Dry needling: A blog from a layman’s point of view

Since our therapists get certified in Functional Dry Needling, we have  had a lot of clients, friends, and family curious as to what Dry Needling actually is. I would have to include myself in this group, asking Kirk and Drew questions like, “Does it hurt? What does it actually do? Is it like acupuncture? Does it feel like getting a shot?” If you know me for a small amount of time you know I am all about questions. My friends call me whiskers… But back to the Dry Needling (or DN as I will later reference it because that is what the cool therapists are calling it and I want to fit in). I know you all have questions like, does it hurt? What does it actually do? Is it like acupuncture? Does it feel like getting a shot? Inquiring minds want to know, and I am here to answer those questions in common layman’s terms. My background in marketing and graphic design will ensure that no scientific terms will be used.

I’m guessing there are two types of people reading this blog. First, the person that wants every single detail and wants to know exactly what DN is, down to the last point. The other is the person that scans the blog post to get the overall information they want. This next sentence or two is for the scanner, detail studier avert your eyes. DN does hurt, and will hurt for a day or two (think muscle cramping and soreness from a really tough workout – my calves felt like they did after I ran the Flying Pig Marathon). The soreness will last a day or two, but is totally worth it because of how good your muscle feels (you may even show off to everyone, maybe even strangers, you know how flexible you have become. You are just that excited.). The results really are incredible; it’s like years have been taken off your muscles. Ok, so maybe three sentences. Detail diggers you can start reading again (although, if I know you, you read all of that anyway, you rebel, you).

So here is how a DN session usually plays out: One of our PTs will identify you may benefit from DN, they will then tell you what they will work on, etc, etc. Once the DN starts, the therapist will be looking for trigger points or knotted up parts of your muscle. They will place the needle into those spots. Here is the weird thing: you really won’t feel that much when the needle goes into your skin. They will sometimes even take the needle down to your bone and you won’t know. You should feel a dull achy pain, sometimes like a muscle burn you feel during workouts. Next the therapist will begin working the needle around trying to get the muscle to twitch. These twitches can be sudden, startling, and sharp but are what the therapist is hoping to see. The twitch is what releases the muscle and retrains it to fire correctly. The twitches will probably hurt and will not be pleasant. At least that is my experience. Are they worth it? Absolutely.

After a few rounds of releasing the trigger points, your DN session will be over. Your treated muscles will be sore. It will feel like you had a really intense workout and they may feel really stiff or tight. If you have ever had a Charlie horse in the middle of the night or cramped during a workout, it will feel a lot like that. So same thing with experiencing one of those, you need to make sure you keep moving, stretching, and drinking water. If you had a muscle in your leg worked on, it may be a little difficult to walk. That is perfectly normal. I was hobbling around like a pirate with a peg leg after having my calf worked on. Drew encouraged me to still go for a run that evening, so I did. It was a little rough going at first but after a few minutes I definitely knew which calf he had worked on. It felt so much better than the other one. The calf that did not get DN felt terrible compared to my freshly worked on. It got me thinking that both my calves had felt like this and I just thought it was normal. My next thought was, “When can I get my crappy calf worked on and where has this been all my life?!” True story.

In summary, DN definitely hurts during the session and you will feel sore for a day or two AND it is so worth it. If you would like to know more of the science behind it, schedule an appointment to talk to one of our amazing therapists. If you want to know my concise opinion, here it is: embrace the suck because it is totally worth it.

Until next time!

Dr. Mattie Betts

Dr. Mattie Betts

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)

Treat. Prevent. Conquer.