The Pros and Cons of Dry Needling

Understanding the pros and cons of dry needling is important. Dry needling, also known as intramuscular stimulation (IMS), is a manual acupuncture technique that uses thin needles to treat muscle pain caused by trigger points – tight knots beneath or within a muscle. Dry needling is a modern treatment designed to ease muscular pain. The procedure, which can be done in 15 minutes, combines traditional Chinese medicine and Western science. As many as 80 percent of patients feel immediate relief from their symptoms with dry needling; as many as 50 percent experiences long-lasting pain relief. Recommended Read: Dry Needling: A New Natural Pain Treatment

During dry needling, a practitioner inserts several filiform needles into your skin. The needles are fine, short, and stainless steel. The needles do not inject any fluid. That is why they are considered dry needles. Practitioners place the needles in “trigger points” in your muscle or tissue. Dry needling is also sometimes called intramuscular stimulation. The points are areas of knotted or hard muscle.


Dry needling practitioners say the needle helps release the knot and relieve any muscle pain or spasms. The needles will remain in your skin for a short period of time.

The goal of dry needling is to relieve muscle spasms and pain by stimulating your body’s natural healing response. The pros and cons of dry needling vary based on the pain you are treating. Dry needling can be effective for neck, shoulder, arm, leg, and low back pain, as well as headaches. It can also help with plantar fasciitis (pain in the arch of your foot). The treatment is particularly helpful for chronic low-back pain that hasn’t responded to other treatments.

For mild or moderate neck or back pain, you may feel a stinging sensation when the needle penetrates your skin. You might experience some stiffness at the site where you were treated if the practitioner used a large number of needles in one area. Sometimes practitioners recommend following dry needling with heat therapy or ice packs to reduce these symptoms.

A dry-needling session usually lasts about 15 minutes, but it can last up to an hour if more than one type of treatment is administered (such as both trigger-point dry needling and electric stimulation).

The Pros And Cons Of Dry Needling

As with any physical therapy modality, dry needling has pros and cons just like other treatments you could receive. Now we will outline the pros of dry needling.

Pros of Dry Needling

Dry needling can be helpful for people who have the following health conditions:

Dry Needling Can Help Relieve Pain

Dry needling may also help treat some types of chronic pain, such as low back pain and tension headaches. It might also improve posture, relieve muscle spasms caused by tension, or eliminate certain trigger points commonly found in injured athletes (professional or otherwise).  However, there is little research on these benefits. Dry needling has also been used for certain types of pain in areas that are hard to reach, such as the foot and ankle. In particular, dry needling has been found to relieve joint pain caused by arthritis or an injury. Recommended Read: The Ultimate Guide to Natural Pain Management

Dry Needling Can Be Combined with Treatments

Depending on your condition, dry needling may be used alone or combined with other therapies to provide you with relief from pain. In fact, dry needling may be used alone or combined with other therapies to provide you with relief from pain.



Electrical stimulation included with dry needling may make the treatment more effective for people who have stubborn musculoskeletal problems like chronic low back pain.

It is Less Invasive

Another pro of dry needling is that it is less invasive than injections. It doesn’t use drugs or involve surgery. Because nothing gets injected during the procedure, there are no risks for allergies, infection, or bleeding.

Additionally, as long as you keep your follow-up appointments with your doctor after receiving dry needling treatment (and take all of your medications as directed), no special preparation is necessary prior to receive the procedure.

Cons of Dry Needling

There is not a lot of research supporting the use of dry needling. The existing research supports its use for relieving mild to moderate pain.

Potentially Painful

Some people experience soreness in the area being treated up to one week after a series of sessions, especially if trigger points are present in more than one muscle group.

Dry Needling Is Not Available To Everyone

Another con of dry needling is that it can’t be done on a whim.  You have to have an injury of some sort for dry needling to help you.  

Dry Needling Can Be Expensive

Another con of dry needling is that it is not covered by health insurance.  The cost for the treatment I received was $1200. If you decide to try dry needling, make sure that you find a practitioner who has a lot of experience with it and has worked with people in similar circumstances as yourself.

Dry Needling Can Be Tricky

Another con of dry needling is that there is more of a chance for the needle to move during treatment, In each case, it caused no injury or pain, but it does make you feel uncomfortable because you don’t know what is going on.  It can also cause infection if someone doesn’t clean the area properly after treatment and uses the same needle on a lot of different patients without cleaning it between each use.l.

Finding a Quality Dry Needling Professional

For practicing dry needling, practitioners have not been required to attend extensive training. None of the regulatory agencies control a practitioner’s training, licensure, supervision, or any other requirement for practicing this treatment. It is a technique that can probably be performed by suitably trained physical therapist assistants, but ideally should only be carried out by a physical therapist.

Dry Needling is Not 100% Effective

Another con to having dry needling done by physical therapists is that sometimes there doesn’t seem to be much improved with this technique.  There also seems to be less improvement than when using other needle techniques such as trigger point injections or prolotherapy.

Some people might confuse dry needling with acupuncture.

Both acupuncture and dry needling use thin, stainless steel needles that are inserted into the skin. For both practices, these needles claim to relieve pain in a variety of ways.

The two treatments differ. One practice has been used for thousands of years as a treatment. It is also backed up by robust research documenting its effectiveness. The other course of treatment has been adopted in the last few years.

Acupuncture is said to relieve pain or discomfort by opening up a person’s energy flow. Dry needling is a treatment designed to stimulate irritable muscles or trigger points.

Understanding the differences between those types of treatment can help you decide what’s best for your pain. Recommended Read: Scalp Reflexology Benefits And Uses

There are several important considerations when deciding whether or not to go ahead with dry needling. Dry needling is not one hundred percent effective. You may experience some relief, but you probably will not feel better immediately. The needles do not treat the causes of your pain. They simply reduce your muscle spasms or give you temporary pain relief.

Anesthesia is usually not used before dry needling. In fact, if the needle accidentally pierces through a vein, practitioners are trained to leave it alone so that they do not inject any fluid into your bloodstream.

The most common side effect from dry needling is bruising at the point of entry (where the needle was inserted). Some people have also developed infections after treatment with dry needling. However, these infections are rare and can be prevented by practicing good hygiene.