If you’ve suffered a muscle strain and your physical therapist recommends that you try dry needling, you may be a bit wary. The idea of having needles stuck in you isn’t appealing to many people, and fear of needles can deter people from getting the vaccinations and the like that they need in order to be healthy. Since dry needling involves multiple needles, it’s only natural to wonder whether or not it hurts.
The truth is: it depends. It can, and it can’t. It’s important to note that dry needling as a technique is used in order to help you heal and to improve your symptoms, not to make them worse. It is used in order to relieve pain in the long term. It can be incredibly effective for a variety of conditions.
Rest assured: if your physical therapist is recommending that you give dry needling a go, it’s because they think it will help you. They wouldn’t be out here recommending treatments that hurt you – they’re not sadists!
Here’s what you need to know about dry needling and pain so that you can set your mind at ease about this treatment method.
Does Dry Needling Hurt?
As previously mentioned, it depends!
This treatment typically isn’t anywhere near as bad as you might think, especially if you have a fear of needles. Many people don’t even feel the needle prick their skin, because of the little guide tubes that physical therapists use.
When the injured area has needles inserted, usually one of two things will happen. Either you won’t feel anything, or you may feel a deep muscular ache followed by your muscle twitching. Believe it or not, that ache and twitch response is actually a good thing. This is because it means that the needle has been inserted in the right spot, called a trigger point, and is working to release your muscle.
Different people respond differently to this treatment method. It’s important to bear in mind that your experience could be vastly different than someone else’s.
Does Dry Needling Help With Pain?
Yes! This treatment method involves sticking dry needles into your trigger points in order to release tight muscles. Many people report an immediate reduction in their pain levels. For others, they may experience aching and soreness in the days following the treatment before they begin to notice improvement.
The level of aching and soreness you experience is similar to after a workout. This treatment is used in order to help with injury rehabilitation, chronic and acute pain, and more. It works to restore your muscular function and alleviate your pain.
How Long Does Dry Needling Last?
This depends on your specific condition. Your physical therapist will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan. Usually, you can notice improvements within 2-4 sessions, but this varies depending on the individual.
As for how long the needles themselves are in you – again, this varies. There are several different techniques that your physical therapist may use. They’ll use the one best suited to your symptoms.
In some cases, the needle is in-and-out, it isn’t left in your skin. In others, it may be left in for a little longer. In more severe cases, they may be left inserted for 10-15 minutes or so.
What Does Dry Needling Feel Like?
If you’re worried that this treatment will hurt you, naturally you want to know what it will feel like! You’ve likely seen this answer coming, but… It varies depending on the individual.
This is because everyone has different symptoms and concerns. You typically won’t experience any pain with a healthy muscle, but the more unhealthy the muscle, the more likely it is that you will experience some discomfort during the treatment. The discomfort should go away quickly, giving way to some symptom relief.
Most people don’t even feel the needle penetrate their skin. They may feel an ache and twitching in their muscle, which means that the treatment is working. It can feel a bit like a cramp.
After the treatment, you might feel sore, the same as you would after a workout. It could take a few hours or until the next day for the soreness to appear. It should dissipate within a couple of days. You may also experience some tiredness, nausea, loopiness, giggling, or be emotional. Again, these should go away within an hour or so.
In some cases, your symptoms may get worse before they get better. Although rare, if your symptoms don’t get better within a day or do, you will want to tell your physical therapist about it.