Pros and Cons of Dry Needling


pros and cons of dry needling


Very useful in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain, trigger point dry needling is utilized by more and more physical therapists throughout the western hemisphere. It’s considered a highly effective method to treat those that suffer from chronic or acute musculoskeletal pain. 


Dry Needling – What is It?

Dry needling is a technique used in therapy that relies on the use of a needle without the addition of any kind of injectate, such as lidocaine or corticosteroids.

It’s up to the medical practitioner as to what approach to take in terms of treatment.

In physical therapy, a solid filament needle is used to positively impact the musculoskeletal system. This is frequently referred to as a ‘reset’. The reason is, it has been shown to positively impact the following:

  • muscle mobility
  • an improved capacity of our muscles to fire, contract, and support our skeletal system


So, by using a solid filament needle together with the physiotherapist’s advanced knowledge of the body’s anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, as well as neurophysiology, dry needling can be used to improve body mobility and function and to also reduce pain.




Pros And Cons Of Dry Needling

Thinking if dry needling is a good approach for you? Here are the pros and cons of dry needling:



The Pros


Not as Invasive 

In comparison to manual exercises and manual therapies, there’s no argument that dry needling is a much less invasive treatment. Hence, it’s suitable for patients that are unable to undertake manual exercises and therapies due to their condition.


Effective as an Alternative

Dry needling makes an effective pain-reducing alternative for those that are unable to tolerate surgeries, injections, and medication side effects.



When dry needling is used it permits the therapist to target specific muscles that cause pain. It is much more precise than various other treatments like stretching techniques and manual therapy, both of which are better used to treat larger areas rather than pinpoint a particular area. 


More Rapid Recovery

In comparison to other forms of treatment, dry needling can lead to a more rapid recovery.

It has been demonstrated that when dry needling is used, it can speed up the time it takes to recover from physical injury as well as help to increase range of motion through the promotion of blood flow in and around injured tissues. This, in turn, provides the necessary nutrients that cells require for repair. 

As a result, pain, inflammation, swelling, and muscle spasms are all reduced.

Because dry needling helps to reduce the formation of scar tissue when tissues are damaged, it also encourages more rapid healing. 


Use in Combination with Other Treatments

Dry needling can be used alone or in combination with other treatments to relieve various ailments. 


Improves Posture

When dry needling is used, it can help to improve posture. When body posture is poor, it can result in muscular imbalance, an excess of bone and joint stress, poor body mechanics, and general body pain. 




The Cons

Lots of benefits, yes, but there’s no argument that dry needling isn’t without its downsides. Let’s consider those downsides now. 



If the practice of dry needling is carried out incorrectly, it can prove to be a dangerous procedure. This is because it’s a particularly precise technique. 

Even when the technique is carried out in a proper fashion, the patient can be injured, particularly if the treatment is carried out in more sensitive areas like near the mouth or eyes. 


Swelling and Bruising 

When inserted, needles can cause swelling and bruising. If your skin is particularly thin or you suffer from certain conditions, dry needling may not be appropriate due to its potential for bruising. 

Dry needling can also intensify pain over the shorter term due to increased inflammation. After the initial few days, however, pain levels will very likely decrease. 

Those that have bleeding disorders are best to avoid dry needling because the needles can cause internal bleeding which results in a heightened risk of complications. 


Possible Allergic Reaction

Dry needling relies on the use of titanium needles. Titanium can cause an allergic reaction in some people and may result in rashes, itching, excessive redness, and swelling.

If you do suffer from an allergic reaction, it is highly advisable to avoid further dry needling treatment since it can worsen your condition and may even result in death because of allergy-induced anaphylactic shock. 


Temporary Pain

Among the advantages of dry needling? It offers rapid results. Nevertheless, there’s a higher level of discomfort and pain during the early days after treatment which can prove to be very uncomfortable.

Sometimes, dry needling can make the patient feel worse until the body begins to have an improved response to the treatment which generally occurs with consistent treatment over time. 



Dry needling therapy generally costs between $30 and $85 in the US and from £20 and upwards in the UK. Although not hugely expensive, in comparison to the price of painkillers, there’s an extensive difference. 

The higher cost of dry needling is because of the need for professional licenses and specialized equipment. While insurance companies do tend to cover these costs, if you as the patient have only limited insurance coverage, it can, for obvious reasons, prove to be an issue.


Requires Extensive Training

As a procedure that calls for a high level of skill, dry needling involves extensive training. Only physical therapists and doctors that have completed relevant training courses should practice the technique. 

Furthermore, as mentioned, dry needling also requires medical equipment that involves repeated sterilization and regular maintenance, both of which add to the overall costs.



Dry Needling – Frequently Asked Questions


Does dry needling work?

Many clinical studies have proven that dry needling does work and is a highly effective form of therapy.


What happens when dry needling hits a nerve?

Direct nerve injuries caused by needles when used for dry needling or for acupuncture, for example, are rare but they can be serious if it does occur as was shown in a study published in the Archives of Family Medicine


What is the cost of dry needling for Plantar fasciitis?

Depending on the service provider, the cost of dry needling for Plantar fasciitis can be anything between $44 and $85. 


Is dry needling similar to acupuncture?

There are some similarities and some differences between the two. For practitioners of dry needling, a solid filament needle is used to help achieve the desired results. In contrast to most acupuncture schools, which are based on a rich tradition of Chinese Medicine, dry needling is strictly based on Western medicine principles and research. It is another tool that is used to treat trigger points and address myofascial restrictions.


What type of problems can be treated with dry needling?

Dry needling can be used for a variety of musculoskeletal problems. Muscles are thought to be a primary contributing factor to the symptoms. Such conditions include (but are not limited to) neck, back, and shoulder pain, arm pain (tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, golfer’s elbow), headaches (including migraines and tension-type headaches), jaw pain, buttock pain, leg pain (sciatica, hamstrings strains, calf tightness/spasms), and foot and ankle pain. The treatment of muscles has the greatest effect on reducing pain mechanisms in the nervous system.


What type of conditions can dry needling treat?

Dry needling is ideal for those who suffer from chronic, long-term pain caused by repeated stress or injury.

However, those with acute pain associated with temporary injury can also benefit from dry needling therapy. Very often those seeking the relief of dry needling therapy have undergone some form of manual physical therapy beforehand.

If these therapies have not helped, dry needling is often the next step when seeking pain and tension relief.

This form of physical therapy needling can benefit an assortment of conditions, including:

Chronic or long-term pain
Muscular strains
Ligament sprains
Neck pain
Muscle spasms
Lower back pain
Sciatica nerve pain
Shoulder pain and frozen shoulder syndrome
Tennis and golfer’s elbow
Plantar Fasciitis
Athletic stiffness or strain
Hip and glute pain
Knee pain
Achilles tendonitis
Headaches and migraines
For those in need of intense physical therapy, dry needling is recommended as a complementary therapy to other regular therapies.


Is dry needling painful?

Yes, dry needling does hurt to some degree, but the pain is only fleeting and should pass within seconds. Upon insertion of the needle into a specific trigger point you should feel an initial sting of pain, but this only lasts about a second.

The insertion of the dry needle should bring on a twitching response in the muscle, as previously mentioned. This can sometimes result in a dull, deep ache or a cramping sensation within the targeted muscle during the therapy session.

Post dry needling therapy your muscles may feel sensitive or ache. However, this is generally a good sign that the therapy has done its job!



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