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what is dry needling?

United Dry Needling Education is currently the only dry needling education and course provider specifically designed for physical therapists whose state practice act requires fifty face to face continuing education hours BEFORE you can even needle a patient.

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APTA Description of Dry Needling in Clinical Practice


Dry needling is a skilled intervention that uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular, and connective tissues for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments.


Injections into myofascial trigger points (hyperirritable spots in muscle) were first proposed by Medical Doctors Janet Travell and David Simons in the early 1940’s. These physicians injected various substances including corticosteroids, analgesics, saline, etc. into trigger points. The wider use of “Dry” Needling started after a study in 1979 by a Czech physician, Karel Lewit, where it was emphasized that the “needling effect” is distinct from that of the injected substance (dry vs. wet needling). Since then, numerous medical studies have found no difference between injections of different substances and Dry Needling in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain.


Is dry needling the same as acupuncture?


Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that has been practiced for centuries. It's based on the theory that energy, called chi, flows through and around your body along pathways called meridians. Acupuncturists believe that illness occurs when something blocks or unbalances your chi. Acupuncture is a way to unblock or influence chi and help it flow back into balance. Qi energy flows through a meridian or energy highway, accessing all parts of the body. Meridians can be mapped throughout the body; they flow within the body and not on the surface, meridians exist in corresponding pairs and each meridian has many acupuncture points along its path. Research has repeatedly shown that any association between a trigger point and an acupoint or meridian is a chance association.

Resources for Patients

Painful and Tender Muscles: Dry Needling Can Reduce Myofascial Pain Related to Trigger Points


Neck Pain: Dry Needling Can Decrease Pain and Increase Motion

According to the APTA

The practice of acupuncture by acupuncturists and the performance of dry needling by physical therapists differ in terms of historical, philosophical, indicative, and practical context. The performance of modern dry needling by physical therapists is based on western neuroanatomy and modern scientific study of the musculoskeletal and nervous system. Physical therapists that perform dry needling do not use traditional acupuncture theories or acupuncture terminology.

Resources for Therapist (PDFs):

Description of Dry Needling in Clinical Practice: An Educational Research Paper


Physical Therapists and The Performance of Dry Needling: An Educational Research Paper


Analysis of Competencies for Dry Needling by Physical Therapist


Dry Needling by a Physical Therapist: What You Should Know.

Dry Needling: Getting to the Point

Featured Video: Cervical Multifidi

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