy. It involves an expert physical therapist gently inserting fine needles into a targeted muscle or muscle area that is causing you pain, also called your trigger points. As the needles are inserted, you will experience pain release from the needles ‘releasing’ the pain and stress built up on your trigger point(s). Dry needling is an excellent choice to reduce your pain, deactivate specific trigger points that cause pain, and help restore your mobility and function. It is usually recommended as part of your overall physical therapy treatment.
You can contact us a Peake Physical Therapy to learn if TDN is right for you:
What is trigger point dry needling?
Also known as trigger point therapy, dry needling refers to a highly trained physical therapist inserting very small, fine needles into the affected muscle that is causing you pain or limited mobility. These areas are called your pain trigger points and dry needling is designed to relieve your pain.
Dry needling is a subset of physical therapy. It may be recommended by your physical therapist as part of your overall treatment plan that can also include traditional physical therapy. It is called ‘dry’ needling because the small needle inserted doesn’t contain any medication and is not an injection, but it is used to relieve pain when it is inserted into muscle tissue.
Dry needling is different than acupuncture because it is a product of modern Western medicine that is fully supported by clinical medical research.
When do I need dry needling?
If you are experiencing muscular pain, chronic stiffness, or limited mobility, dry needling may be an excellent choice to relieve pain and improve functionality.
You can benefit from dry needling therapy if you are experiencing any of the following issues:
- Chronic muscle pain
- Neck or back pain
- Hip or knee pain
- Sports injuries
- Chronic headaches
- Plantar fascitis
- Acute Injuries
- Muscle strains or sprains
- Chronic muscle spasms
- General musculoskeletal pain
How effective is dry needling?
Clinical research proves that dry needling is an effective treatment to ease pain, reduce chronic muscle tension, increase mobility, and normalize dysfunctions in your muscle tissue. Dry needling is used as a part of a broader treatment plan for chronic pain and limited mobility issues.
A clinical study of dry needling effect on patients with low-back pain found that dry needling was an effective treatment. The study found it reduced patients’ pain, reduced the number and sensitivity of trigger points, reduced sensitivity in the treated area, and helped treat patients’ issues with kinesiophobia (a ‘fear of movement’ that many patients struggle with when they know certain movements can or may lead to pain).
Is dry needling painful? Does it cause bleeding?
Many patients don’t experience any pain or negative side effects after receiving dry needling therapy, yet some may experience mild side effects that last a short while.
Dry needling is usually not very painful. You may experience some temporary pain that will occur between 24 to 48 hours after the dry needling treatment. This temporary pain or uncomfortableness will usually go away on its own after 24-48 hours. However, your physical therapist can recommend certain practices to help it go away faster. Those recommendations include mild to moderate activity, gentle stretching at the targeted area, and a light massage to the treated area.
Some patients may experience mild side effects. These side effects are temporary and can include:
- Temporary pain at the treated area
- Mild skin reaction such as small red spots (these typically go away within a few hours)
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Minor bruising or bleeding (this occurs in just around 10 percent of people)
- Fainting (this rarely occurs and generally only happens to people with low blood pressure or who are dehydrated or hungry)
Although there can be mild side effects to dry needling therapy, the benefits of this natural healing procedure far outweigh the potential side effects.
How long do the results last?
Most patients experience an immediate improvement in functionality and mobility after a dry needling treatment and will feel less pain within the first 24 hours. After undergoing 2 or 3 sessions one time per week you will usually feel the lasting positive effects of dry needle therapy.
The average dry needling patient will undergo 2 or 3 sessions once a week. For more severe issues or rare conditions, 5 to 6 sessions, sometimes 2 per week, may be recommended. A dry needling session lasts about 20 to 30 minutes. However, your physical therapist may compile the session with traditional physical therapy like targeted stretching or range-of-motion exercises to boost the effects of dry needling.
What does dry needling cost?
The out-of-pocket cost for a dry needling session is very feasible. The cost per session ranges from $35 to $85, on average. The initial evaluation can cost more depending on your specific issue or injury and your overall physical therapy needs. Other elements may be added to a standard dry needling therapy session, increasing the cost. This can include joint manipulations, electrical stimulation, muscle massage, and traditional physical therapy exercises.
Is trigger point dry needling covered by insurance?
Trigger point dry needling is not covered by every insurance plan. Your individual healthcare plan determines your coverage. Your healthcare provider should provide a prescription before you begin dry needling therapy. This can increase the chance that some or all of the cost is covered by your insurance.