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man receiving dry needling on his back

Dry Needling

Immediate Pain Relief so You can Focus on Life Again

Trigger Point Dry needling, also referred as Intramuscular Manual Therapy is another tool that Physical Therapists can use for pain relief and improved muscle movement.  The treatment uses a “dry” acupuncture needle (without medicine) to deactivate trigger points in your muscle which, in turn, optimizes muscle performance.

Dry needling is typically combined with other physical therapy exercises and techniques to restart the normal function of the muscle and then to create muscle memory to have the muscle work normally when you leave the office. Unlike acupuncture, dry needling focuses on trigger points in the muscle. Acupuncture relieves pain or discomfort by normalizing a patient’s energy flow or Chi. The only similar connection is that the needles are the same. 

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What Are Trigger Points? 

Trigger points or “muscle knots” are sensitive spots within a muscle that can be tender to touch. They can form after an injury, overuse of your muscles or from muscle guarding from a spinal injury. Touching an active trigger point may refer pain to other parts of your body.  This can be seen here in these pictures below.  The “X” is the trigger point and the red is the referring pain pattern.  

Our physical therapists use Dry Needling to relax your trigger points, reduce pain and normalize your muscle function so you can be functioning at a higher level than when you walked in the office.

Does It Hurt?

During your dry needling procedure, a physical therapist will insert a thin, sterile needle into the skin to shut down your muscular trigger points. The length of the needle will depend on the area of your body that is being dry needled. Most patients feel little or no pain as the needle is inserted. The needles are typically used once per muscle and discarded.

The entire procedure takes as little as 5 minutes. After the procedure, patients typically experience pain relief lasting from a few hours to several weeks. While the side effects from dry needling are usually minor, patients can experience:

  • Small bruising at the dry needling site

  • Soreness that usually disappears by the next day

Once the procedure is complete, your physical therapist will work to create an individualized plan that uses the benefits of dry needling along with other therapies.

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Joint pain

Disc pathology

Plantar fasciitis

Overuse injuries from running/cycling etc.

Tendinitis (quad, shoulder, hamstring, calf, etc.)

Migraine and tension-type headaches

Jaw and mouth pathology (such as temporomandibular joint disorders or TMD)


Repetitive motion disorders (like carpal tunnel syndrome)

Spinal pathology

Scar Mobility

Pelvic pain

Phantom Pain

Night cramps

Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) pain


vector of trigger points

What Can Dry Needling Help With? 

Dry needling is always used as a part of an overall plan that will likely include some type of exercise, manual therapy and education. Dry needling is used to increase range of motion that may be limited due to muscle tightness or scar tissue. Dry needling may also treat:

Our Doctors of Physical Therapy will work with your doctor to make sure dry needling is right for your treatment plan.

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Who Can Perform Dry Needling?

In most clinical practice settings, an acupuncturist performs acupuncture while a physical therapist performs trigger point dry needling.   

*As of now Zion Physical Therapy is performing Dry Needling only in the Westport and Jersey City offices.

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