• Lauren Sok, PT, MPT

Trigger Point Dry Needling

Is Trigger Point Dry Needling Right for Me?

We often get the question… “What is dry needling and is it right for me?”

If you haven’t experienced dry needling done to yourself, by now you probably know of someone who has. Dry needling has become so commonplace in physical therapy practice, that many clients feel they aren’t getting the most out of their therapy if it’s not part of their treatment. The question always arises though: “What exactly is Trigger Point Dry Needling?”

We are here to explain and hopefully provide some answers to these frequently asked questions.


What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a highly effective technique that’s used to treat patients who are suffering from pain generated from myofascial trigger points (tight “knots” in a muscle). It is a form of therapy in which fine needles are inserted in myofascial trigger points, tendons, ligaments or near nerves in order to stimulate a healing response in painful musculoskeletal conditions. When stimulated by a needle, the trigger point knots are released in the muscle thereby eliminating the source of pain.


Is Dry Needling similar to Acupuncture?

Dry needling is not acupuncture or Oriental Medicine; that is, it is not done with the purpose of altering the flow of energy (“Qi”) along traditional Chinese meridians for the treatment of diseases. In fact, dry-needling is a modern, scientific-based intervention for the treatment of pain and dysfunction in musculoskeletal conditions such as neck pain, shoulder impingement, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, knee pain, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, or low back pain.


What is a Trigger Point?

Trigger points or muscle “knots” are sensitive spots in soft tissue. These contracted sensitive knots restrict blood flow, causing a drop in oxygen and pH; this causes chemicals to be released which stimulates pain receptors. Trigger points are painful when pressure is applied and over time can refer to other areas of the body. When pain is felt in a part of the body other than its actual source, it is called referred pain. This explains why pain such as headaches or sciatica can be felt in the back of the head or down the leg, when the source of pain is actually coming from the spine.


Below is an example of a referred pain pattern. The origin of the problem (the star symbol) is in the buttock region, but the pain can be felt down the back of the leg instead (red pattern).


How Does Dry Needling Work?

Based on the pioneering studies by Dr. Jay Shah and colleagues at the National Institute of Health, the goal of dry needling is to insert a thin needle into the trigger point causing a twitch response. This helps to restore blood flow and oxygen causing favorable biochemical changes in the area. By getting rid of these trigger points, we can break the pain cycle and improve muscle function.


Is Dry Needling right for Me?

Anyone looking to quickly improve their pain can benefit from dry needling. Dry needling is a great supplement to traditional forms of physical therapy such as exercise, manual therapy, stretching, and education on daily and work-related postures. The key is that it creates very quick, but long-lasting improvements in pain. As a result, our clients get back to being healthy and active sooner.


Below are some conditions that Dry Needling works well for:

  • Neck pain

  • Low back pain

  • Shoulder tendinitis

  • Tennis elbow

  • Headaches

  • Knee pain

  • Shin splints

  • Plantar fasciitis


If you’re looking to supplement your physical therapy with a treatment that produces quick, long-lasting improvements in pain, give us a call at 404.907.4196 or send us an email at info@functionizehealth.com. We’re ready to get you back to being healthy and active as soon as possible.


Thanks for reading,

-Lauren Sok, Physical Therapist


Lauren Sok, Founder of Functionize Health & Physical Therapy, brings 18 years of physical therapy practice and expertise in treating orthopedic and sports medicine related injuries. She incorporates a functional medicine approach in treating the whole person to find the root cause of a problem, rather than treating one body part at a time. Lauren holds a Master of Physical Therapy and Bachelor of Science in Health Science from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. She is a Certified Stott Pilates Instructor, a Clinical Instructor at the Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program, Emory University, and is trained in Redcord Neurac and Trigger Point Dry Needling. Lauren’s email is lauren@functionizehealth.com. More information can be found at www.functionizehealth.com.

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