5 FAQ about the Dry Needle Process and Its Benefits

woman waiting for dry needle session

Dry needle practices” were initially described in China’s ancient and most detailed medical exposition, the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic (Huangdi neijing), where minute needles delve deeply into tender points, also termed as ‘trigger points” or “motor points,” for effective treatment of neuromuscular pain and dysfunction by increasing blood circulation to the region and controlling nerve signaling to decrease pain signals from the brain. In a simpler sense, “dry needling” is the insertion of an acupuncture needle into a painful region and then suitably maneuvering it for healing the pain.

It is crucial to note that “dry needling” is an invasive process whereas manual therapy is generally a noninvasive, hands-on approach such as massage. Manual therapy is certainly not inclusive of surgery of any type.

Common questions related to dry needling:

Is Dry Needling painful?

The answer is no. Similar to numerous other soft tissue treatments, some superficial pain post treatment is experienced which is considered to be normal. The needles used are microscopic, and for a major part of the time, a patient may not even feel the insertion.

What is the number of needles utilized during each treatment?

The number and dimensions of needles utilized depends on the kind of muscle(s) and the size of the treatment region, generally ranging from 2-10.

Is it considered safe? Is there a possibility of infection?

The clinic adheres rigorously to a strict protocol of treatment. All needles used are disposable, sterile and discarded after every treatment very responsibly. The affected region is sanitized with alcohol before any treatment and the physician uses protective gloves.

What are the payment options? Is it covered by health insurance?

The clinic provides a reasonable upfront payment discount to accommodate the patient, and most insurance plans do cover the process.

What is the length of the dry needle process, and how many treatments yield beneficial results?

A dry needling session can fluctuate but generally lasts for 20-30 minutes, has a good turnaround time, and requires few sittings.

Physiotherapists and other health professionals who are not authorized to perform acupuncture would generally put on a show of not using acupuncture needles to do “dry needling” when actually that is the case, which is obvious from the packaging. “Dry needling” is beyond the scope of practice of physical therapists’ and other allied health professionals’ and their realm of formal education and training. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), acupuncture needles are categorized as Class II medical devices under stringent federal regulations. Individuals involved in business transactions of acupuncture needles not permitted by law to practice acupuncture are in direct violation of civil and criminal provisions of the FDCA with the objective of  public safety.

These complications of the treatment process range from blood vessel, nerve and organ injury (from incorrect angling of the acupuncture needle and how deep the insertion is or from improper handling of the acupuncture needle), and possible infection and cross-contamination from used acupuncture needles, unsanitary acupuncture needle handling, and insufficient preparation of needle for the treatment procedure.