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Trigger Point Dry-Needling

(Provided by Curt Riley only)


Trigger points are hyper-irritable spots in skeletal muscle that are related to the production and maintenance of muscular pain.  Trigger point dry needling is a treatment technique using a thin needle inserted into the skin directed at the trigger point.  This technique is considered “dry” because there is no medication used with the needle. 


The goal of treatment is to create favorable biochemical change in the muscle by eliciting a local twitch response to help break the pain cycle.  This twitch response is a spinal cord reflex which can be the first step to breaking the pain cycle.


Most patients do not feel the needle insertion and usually report muscular soreness after treatment which can last a few hours to two days.  The local twitch response elicits a very brief response that can be uncomfortable.  The potential for the greatest therapeutic response occurs with elicitation of the local twitch response and that is a good and desirable reaction.


Dry-needling can be used to treat a variety of musculoskeletal problems from acute to chronic in people of all ages including:

  • Neck and low back pain

  • Shoulder pain

  • Arm pain (tennis elbow, carpal tunnel)

  • Headaches

  • Sciatica

  • Hamstring strains

  • Calf tightness/spasms

  • Shin splints

  • Jaw pain

  • Plantar fasciitis


Dry-needling and acupuncture have similarities and differences.  Dry-needling is a technique to treat the muscular system based on pain patterns, palpation and symptom presentation.  Acupuncture is a treatment based on eastern medical diagnosis which requires training in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  Curt Riley, PT, DPT, is trained in dry-needling techniques and is not a licensed acupuncturist.  Curt does not practice acupuncture.


The number of treatments varies depending on the area and condition being treated.  This treatment modality is one tool as part of a larger rehabilitation program.  The number of treatments required for optimal symptom resolution varies.  Sometimes one visit is sufficient and sometimes several treatments is necessary to change muscle habits.  Maintenance of progress is achieved through a regular exercise program designed by your physical therapist along with good posture/body mechanics with daily activities.

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