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What is Dry Needling?

One of the most effective methods to combat painful movement and muscle tightness may be a technique called dry needling.

At first glance, dry needling may seem quite a bit like acupuncture because both dry needling and acupuncture use very thin, solid filament needles (meaning there’s nothing injected into the body through the needle).  But that’s where the comparisons stop…

So what is dry needling?  Maybe this video will help explain…

Here is how Kinetacore (one of the most respected training facilities in the United States, and subject of the video above) begins to describe dry needling…

Dry Needling is a general term for a therapeutic treatment procedure that involves multiple advances of a filament needle into the muscle in the area of the body which produces pain and typically contains a ‘Trigger Point’.”

If you’ve ever been in a rehab program before, you may have heard of the term trigger point.  A trigger point is a localized area within a muscle that has become hypersensitive due to repetitive firing of specialized receptors that lead to tightening of the muscle.

Trigger points are the main target of dry needling, which is what separates dry needling from acupuncture.

Trigger points can be active (meaning they currently refer pain in a predictable pattern) or latent (meaning they refer pain only when pressure is applied to the area).  In either case, the presence of trigger points may be responsible for your current pain complaints and why you’re having difficulty getting them to resolve.


Stretching a muscle vs. Dry Needling

At one time or another you’ve probably tried stretching tight and achy muscles.

But a muscle with active and/or latent trigger points may not respond to stretching.  That means you could perform stretching exercises over and over and over and still not produce any real change.

When you’re armed only with stretches, you’re waging a battle that likely can’t be won.  The reason isn’t because you’re stretching wrong or you’re not streching enough…

The problem is that your nervous system just won’t let the muscle relax.


“Dry needling is an effective treatment for acute and chronic pain, rehabilitation from injury, and even pain and injury prevention, with very few side effects.  This technique is unequaled in finding and eliminating neuromuscular dysfunction that leads to pain and functional deficits.”

– Kinetacore

When it comes to dealing with this response from your nervous system, dry needling can make all the difference in allowing the bound-up muscles to finally relax.  Stretching…not so much!

Here’s why…

Within every muscle, there are receptors that respond to changes in length of that muscle…or more specifically, in portions of that muscle.  These receptors are part of the nervous system.  When that particular portion of muscle is stretched to a certain threshold, the receptor is activated.  The activation of that receptor triggers a contraction in the corresponding portion of the muscle.

It’s really a protective mechanism.  And one of the benefits to this protective mechanism is to keep the muscles and other tissues from being over-stretched!  See where this is going…?

So if these receptors are already activated (which is why your muscle is tight and has developed trigger points), then stretching will do no good because the receptors are protecting against a muscle stretch!  In fact, stretching may only increase the protection mechanism because the tension in the muscle created by the stretch is activating more of these specialized receptors in other portions of the muscle!

In order to get relief, you’ll need to “reset” the receptor(s) that lead to trigger points and the resulting tightness of the muscle…which is exactly what dry needling excels at doing!


Reset your movement “software”

A modern day analogy to technology may help describe why dry needling is so effective…

Your nervous system controls your movement patterns.  It’s your software.  Think of a trigger point (or other muscle dysfunction) as a virus in the system that doesn’t allow the software to work as needed. Things slow down or just don’t work the way they should.

Insertion of the needle into the trigger point or other dysfunctional area of the muscle dismantles the virus and acts like a reset to your software (the neuromuscular system that controls movement).

Once reset, your movement system is ready to upload a new, more efficient movement “program”.  This comes in the form of specifically targeted corrective exercise.

Therefore, it’s important to realize that dry needling (and any other form of manual therapy) is only part of the picture

To truly correct your issue, you not only need a reset to your software, but also an immediate download of a more efficient program to keep you functioning at a high level.

If a more efficient pattern of movement is not immediately introduced to your nervous system, the benefit of dry needling (or other manual therapy) may be short-lived and not lead to any real change in how you move and feel.

It’s the process that’s so powerful…no one element of treatment (i.e., dry needling, exercise, etc.) is more important than the process of how all treatment techniques are used together.

Modern Athlete PT differs from many other clinics because of how I use dry needling (and other manual therapies) in your treatment sessions…

Through specific testing, we’ll develop our game plan so you and I know exactly which muscles need to be “reset” through dry needling, which muscles need to be “reactivated”, and which patterns of functional movement need to be “re-engineered”.

In other words, we won’t leave anything to chance!

Are you interested in finding out if dry needling may be helpful for you?  If so, I can help answer that question (and any others) at your free 30-minute Discovery Visit.


Discovery Visits are informational sessions designed to provide you with the answers to help you feel more confident about making the decision that’s best for you…

And there’s no risk to you for scheduling a Discovery Visit…It’s 100% free.  Plus, there’s no need to get a referral from your doctor or check with your insurance.

Your only investment is the 30 minutes to complete the Discovery Visit.  You’ll begin by telling me about your issues, then I’ll put you through a basic assessment.  From there, I’ll be better able to answer your questions, including what I see going on and the various ways you may find a solution.  (Of course, you understand that since this is a free informational visit, no treatment will be provided).

Click on the button above to learn more about Discovery Visits and find out if dry needling will help you reach your goals faster!

Hi, I’m Todd

My hope is that you’ll notice the work we do together is more than just “physical therapy” or “improving performance”…

I want you to feel confident in avoiding or minimizing the compensations that used to cause breakdown and injury…

I want you to see your body and all its capabilities in a whole new light…

I want you to THRIVE, not just survive!


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