Dry Needling or Functional Dry Needling (FDN) is a skilled intervention performed by physical therapists that involves the insertion of thin monofilament needles into the skin to address areas of pain, muscular tension, and functional movement impairments. The primary goal of Dry Needling is to improve a patient’s function and should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan to address both mobility and pain.
Will I benefit from Dry Needling? FDN may be indicated to address:
Trigger points/muscle spasm
Scar tissue formation
Physiological benefits of Dry Needling:
Elicit a twitch response of the affected muscles, shown to alleviate spontaneous electrical activity of the muscle, reduce the concentration of unwanted inflammatory and pain related chemicals, and relax taut bands of muscle.
For chronic conditions, FDN creates a natural inflammatory response that increases blood flow and collagen proliferation through activation of fibroblasts and pro-inflammatory mediators. This natural inflammation positively influences neuromuscular healing, remodeling, and muscle recruitment
Who cannot have Dry Needling? (Contraindications)
Children younger than 12
Patients with needle aversion
Patients with cognitive impairments
Local skin lesions
Patients on anticoagulant therapy
Compromised immune systems
First trimester of pregnancy
Vascular disease (i.e. varicose veins)
Following a surgical procedure where the joint capsule has been opened (requires MD approval if < 3 months)
What can I expect from the procedure?
FDN needling is performed following a complete physical therapy evaluation.
The physical therapist may choose to utilize electrical stimulation attached to the needles to achieve local twitch response and release of endorphins for greater pain mediation.
Active movement and/or additional manual treatment are recommended following FDN sessions to promote normal movement patterns and muscle firing.
Some muscle soreness and mild bruising may occur following a FDN procedure.
Although variable, most patients should experience pain relief and improved function within 1 to 4 sessions. FDN should be discontinued if no improvement occurs after 4 sessions.
As part of procedural guidelines, written patient consent and OSHA Blood Borne Pathogen standards are used with all FDN sessions.
APTA, Description of Dry Needling in Clinical Practice: An educational resource paper. 2013
Dry Needling Institute of American Academy of Manipulative Therapy. 2018