Hands-on treatment techniques are incredibly varied. We push, pull, poke, crack or sometimes we can be so gentle it feels like we are doing nothing at all.

But some complaints can be particularly stubborn and they need a more invasive approach to stimulate healing and resolution. This is where dry needling can prove especially helpful.

What is Dry Needling?

Treatment with Dry Needling uses a thin filament needle to penetrate sore points in muscles and connective tissues. The needles are usually left in place for a few minutes before being removed.

The intention of this technique is to release the muscle to reduce pain and improve function. Often we try massage and stretching first, and if they are unsuccessful at shifting the complaint we suggest dry needling.

The exact mechanism of dry needling is yet to be fully understood, but the consensus amongst practitioners is that the needle is a stimulus for the body to promote healing through increasing blood flow and altering nerve activity (1).

What is Dry Needling used for?

Often dry needling will be used for complaints such as tennis or golfers elbow, rotator cuff pain, pain in the glutes (butt) or into the legs from exercise.

Almost any part of the body can be needled, but usually we focus on the back, legs and arms.

Is Dry Needling the same as Acupuncture?

No. We use the same needles (which are only 0.2mm thick!) but the similarities stop there.

Acupuncture is an Eastern approach where points of the body are thought to correlate with lines of energy flow.

Dry Needling is based on an understanding of anatomy and physiology to target tenderpoints in muscles. The aim is to bring about a change in the muscle to reduce pain and facilitate healing.

But I don’t like needles!

Dry needling is definitely not used for every patient and we certainly don’t try to convince you to try it. Needles definitely aren’t everyone’s favourite experience. Instead will may suggest it as a part of your treatment, give you a list of benefits and risks and let you decide.

Does Dry Needling Hurt? 

Although the needle is very fine, it can be painful when the needle penetrates into a tender point. It is also quite common to feel sore the day following needling as the body responds to the treatment. If any of the needles are particularly painful they can be removed and placed differently.


Our osteopath, Dr Catherine Burns has undertaken further training in dry needling techniques and can use these in conjunction with osteopathic treatment.

If you want to try dry needling or have questions specific to your complaint, please don’t hesitate to get in touch here.


References and Further Reading
(1) Dunning, J., Butts, R., Mourad, F., Young, I., Flannagan, S. & Perreault, T. Dry needling: a literature review with implications for clinical practice guidelines. Published in Physical Therapy Reviews. 2014:19(4): p252-265
Gattie, E., Cleland, J.A. & Snodgrass, S. The Effectiveness of Trigger Point Dry Needling for Musculoskeletal Conditions by Physical Therapists: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Published in Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2017:17 (3): p133-149

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