Information for Patients by Uplands Physio Clinic ©

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is an intervention that uses a tiny needle to treat muscles to diminish pain and stiffness. 

Dry needling will cause small temporary muscle cramps that should improve treatment outcomes.

Dry needling is not the same as acupuncture

Acupuncture needling is often more superficial and several needles are used. The needles remain in for some time and have an effect on the 'energy' in the body.

Dry needling uses one needle that briefly stimulates the muscle and it is not an ‘energy’ treatment. Click here for a comparison between the two therapies.

What is a trigger point?

A trigger point is a ‘knot’ in a muscle that can cause local pain and often also referred pain that is felt elsewhere.

The physical therapist will look for these spots because they can be one of the reasons for your symptoms.

Trigger points can lead to:

  • pain/stiffness locally in a muscle pain and at a distance so called ‘referred pain’
  • mobility restrictions in nearby joints
  • less strength in the involved muscle
  • pain avoidance behavior - you are moving 'differently'
  • tingling in the arm/leg, headaches or dizziness.

How can trigger points start?

  • Acute moment, e.g. a wrong move (lifting) or an accident or sports injury.
  • Chronic cause, e.g. a prolonged poor posture or repetitive strain.
  • Prolonged lack of movement, e.g., in a brace or sling or frozen shoulder.
  • 'Slack' ligaments in e.g., in ankles or knees.
  • Psychological factors such as anxiety or depression.
  • Instability or leg length difference or foot problems.
  • Tight clothing or improper ergonomics, e.g., wearing a heavy backpack or purse.

What does a physical therapist check for?

The physical therapist will talk to you first and the conduct an assessment. Your muscles will be checked for ‘trigger points’ that may be part of your problem.

What is the treatment aimed at?

Treatment is aimed at eliminating these trigger points through targeted insertion of the tiny needle. In case of chronic complaints, the therapist will often treat several muscles in your arm or leg, as well as some muscles along the spine.

What does dry needling feel like?

The needle used is very thin, much thinner than the hollow needle used for injections or blood samples. You should not feel the needle entering your skin. If your muscle is affected, you may feel a peculiar sensation like a small muscle cramp. This is a distinctive type of ‘discomfort’ caused by the muscle grasping the needle. The needling causes your abnormal muscle shortening to intensify for a moment then release, followed by relaxation. It is important that you experience this sensation in order to gain lasting effects.

What can I expect following a treatment?

Occasionally, some symptoms become worse before they improve. This usually only lasts 1 to 2 days. Some people obtain relief immediately and some patients notice improvement after a few hours. Most people require several treatments before responding; some do not respond. The number of treatments required varies with each person and condition.

Try to do these things after the treatment:

  • Rest, if possible.
  • Apply heat or ice, if necessary.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid strenuous activities for 1 to 2 days.
  • Continue to take medications as directed by your physician.

The physiotherapist will combine dry needling with other forms of physical therapy such as a tailored exercise program to keep your muscles released and relaxed.


Physical therapists receive training in dry needling by completing three courses.
The first course is focused on treating the muscles of the arm and leg.
The second course is focused on treating the muscles of the spine and thorax.
The third course focuses on treating patients with headaches and/or jaw problems.


Physical therapists who are registered on our website comply with all requirements to safely and competently conduct dry needling.

Any questions or comments?

Go to our contact page and we will send you a message back soon. Or contact your local therapist; he/she will be happy to talk to you.


© Uplands Physio Clinic: text and/or photos may be reproduced only with written permission.  



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