Dry Needling – 101, By Sue Tyfield Chiropractor

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Dry Needling, is one of the therapeutic soft tissue treatments administered by the practitioners in the clinic at Waterloo Chiropractic.


So, what is Dry Needling ??

Dry Needling refers to the use of a solid filament needle where no substances are injected as part of the therapy as oppose to wet needling where a substance such as lidocaine is injected into an area. Dry Needling uses an acupuncture needle to release myofascial trigger points or knots in the muscles and also to release fascial tension that builds up in the layer of tissue that lies over the surface of the muscle.

Although dry needling uses the same needles as acupuncture it must be differentiated from the oriental practice of acupuncture in which multiple needles are used to stimulate acupuncture points in particular combinations to achieve local and systemic health outcomes. With dry needling the use of needles is more local to release tight and restricted tissue and muscle spasms (myofascial trigger points).


Are there types of Dry Needling out there ?? 

There are a few different techniques used in dry needling. One of these is a fanning the needle in and out of the tissue to illicit a local twitch response (jump) in the muscle, other practitioners may put needles in and leave them for some time and others may even attach TENs electrodes to the needles to stimulate the local tissue.

Dry needling does not feel like getting an injection as the needle is thinner and no substances are injected into the body. So there is rarely and stinging or pain from the needle, intact in some cases patient may not even be aware that the needle has gone in other than some pressure on the external skin. What you do feel is some referral dull aching from the trigger point and the sensation of the muscle giving an involuntary contraction when the trigger point is stimulated/released.


Is there any research on dry needling ?

In research done combining neuroscience education and trigger point dry needling in chronic mechanical lower back pain the outcomes suggest the treatment was effective in improving pain, disability, kinesiophobia (fear of movement) and widespread tissue sensitivity (6).

Research done on female office workers with pain in their trapezius muscle (upper shoulder) following a typing task showed that the electromyographic (muscle contraction) activity was significantly less in those who had dry needling than those who didn’t. Suggesting that dry needling helps to decrease muscle spasms (1).

When reviewing the current literature and research on dry needling in the lower quarter (lower back and lower limb) researchers found that pain was reduced in the short term (4).

There has also been research looking at published papers on the effectiveness of dry needling for neck and shoulder pain. Their findings show that dry needling can be recommended for short and medium term relief of neck and shoulder pain (2) (3) (5).



Although some research shows limited success long term this is often because underlying problems are not addressed. At Waterloo Chiropractic Clinic we treat all the other corresponding musculoskeletal and biomechanics problems that are contributing to your injury as well prescribing rehabilitation exercises and advice so that you can maintain your relief more long term.

Many people wonder if dry needling is safe. When done by a skilled, trained practitioner who has assessed their patient for any contraindications it is considered safe within the medical community. Occasionally there may be some minor side effects such as bruising, local sensitivity for a day or so following treatment and in patients with needle phobia a feeling of faintness (having practiced this therapy for 14 years now I have only ever had 2 patients faint).

Both of Waterloo Chiropractic and Massage Therapy’s practitioners, Linda (Remedial Massage) and Susan (Chiropractor), have undergone extensive training in dry needling therapy and are conservative and cautious in our implementation of the therapy.

Susan Tyfield (Chiropractor)

Susan moved to Australia from South Africa with her partner in 2011. Since passing the CCEA
board exams in 2011, she is qualified to practice both in South Africa and Australia. Her masters
dissertation, which was done through Durban University of Technology in 2006, focused on tennis
players with lower back pain.


1. De Meulemeester, K., Calders, P., Dewitte, V., Barbe, T., Danneels, L. and Cagnie, B. (2017). Surface Electromyographic Activity of the Upper Trapezius Before and After a Single Dry Needling Session in Female Office Workers With Trapezius Myalgia. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 96(12), pp.861-868.

2. Gerber, L., Shah, J., Rosenberger, W., Armstrong, K., Turo, D., Otto, P., Heimur, J., Thaker, N. and Sikdar, S. (2015). Dry Needling Alters Trigger Points in the Upper Trapezius Muscle and Reduces Pain in Subjects With Chronic Myofascial Pain. PM&R, 7(7), pp.711-718.

3. Liu, L., Huang, Q., Liu, Q., Ye, G., Bo, C., Chen, M. and Li, P. (2015). Effectiveness of Dry Needling for Myofascial Trigger Points Associated With Neck and Shoulder Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 96(5), pp.944-955.

4. Morihisa, R., Eskew, J., McNamara, A. and Young, J. (2016). DRY NEEDLING IN SUBJECTS WITH MUSCULAR TRIGGER POINTS IN THE LOWER QUARTER: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW. Int J Sports Phys Ther, 11(1), pp.1-14.

5. Pecos-Martín, D., Montañez-Aguilera, F., Gallego-Izquierdo, T., Urraca-Gesto, A., Gómez-Conesa, A., Romero-Franco, N. and Plaza-Manzano, G. (2015). Effectiveness of Dry Needling on the Lower Trapezius in Patients With Mechanical Neck Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 96(5), pp.775-781.

6. Téllez-García, M., de-la-Llave-Rincón, A., Salom-Moreno, J., Palacios-Ceña, M., Ortega-Santiago, R. and Fernández-de-las-Peñas, C. (2015). Neuroscience education in addition to trigger point dry needling for the management of patients with mechanical chronic low back pain: A preliminary clinical trial. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 19(3), pp.464-472.

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