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What is Dry Needling and how does it work?

Dry Needling also known as ‘musculoskeletal acupuncture’ and ‘Sports Acupuncture’ is a therapy which involves a very thin needle inserted through the skin to stimulate a trigger point or ‘knot’ within a muscle. Despite its scary-sounding name, Dry Needling is safe and is getting very good results in the hands of skilled practitioners.


  • Rotator Cuff issues
  • Knee Problems
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Carpal Tunnel
  • Shin Splints
  • Hip Bursitis
  • Achilles Tendonitis
  • Sciatica


The needles increase blood flow to the trigger point which reduces the tension in the muscle, reduces inflammation and helps disperse the neurochemicals causing the muscular pain.

In Dry Needling, the therapist will palpate the target muscle for a taut band/trigger point, confirming the site to be treated. The needles are one-use-only disposable needles which are quickly tapped in through the skin. On occasion, a twitch response in the muscle is elicited (a spinal cord reflex, causing an involuntary contraction) or muscle twitch.

How is it DIFFERENT TO CHINESE ACUPUNCTURE? Dry needling is based on Western anatomical and neurophysiological principles, needles target trigger points….whilst Chinese Acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine and targets Meridian points in the body. Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncturists use a person’s pulse for diagnosis and they study a Bachelor of Health Science in Chinese Medicine. Very different modalities to one another.


1. Reduces pain

A 2007 study published in American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation showed dry needling to significantly reduce shoulder pain, it also increased both Active and Passive Range of Motion of the Shoulder. In a 2016 Manual Therapy study, Dry Needling was used to treat the upper Trap. muscle trigger point causing upper back pain, in the 60 women studied- ALL 60 Experienced reduced pain.

2. Improves movement

A 2010 case report published in Acupuncture and Medicine showed Volleyball athletes during competition using Dry Needling Acupuncture improved their Range of motion and function.

3. Speeds up recovery

In reports by the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy patient function is restored much more quickly when Dry Needling is used in injured patients.


Anyone who does not have a needle phobia or other anxiety about being treated by needles. Like any therapy it can have some side effects such as temporary muscle soreness, fatigue or bruising, however it can be a particularly effective therapy whereby results are often felt quickly.

It normally takes several Dry Needling therapy sessions before a muscle begins functioning properly again. Like most therapies, Dry Needling works best when used in conjunction with other techniques. 

Dr Katie O’Sullivan (B CHIR.SC.M.CHIR.) has been working as a Chiropractor for over 14 years at some of the top Chiropractic clinics in the Shire. She has completed numerous post-graduate studies in Pregnancy, Paediatrics, Applied Kinesiology, Herbal Medicine, Sports Chiropractic, Dry Needling Acupuncture, Kinesio-taping, Injury rehabilitation, and Disc decompression therapy. Working on clients of all ages from newborn babies to pregnant women, sporting enthusiasts, professional athletes and families requiring optimal spinal health. If you are interested in discussing this technique Katie is available Thursdays and Saturdays at the Active Mind Body Studio.

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