Trigger Point Dry Needling benefits for health is a treatment that uses needles to relieve muscle pain and tightness. Physical therapists with advanced credentials use “dry” needles (without medication or injection) to penetrate trigger points or muscle knots.

Muscles that have knots aren’t getting their normal blood supply, which prevents them from working correctly. Dry needling breaks the cycle of pain and twitch response.

What is TDN?

A specialized type of needle called a trigger point dry needling (TDN) is inserted into specific points in your muscles. This procedure helps jump-start the healing process. It also reduces your pain and improves your muscle movement.

A trigger point is a tight area of muscle that feels like a knot and can produce referred pain in other areas of the body. The knots pinch nerves and blood vessels. The ongoing contraction can cause them to become sensitive to touch and a source of pain.

During the TDN treatment, your physical therapist inserts a thin, solid filament needle into the muscle. The needle is inserted into the muscle to create a local twitch response which helps break the pain cycle. Research has shown that TDN mechanically disrupts a dysfunctional motor end plate and decreases chemical irritation, such as Bradykinin, Substance P, CGRP, and cytokines. This allows the muscle to relax, reducing the tight band and allowing you to move more freely.

How Does TDN Work?

Trigger point dry needling is a specialized technique that uses thin filament needles to stimulate muscle fibers and trigger points. These are knots in muscles that can restrict movement and cause pain.

The insertion of the needle can cause a local twitch response in the muscle which is an effective therapeutic response. The therapist can then use a technique called pistoning which moves the needle in and out of the muscle to further elicit the twitch response and break down the knot.

TDN can decrease a muscle’s tightness, increase blood flow to the muscle and reduce both local and referred pain. The treatment is often used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes manual therapy and graded exercises.

Studies suggest that myofascial trigger points are able to excite the central nervous system and can contribute to pain, decreased flexibility, and movement impairments. A possible mechanism of action is that myofascial trigger points elicit descending inhibitory systems in the spinal cord by decreasing peripheral nociception, inhibiting dorsal horn neurons, and modulating brainstem regions.

What Can Trigger Point Dry Needling Help Me With?

Trigger points are hyperirritable tight bands of muscle fiber within a muscle that cause pain and dysfunction. These trigger points are often felt as a muscle “knot” and can be tender to touch. They can produce referred pain in other parts of the body. Dry needling is an effective treatment to address these issues and is a drug-free approach.

During the session, you will lie on an exam table and your physical therapist will insert the needles into specific muscles. You will feel a brief, uncomfortable cramping sensation as the needle interacts with the trigger point and elicits a local twitch response. The needle stays inserted in the muscular tissue for several seconds to minutes depending on the type of pain treated.

The purpose of the treatment is to stimulate myofascial trigger points (knots in a muscle) and improve the flow of blood to those areas. You may experience improved circulation and less pain after just one session but many patients need multiple sessions.

Who Can Benefit From TDN?

Like acupuncture, dry needling uses thin, solid filament needles to stimulate muscle tissue and improve function. However, unlike acupuncture, TDN is based on Western medical reasoning and anatomy/neurophysiology, not traditional Chinese Medicine. Also, licensed physical therapists can perform TDN within their scope of practice while acupuncturists cannot.

During treatment, you may feel a pricking sensation as the needle is inserted into a tight painful knotted muscle. Once the needle hits a trigger point, you may feel a sensation that reproduces your symptoms (also known as a twitch response).

The reason you feel this twitch response is the fact that the injected muscle fibers are being cut by the needle, causing them to contract and break down the knotted muscles. Additionally, studies have shown that dry needling can mechanically disrupt a dysfunctional motor endplate by blocking pain transmissions in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. Studies have also found that it reduces chemicals at the sensitized site including Bradykinin, Substance P, and CGRP (a regulator of Calcium and Phosphate balance). This leads to reduced muscle tension, improved flexibility, and decreased pain!


However, TDN may not be suitable for everyone, even though it has shown promising results for many people. TDN may cause temporary soreness, bruising, bleeding, and infection, which are rare side effects. TDN should only be performed by professionals who have been properly trained in the procedure.

For more information on Trigger Point Dry Needling and any potential risks or contraindications, consult with your healthcare provider.

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