Dry Needling for the Arm & Hand


This past weekend, Ortho Rhode Island hosted an Upper Extremity and Hand Dry Needling Certification Course with Integrative Dry Needling. We are pleased to say our Hand Therapy team is now fully trained and ready to provide these services to our patients.

So what exactly is dry needling and what does it do?
Dry needling is a minimally invasive therapeutic modality that uses a fine point needle to target and promote healing in symptomatic tissues. On a neurophysiological level, dry needling creates small lesions to the identified inflamed and irritated tissues it penetrates which in turn facilitates self-healing immune responses of increased microcirculation and inflammatory mediators. It has been shown to decrease pain, reduce inflammation, increase range of motion and tissue extensibility, promote circulation, decrease edema, and facilitate tissue healing. The outcome of this is a patient’s increased functional use of their upper extremity and return to their meaningful activities.

What can dry needling help to treat?
Dry needling has been found to be an effective adjunct treatment for myofascial pain, acute and chronic muscle injuries, tendinopathies, nerve syndromes, and even arthritis. Emerging clinical research has shown significant benefits of upper extremity dry needling for lateral epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow), trigger finger, osteoarthritis, shoulder impingement, and carpal and cubital tunnel syndromes.

To highlight a few articles in the current literature:
- A clinical trial on treatment of lateral epicondylitis from 2021 demonstrated that five dry needling sessions proved to be more effective and longer lasting than a single cortisone injection during the 6 months of follow up (Uygur & Yilmazoglu, 2021).
- Another randomized-controlled study from 2019 on trigger finger found just one dry needling treatment had decreased pain, improved pinch strength, and decreased tendon inflammation and size among the study participants (Azizian et al., 2019).
- A number of recently published case reports have found that dry needling can be beneficial for symptom resolution of carpal, cubital, and radial tunnel syndromes at therapy discharge and maintained at 6 month follow ups (Toopchizadeh et al, 2020; Anandkumar & Manivasagam, 2019; Anandkumar, 2019).

What can you expect when you come to see our Hand Therapy team?
Our occupational and hand therapists will take the time at the first visit to evaluate your underlying symptoms and pathology and use this information to recommend a comprehensive treatment plan. Dry needling can be used in combination with traditional therapeutic approaches including other modalities, exercise, and education on body mechanics, ergonomics, and joint protection to promote a patient’s quicker return to function. They will educate on the risks and benefits of dry needling and discuss expected timeline and prognosis. They will closely monitor effects and progress throughout the course of dry needling treatment sessions and adjust dosage and techniques as necessary to maximize improvements. Typical side effects are temporary and minimal such as muscle soreness, muscle fatigue, and mild bruising. The benefits are decreased pain and increased ability to participate in therapeutic services to maximize functional gains.

Ask more about dry needling and if it could be right for you at your next visit with our Ortho Rhode Island Hand Therapy team!


Anandkumar, S. (2019). Effect of dry needling on radial tunnel syndrome: A case report. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 35(4), 373-382.

Anandkumar, S., & Manivasagam, M. (2019). Effect of dry needling on cubital tunnel syndrome: Three case reports. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 35(4), 363-372.

Azizian, M., Bagheri, H., Olyaei, G., Shadmehr, A., Okhovatpour, M. A., Dehghan, P., ... & Sarafraz, H. (2019). Effects of dry needling on tendon-pulley architecture, pain and hand function in patients with trigger finger: a randomized controlled trial study. Journal of physical therapy science, 31(4), 295-298.

Toopchizadeh, V., Karimnia, S., Sadat, B. E., Jahanjoo, F., & Zakaria, M. (2020). Effects of forearm myofascial trigger point dry needling on pain and function of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Crescent Journal of Medical and Biological Sciences, 7(3).

Uygur, E., Aktaş, B., & Yilmazoglu, E. G. (2021). The use of dry needling vs. corticosteroid injection to treat lateral epicondylitis: a prospective, randomized, controlled study. Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, 30(1), 134-139.