Pros and Cons of Dry Needling

Dry needling is a practice in which a medical professional uses needles to relieve pain and tension in affected areas of a patient’s body. This has become very popular in US. However, the Pros and Cons of dry needling are not known by many. Understanding the pros and cons of dry needling is important. This article will explore everything about dry needling and Pros and Cons of Dry Needling as well will be discussed

What is dry needling?

The primary aim is to relieve muscle pain and cramping, but it may also help to improve a person’s flexibility.

Pros and Cons of Dry Needling
dry needling

A practitioner inserts short, thin, stainless steel filiform needles into pressure points. Also called trigger points, these are tight areas or knots in the muscles. The needles contain no liquid, and nothing is injected.

Sports therapists and other physical therapists typically perform dry needling. Due to a lack of regulation and guidelines, a person can perform dry needling with minimal training and no license.

It is often very difficult to tell whether a practitioner has been trained, has adequate experience, or is performing the procedure correctly.

The most common practice is to leave a filiform needle in the muscle for 10–30 minutes.

Types of dry needling 

There are various types of dry needling. Here are the common types below 

Trigger Point

Trigger point dry needling is just what it sounds like; when your patient’s pain stems from an active trigger point, you can use a needle to directly address that single spot until it releases (Gattie et al, 2017). If your patient’s pain generator is an active trigger point, trigger point dry needling would be a very effective method of dry needling. 


Superficial dry needling (Baldry 2002; Griswold, 2019) is commonly used by many hands-on healthcare professionals. The needle is only inserted a few millimeters into the skin, reaching the epidermal layer but avoiding the muscle or bone. This method of needling targets the sensorimotor system: the needle changes the sensory input, therefore changing the motor output. Pain can be significantly altered as well. 


Deep dry needling (Ceccherelli et al 2002; Boluk 2016; Fernández-Carnero et al 2017) is a higher-skilled method of needling that targets the muscle directly. In some areas of the body, manually manipulating a particular muscle can be challenging depending on the location of the target muscle and the tissues that are surrounding the target muscle. Deep dry needling allows clinicians to get into the target muscle to create a change in pain perception, impact scar tissue or relax/ decrease tightness.  

Periosteal Pecking

Periosteal pecking involves using a dry needle to actually peck at the bone in an attempt to help with healing (Dunning et al, 2018). This triggers neuroendocrine responses which, when done intracapsularly, can help from those dealing with painful osteoarthritis symptoms.  Hyaluronic acid production, anti-inflammatory processes and increases in endogenous opioid levels are other reasons why we think periosteal pecking is effective, specifically in knee osteoarthritis. 

Electrical Stimulation

Adding electrical stimulation to the needles is a specialized form of dry needling. The addition of electrical stimulation triggers a neuroendocrine response that is different than needles alone (Butts and Dunning 2016, Perreault et al 2018). This form of dry needling taps into different pain modulation centers and pathways in the central nervous system, making it a possible choice for chronic pain patients and patients with osteoarthritis.

What kinds of pain does dry needling treat?

Dry needling is almost always used as a part of an overall plan that will likely include some type of exercise, manual therapy, heat therapy, and education. Dry needling is used to increase range of motion that may be limited due to muscle tightness or scar tissue. Dry needling may also treat:

  • Joint problems
  • Disk problems
  • Tendinitis
  • Migraine and tension-type headaches
  • Jaw and mouth problems (such as temporomandibular joint disorders or TMD)
  • Repetitive motion disorders (like carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Spinal problems
  • Pelvic pain
  • Night cramps
  • Phantom pain
  • Post-herpetic neuralgia (pain left behind by shingles)

Pros/ Advantages of Dry Needling

Dry needling, like any other therapies has it own advantages. We will discuss the Pros and cons of dry needling in this section. Some of the advantages are:

It Can Help Relieve Pain

Dry needling may also help treat some types of chronic pain, such as low back pain and tension headaches. It might also improve posture, relieve muscle spasms caused by tension, or eliminate certain trigger points commonly found in injured athletes (professional or otherwise).  However, there is little research on these benefits. Dry needling has also been used for certain types of pain in areas that are hard to reach, such as the foot and ankle. In particular, dry needling has been found to relieve joint pain caused by arthritis or an injury

Dry Needling helps improve posture

Dry needling can improve your posture, which is important for preventing injuries in the future. Posture plays a huge role in both proper biomechanics and physical health.

Poor postural habits result in poor body mechanics, imbalances within muscles, excessive stress on joints and bones, and pain throughout your entire body.

Dry needling has been shown to help reduce muscular hypertonicity (tension) by relaxing overactive muscles that resist ideal alignment of the spine. This helps patients suffering from the upper or lower crossed syndrome, common conditions associated with bad postures.

Dry Needling Can Be Combined with Treatments

Dry needling may be used alone or in combination with other treatments to relieve various ailments. Dry needling might be used alone or in conjunction with other therapies to alleviate discomfort.

Electrical stimulation may enhance the dry needling treatment for those who have persistent musculoskeletal problems, such as chronic low back pain.

Quick and Easy

Dry needling is known for providing precise, fast results that can counter pain in those hard-to-reach areas of the body. When performed by a skilled professional, dry needling is a safe therapy that is not incredibly invasive. The procedure is also relatively quick, and few restrictions follow, meaning that you can quickly get back to your regular life after receiving treatment.

Other Pros Of Dry Needling

  • It is an effective technique for the treatment of muscular.
  • Patients usually feel an immediate improvement in the mobility of the muscles treated. 
  • It can assist in reducing a patient’s need for pain medication.
  • Facilitates tissue repair after an injury
  • Dry Needling can reduce inflammation related to tendinitis, arthritis, impingement, or stress fractures. 
  • It is more specific and can target deeper muscles than massage or even instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (i.e., Graston technique).
  • The needle used is a solid filament needle. It is smaller than a typical needle like the ones used in a doctor’s office for injections. 
  • It is beneficial in season and during competition, without any need for rest due to the procedure. 

Cons of Dry Needling

Like most medical therapies, dry needling comes with a few risks you might want to be aware of. Here are few cons of Dry Needling. 

Potentially Painful

Some people experience soreness in the area being treated up to one week after a series of sessions, especially if trigger points are present in more than one muscle group.

Dry Needling is Expensive

Another con of dry needling is that it is not covered by health insurance.  The cost for the treatment I received was $1200. If you decide to try dry needling, make sure that you find a practitioner who has a lot of experience with it and has worked with people in similar circumstances as yourself.

Allergic Reaction

Some patients may be allergic to the material of needles, such as titanium which is used for dry needling. This could cause a rash, itching, and redness around the area where needles are inserted if you have an allergy to them.

If this occurs after treatment, your doctor should stop performing it on you immediately since there is a risk that continuing with these treatments will worsen your condition or even result in death due to anaphylactic shock from allergies.

Can causes Bruising and Swelling

Needles could cause bruising and swelling around the area where they are inserted, which may not be suitable for some patients with certain conditions or if their skin is very thin, causing them to bruise easily.

Dry needling can also make your pain worse in the short term because of this increased inflammation before it starts decreasing your pain levels after a few days.

People with bleeding disorders should avoid dry needling since needles may cause internal bleeding, resulting in a larger risk of complications.

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