Benefit of Dry Needling & Western Acupuncture

 In Exercise and Health

Dry Needling

Dry needling and Western acupuncture have been internationally recognised amongst practitioners and has been an ongoing to continue growing appreciation within Physiotherapy practice as an adjunct treatment to various conditions.

Dry Needling involves needling to altered or dysfunctional tissues in order to improve or restore function. This may include needling of myofascial trigger points and periosteum.1

Western acupuncture utilises meridian points but applies it to ‘western’ reasoning with particular consideration to relevant neurophysiology and anatomy. Points are stimulated to create local, spinal segmental or supraspinal pain modulating effects.1  

What is the science behind dry needling?

The neurophysiology of acupuncture allows penetration of the needle to produce local effects by stimulation to produce a receptor response to the muscle nerve fibres. This can be beneficial in production of pain inhibition via neural pathways that provide signals to the spinal cord and brain stimulating analgesic response.

Insertion of the needle can stimulate chemical release of endorphins, “happy hormones” to be released by inflammatory cells that may produce local pain relief for up to 2-3 days.

Pecking technique of dry needling has shown to stimulate local blood flow due to the release of inflammatory mediators of cells acting as effective endogenous anti-inflammatory agents.

Western acupuncture points can provide segmental (spine) effects called, “HTJ or “bladder points” that relate to the peripheral nerve and myotome that can provide acute and chronic nociceptive pain.

Practitioners apply the clinical reasoning of the neurophysiology and technique application to achieve the appropriate outcome for the client based on the purpose, diagnosis, treatment, and  anatomical site.

Is it a Safe Treatment?

Dry needling is a safe practice and treatment. Screening and consent are necessary prior to completion of dry needling to ensure no contraindications or precautions in which extra care should be taken. Sterile and individually packaged, single use, and sterile used needles at (.15-.75mm), the needles are very fine.

Minor adverse effects can occur for clients and may vary according to response individually. Most risks are minor and based on the client’s response may include bruising or bleeding, fainting, nausea, or discomfort or rarely pain, or alteration of energy levels. These minor risks can be triggered by a natural autonomic response. Some clients report muscle soreness approximately a few hours to two days.

Caution should be considered for anatomical structures around the thorax (trunk) which must be performed with advanced training due to possible and risk of penetration of the lung causing a pneumothorax (puncture of the lung) This is a RARE occurrence with less than 1 in 70,000 – 1.27 million and would be at risk due to technical error. 

Benefits of Dry Needling:

Benefits of dry needling can be effective in stimulating pain reduction, healing, and the restoration of normal tissue function. Furthermore, dry needling can be beneficial in releasing muscle trigger points or “tight muscles”.

  • Healing response of nerves
  • Trigger point release of muscle
  • Pain inhibition to neural response causing vasodilation to promote healing
  • Pain reduction
  • Improve range of movement

Conditions Effective for Dry Needling:

  • Lateral Epicondylitis
  • Achilles/ Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy / Tendinopathies
  • Sub-acute to Chronic Musculoskeletal Conditions
  • Patellofemoral and Knee Joint Pain
  • Radicular Pain
  • Muscular Trigger Point

Dry needling can be an effective therapeutic modality that should be used as an adjunct treatment including a strength and conditioning (exercise-based treatment), manual therapy, taping, and other treatments that may aid in your overall treatment.

Book an appointment with a Physiotherapist or join one of our active rehabilitation classes today.  


Lisa Hicklen Physiotherapist

Featured in the Top 50 Physical Therapy Blog

Book an appointment with Lisa here  


  1. ASAP Guidelines for Safe Acupuncture & Dry Needling Practice Retrieved from July 2021
  2. Fernández-de-las-Peñas, C., & Nijs, J. (2019). Trigger point dry needling for the treatment of myofascial pain syndrome: current perspectives within a pain neuroscience paradigm. Journal of Pain Research, 12, 1899 – 1911.
  3. McCutcheon, L. & Montgomery, T. Musculoskeletal Segmental and Dry Needling – Combined Health Introduction to Dry Needling Course, July 25th & 26th.
  4. Norris, C.M (2001) Acupuncture: Treatment of Musculoskeletal Conditions. Oxford: Butterworth Heinmann


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