Dry Needling By a Physical Therapist: 3 Things You Should Know

Dry Needling Services in Evanston, Illinois

Dry needling is increasingly used by a physical therapist (allowed in state of Illinois) to address acute and chronic pain in muscle, fascia, and connective tissue without the need for oral medication or injections. It diminishes pain receptors and reduces (even restores) impairments in the body’s structure and function, leading to enhanced activity. The technique uses a “dry needle” that is inserted through the skin areas of the muscle. Other names generally used to describe dry needling, includes trigger point dry needling, and intramuscular manual therapy.

Experienced physical therapists use dry needling to release or inactivate trigger points to relieve pain, decrease tightness and improve range of motion. Physical therapists may use dry needling as part of an overall treatment plan. If you are planning to try this technique, here are the top 3 things you should know about Dry Needling. 

1. Targets The Root Cause

Dry Needling (DN) is not acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) method performed by acupuncturists. Unlike TCM which utilizes several acupuncture points, DN mainly focuses on the root cause of the problem. These causes can be a trigger point or a scar tissue. 

Trigger points are discrete, focal, hyperirritable spots located in a taut band of skeletal muscle. These points can be tender to the touch, and may cause pain and tightness to other parts of the body (referred pain). For instance, trigger points along the paralumbar muscle may be sore and could result in pain in other areas such as hip or upper back, etc. Application of DN may help release these trigger points.

Dry needling can also be used with scar tissues. Scar tissues play an essential role after injury or surgery – it is a collection of cells and collagen that covers site of the injury. Overtime, excessive scar tissues may cause limitations in the range of motion and function. For example, a post knee surgery patient in a subacute-chronic stage may feel that bending is limited or “stuck”. This feeling is due to severe scarring development along the incision (superficial and deep). It also causes a decreased and non-progressing knee flexion. As a result, surgeons may advise patients to get a second surgery or Manipulation Under Anesthesia (MUA) when the ideal range of motion has not been met in a particular time period. Dry needling may help improve local circulation and flexibility of the scar tissue, which could help increase joint range of motion.

Targeting the root cause of the problem always leads to faster healing and recovery.


2. Painless

Dry needling is a process that uses a thin filiform needle, which penetrates the skin and stimulates the myofascial trigger points, scar tissue, muscular and connective tissues. This needle help the physical therapists target tissues that are deep or not superficially palpable.


3. Only Performed By an Expert

During the procedure, in compliance with Standard Precautions, Guide to Infection Prevention for Outpatient Settings, and OSHA standards, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves are worn. Non-reuseable sterile needles are disposed in a medical sharps collector after use. Performing a Dry Needling method should obtain a specific post grad education and training. Since this technique is experience-based, be sure to ask about their training and certification.


  1. Cummings MT, White AR. Needling therapies in the management of myofascial trigger point pain: a systematic review. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2001;82(7):986–992. 
  2. Kalichman L, Vulfsons S. Dry needling in the management musculoskeletal pain. J Am Board Fam Med. 2010;23(5):640–646
  3. David J Alvarez, Pamela G Rockwell

    Trigger Point Diagnosis and treatment. 2002 Feb 15;65(4):653-60.

Service available at: Evanston, IL; Northbrook, IL.

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