Dry Needling and Pain Relief

While stress has many negative effects on the body, one painful result includes trigger points. Dry needling is found to provide pain relief for these painful trigger points. These trigger points, or tight spots in the muscle, contribute to limitations in motion and strength. Stress often causes significant increases in muscle tension due to clenching and reflexive muscle tightening. This results in muscles being overstressed, resulting in trigger points and tightness. This issue can be chronic for many people, and they may have tried multiple treatment options including acupuncture or massage, with temporary or no relief. Dry needling is an extremely beneficial and targeted technique that is often used to eliminate trigger points and ultimately improve range of motion, decrease pain, and improve strength.


What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a technique that is used all over the body from the neck, arms, back, legs, and even feet. It can also be utilized post-surgery but should wait at least 6 weeks to allow for healing and decrease any risk for infection. Dry needling is a much more targeted and specific technique which is oftentimes why the benefits are seen more quickly in the restricted area. The most common side effect from dry needling is temporary soreness at the treatment site but often resolves within 24 hours.


How does Dry Needling work to Reduce Stress?

The exact mechanism in pain reduction is not completely known with dry needling, however, research shows there are measurable mechanical and biochemical effects that occur with needling. These favorable biochemical changes assist in reducing both local and referred pain, inflammation, hypoxia (low oxygen levels) and are the first steps in breaking the pain cycle. Many therapists when educating a patient on dry needling will use the term ‘local twitch response’. This is an involuntary spinal cord reflex and is necessary to release the biochemical necessary for pain reduction. Most describe it as a quick muscle spasm that releases once the needle has been removed from the trigger point.

The benefits of Dry Needling on Stress

In regards to the range of motion, by reducing or eliminating the trigger point(s), the muscle can contract/relax normally throughout its full range of motion. The local twitch response that occurs when the trigger point is being needled causes an immediate release of muscle tightness. Blood flow is also improved throughout the affected muscle, reducing pain and tension. Knowing stress is often an inevitability at times in our lives, it is important to understand what muscular consequences can result. Being aware of posture and body positioning is a good first step in preventing pain. Also, exercise and physical activity helps to keep stress down and muscles less tight and painful.

Who benefits from Dry Needling?

Dry needling can be used in treating many musculoskeletal problems. Typically, muscles are thought to be a primary contributing factor to symptoms. Some conditions include, but are not limited to neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, arm pain ( tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, golfer’s elbow), headache (migraine and tension-type), jaw pain, buttock, and leg pain ( sciatica, hamstring strains, calf tightness/spasms).

 For further questions regarding dry needling and its potential benefits, contact Freedom Physical Therapy Services.


Rachel graduated with honors from Concordia University Wisconsin in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology and in 2017 with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. At Concordia, Rachel had the opportunity to take advanced coursework in manual therapy and sport specific training.