By Courtney Dynes – PT, DPT
Impact PT Oak Lawn
What is Trigger Point Dry Needle Physical Therapy?
For many years, physical therapists have been utilizing a variety of techniques to address pain and dysfunction that is associated with myofascial trigger points. A myofascial trigger point is defined as a highly localized and hypersensitive palpable nodule (“knot”) in taut bands of the skeletal muscle fibers. Myofascial trigger points are locally painful upon compression but can also refer pain in specific patterns throughout the body. Trigger points form because of muscular overload and can cause pain, limitations in range of motion, and decreased function of the muscle.
Examples of Muscular Overload
- Exertion overload (lifting weights)
- Repetitive stress overload (repetitive movements, sporting activities, gardening)
- Overload associated with posture
- Direct muscle trauma
While these muscular “knots” can be stubborn and difficult to reduce, trigger point dry needling is an intervention that has been found to be very useful in the management of myofascial trigger points and myofascial pain.
Dry needling therapy can help reduce local and referred pain, improve range of motion and muscle activation, and improve the chemical environment of trigger points2. As defined in the Myopain seminars, “dry needling is a skilled intervention that uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points and muscular and connective tissues for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments.” When the needle is inserted into a trigger point, a twitch response is elicited, which results in release of muscle tension, improved circulation, reduction in pain, and thus, can lead to a patient’s return to normal activity!
Dry Needling Breaks Up Scar Tissue and May Help With Musculoskeletal Conditions
Trigger point dry needling is a safe and very effective technique that is intended to restore normal muscle function. This technique is performed by physical therapists who have completed certification courses in dry needling. Dry needling has been found to be helpful for a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. This includes acute or chronic tendonitis (lateral/medial epicondylitis), Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, headaches, overuse injuries, neck pain, back pain, piriformis syndrome, sciatica, muscle strains, and iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome. However, there are some people who may not benefit from dry needle therapy.
Contraindications for Dry Needling
- Allergies to the needle material
- First trimester of pregnancy
- Needle phobia
- Skin lesions
- Varicose veins
- Implants in the area where the needling would be performed
- Abnormal bleeding conditions.
For many, this treatment technique can drastically help patients improve their pain, mobility, and strength to reduce difficulty with performing daily activities and improve athletic performance.
Dry needling is not the same as acupuncture. Trigger point dry needling is based on a thorough evaluation and movement assessment performed by a certified physical therapist, and it is only used to treat musculoskeletal pain. While both techniques use the same types of needles, acupuncture is based on eastern medicine principles focusing on points that correspond with Meridian Lines and restoring balance in the body.
Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy in Chicago, Champaign, and Oak Lawn
If you have stubborn trigger points that continue to be painful, or if you have tried a variety of manual therapy techniques and feel like you aren’t making any progress with your treatment, contact one of our clinics today to schedule a wellness screening to determine if dry needling is appropriate for you!
 D. G. Simons, J. G. Travell, and L. S. Simons, “Myofascial pain and dysfunction,” in The Trigger Point Manual. Upper Half of Body, p. 1038, Williams & Wilkins, 2nd edition, 1999.
 Dommerholt, Jan. “Dry Needling — Peripheral and Central Considerations.” The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy 19.4 (2011): 223–227.