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Dry Needling (Acupuncture)- the info you need to know

Dry Needling (Acupuncture)- the info you need to know

As practitioners, we often use the description of acupuncture and dry needling interchangeably. This is usually to increase patient’s awareness of the intervention we are attempting to practice. The correct definitions of the two are as follows

Acupuncture- the use of the modality within a traditional Chinese medical field. The insertion of fine needles into the skin at specific points along lines of energy (meridians) attempting to change the energy flow.

Dry needling- while similar in practice is the use of needles in the modern biomedical field.  The insertion of fine needles into the skin along with point locations for treatment of specific conditions. It is aimed at intramuscular trigger points.

Therefore, we technically are using dry needling in the Australian Physiotherapy practice.

What is dry needling used for?

Dry needling is used for the release of intramuscular trigger points within a tight muscle band. Evidence to date supports that dry needling improves pain control, reduces muscle tension and normalises dysfunctions of the motor end plates, the sites at which nerve impulses are transmitted to muscles.

What to expect in the session?

The clinician will first identify the cause of your pain and palpate the area. If they think appropriate, they will ask your consent for dry needling. The area is usually swabbed with an alcohol swab to clean the area and small needles are guided into your trigger points. The practitioner will monitor you through the whole process, leaving the needle in for 2-3 minutes. Sometimes practitioners will move the needle while it is inserted- your pain levels and tolerance are monitored throughout this whole process. Sometimes your body will elicit a twitch response, gripping sensation or a relaxation (warmth). All people experience the process differently and no response is correct or wrong.

What to do after treatment?

Most people will feel the relief of tension post dry needling- some have suggested it works better than a local anaesthetic. If you do pull up tender (achy) from the needling heat and stretching are highly recommended. A practitioner will not needle you more than twice in one week to allow for recovery.  

Contraindications to needling

You are unable to have needling if you have any of the following medical conditions:

  • Bleeding disorders
  • Active infection
  • Blood-borne diseases
  • Allergies to metal
  • Unstable epilepsy
  • 3rd trimester of pregnancy

Risks of needling

  • Pneumothorax- rare and controlled by trained professionals
  • Vasovagal syncope- we select the patients who will be appropriate for needling- if you have a phobia of needles other treatment options will be better for you

My personal experience with dry needling

As a patient, I have found needling to be very effective in the relief of tension and pain. Sometimes when massage becomes very tender I find needling to be a good option to target the site of pain without constant stimulation to the area.

As a practitioner, I highly encourage people who are fit to try needling to do so. Do not let pain scare you as its usually a very painless experience which is extremely beneficial to people.

If you want to know more about dry needling ask one of our friendly physios if it may be effective for you!

Saleena Walker

Principal Physiotherapist/Director

Mount Lawley Physiotherapy and Podiatry

P: 92718805    E:

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