What is Dry Needling?

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is a technique used by manual therapists to help reduce pain and tightness by deactivating trigger points (knots). It is still unclear of how exactly it works but it is thought to increase blood flow to the areas and alter the nerve input to the muscle fibres.

What conditions can it help treat?

Dry needling can be used in a wide range of musculoskeletal issues from headaches to muscle strains to disc injuries. While the needling itself focuses on the trigger points, deactivating these can have wider effects on the nervous system and a persons biomechanics.

How is it different to acupuncture?

While both methods use disposable needles the reasoning behind the techniques are different.

Acupuncture treatment involves the insertion of fine, sterile, single use, disposable needles into specific sites (acupuncture points) along the body’s energy pathways (meridians) to clear energy blockages and encourage the normal flow of energy, or Qi, through the body (1).

Dry needling is a form of western medicine which uses needles to deactivate trigger points found in different muscles (2). Dry needling can also involve a ‘twitch response’ when a trigger point is being released.

Is it safe?

Yes. As with most things there are risks, however dry needling is very safe and we use our clinical judgement to ensure these are kept to an absolute minimum. Prior to performing any needling we will make you aware of any risk involved and make sure you are happy to proceed. We always use sterile, disposable needles and appropriate hygiene.

Is it painful?

Unfortunately I can’t promise needling will be pain-free. Part of the process involves causing pain to change the nerve signalling to the brain (2). How painful will be different for every individual. You would be amazed how little pain there can be until the needle hits a trigger point, it is common to not feel anything until that point. It is also common to have some increased tenderness following treatment among other effects but your practitioner will explain these before performing any needling.

While it can be quite uncomfortable it might be worth while knowing that the typical diameter of the needle used is roughly half the size of the needles used in most vaccines and therefore not as painful.


Dry needling is a safe and useful technique when applied correctly, while it can cause some short term pain, patients can find it helpful in the long term. If you need more information please speak to one of our practitioners.

Blog by Damian Berenato, Osteopath at McKinnon Osteopathy. Damian is qualified in level 1 dry needling.

To book an appointment with Damian Click here or call on 9578 2436






  1. Acupuncture.org.au. (2018). Acupuncture – Acupuncture.org.au. [online] Available at: https://www.acupuncture.org.au/acupuncture-and-chinese-medicine/acupuncture/ [Accessed 10 May 2018].
  2. Bradnam, L. (2011). A biopsychosocial clinical reasoning model for Western acupuncture. Physical Therapy Reviews, 16(2), pp.138-146.

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