Dry Needling

As part of your overall treatment plan, your physical therapist may recommend dry needling and/or cupping to help promote pain relief and healing. These medically-proven methods are provided by certified physical therapists at select UnityPoint Health clinics. Anyone with joint pain, muscle pain and/or tendon pain can benefit from dry needling or cupping therapy. Headaches, chronic pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and muscle overuse are a few examples of common conditions treated with these therapies.

Learn more below or contact one of our physical therapy locations to see if dry needling or cupping therapy meets your needs.

What is Dry Needling?

Functional Dry Needling (FDN) therapy is a technique that uses a thin filament needle designed to be inserted into the skin and treat underlying neural, muscular and connective tissues for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments. 

The mechanical stimulation of the muscle by the inserted needle produces a local twitch response from muscle fibers. This dramatically reduces the muscle activity, resulting in relaxation and a decrease in pain and dysfunction. The decrease in pain is related to the removal of muscular compression on joint, nerve and vascular tissue. Studies have also shown that inserting needles into trigger points cause biochemical changes which alleviate pain. This is often a positive sign confirming the trigger point as being the cause of the pain.

Does insurance cover dry needling therapy?
Most insurance does not cover dry needling. If it is not covered by your insurance, you will be asked to sign a form stating that you still want the treatment and understand you will pay for the service out of pocket. Our scheduling and billing specialists at each location are available to discuss costs for this treatment.
Is dry needling safe?
Yes. We go to great lengths to ensure safety. Our Physical Therapists have all passed their necessary board exams, and have an exhaustive understanding of anatomy. We apply OSHA standards, use personal protective equipment, use sterile needles, and proudly hold to the highest standards of safety. If you are pregnant, it is safe to have functional dry needling performed following your first trimester.

Is functional dry needling painful?
Most people do not feel the insertion of the dry needle into the skin, but once the needle penetrates the muscle, the patient will describe a "cramping" sensation or a "deep ache" within the muscle being treated. The goal of each dry needling treatment is to elicit a localized twitch response of the muscle.

Is functional dry needling the same as acupuncture?
No. Acupuncture is an Ancient Eastern medicine treatment and seeks to alter the flow of energy ("Qi") along with traditional meridians for various diseases or conditions. Functional dry needling is an intervention based on treating pain and dysfunction in musculoskeletal and neuromuscular disorders to improve overall physical function.

What can be treated using functional dry needling therapy?

A wide variety of musculoskeletal and neuromuscular issues can be treated with dry needle treatment, which includes but are not limited to:

  • Shoulder, neck, leg and hip pain
  • Low back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Muscle strains
  • Groin strain
  • Hamstring strain
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Overuse injuries/tendonitis/bursitis
  • Lateral and medial epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
  • ITB syndrome
What can I expect after dry needling treatment?
Symptoms may feel heightened for approximately 24-48 hours, including localized soreness, bruising, and muscle fatigue. It can be common to feel "loopy", tired or nauseous, but this is a normal response from dry needle therapy that resolves within a few hours.

What else should I know about dry needling?

If you're receiving dry needling treatment, here are a few more tips you should know:

  • It is important to stay hydrated for the next 24-48 hours following treatment.
  • Use ice or heat to help reduce the soreness.
  • Continue with any light stretches your physical therapist has shown you.
  • Massage the treated area to help reduce soreness.