Is Dry Needling painful?

One of the most common questions we get with dry needling is, “will it hurt?”. Let’s unpack that 🙂

During an Osteopathic treatment session it is possible that your practitioner may suggest dry needling. Dry needling is a therapeutic intervention that involves the use of fine needles to treat musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction.

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling, often confused with acupuncture, is a therapeutic technique rooted in Western medicine. The key difference between the two lies in their philosophies and aims. While acupuncture focuses on altering the flow of energy through meridians, dry needling targets specific muscular trigger points to alleviate pain and muscle dysfunction. Dry needling “dry” because it doesn’t involve injecting any substances, is also referred to as myofascial trigger point dry needling.

How Does Dry Needling Work?

Dry needling involves the insertion of a needle directly into muscular trigger points. These trigger points are tight bands of muscle fibres that often cause pain or discomfort and can restrict range of motion. When a needle is inserted into these trigger points, several mechanisms are set into motion:

  • Muscle Relaxation: The needle induces a local twitch response, which helps relax the tight muscle fibres, reducing muscle tension and spasms.
  • Increased Blood Flow: Insertion of the needle increases blood flow to the area, promoting healing and reducing inflammation.
  • Pain Modulation: Dry needling can disrupt the pain cycle by affecting the way pain signals are transmitted within the nervous system.

What can Dry Needling be used for?

Dry needling can be used for many types of injuries but we commonly use it for the following:

  • Shoulder injuries such as rotator cuff tear or tendinopathy
  • Lower limb soft tissues injuries such as hamstring or calf strains
  • Acute or chronic lower back pain
  • Nerve related impingement issues such as sciatica pain
  • Elbow injuries such as tennis elbow
  • Headaches and Migraines

Does it hurt?

Maybe! Maybe not! Some people report an ouch as the needle is inserted into the trigger point. Others say it doesn’t hurt at all. The bigger concern, that we find, is people’s fear of needles. The needles used for dry needling are very thin- nothing like the needles you get at the doctors. If fact, the feeling of the plastic sheath of the needle that touches the skin hurts more than the needle.

We also find that for those trigger points, popping a thin needle in is less painful compared to having firm massage on the area. The needle is popped in and left. While firm massage can be quite painful.

We also see that needling can have a similar effect of hitting 10 birds with 1 stone. Sometimes, hitting the right spot and allowing the needle to induce the intended changes can really help.

Dry needling is a powerful tool in the world of musculoskeletal therapy, offering relief for various conditions involving muscle pain and dysfunction. Its effectiveness, and can often result in fast changes. If we think you may benefit from this type of treatment, we will chat to you and see if this is something you would like to try. At the end of the day, it is 100% your decision if you would like this used in your osteopathic consultation. You never know, this maybe something that is so super helpful for you!

If you have any questions at all, please reach out to us. If you are wondering if this could help you, ask your osteo when you are in and they can take you through dry needling and if they feel it may help you.

Hope you have a lovely week

Bec @ Total Balance Healthcare



This blog post is an educational tool only.  It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.

Phone: (03) 9773 8085

You may also like

Looking to Make an Appointment or Shop Online?

Booking Online is the most convenient way to lock in the clinician & time you want. We also have an Online Store with an amazing range of Osteo & Naturopathy Products.