Why is dry needling so painful?

Answered by Willie Powers

Dry needling can be painful for a few reasons. Firstly, the process of locating the trigger points can be uncomfortable. Trigger points are areas of muscle that are tight and contracted, causing pain and muscle dysfunction. When your provider is trying to find these trigger points, they may need to press firmly on the area, which can be painful. This pressure is necessary to accurately locate the trigger point and ensure that the needle is inserted in the correct spot.

Once the trigger point is located, the actual needling process can also be uncomfortable. The needles used in dry needling are very thin, similar to acupuncture needles. However, they are typically inserted deeper into the muscle tissue than acupuncture needles. As a result, you may feel a prick or a sharp sensation as the needle is inserted. Some people describe it as feeling like a small pinch.

Additionally, when the needle reaches the trigger point, you may experience a deep ache or discomfort. This is often referred to as a “twitch response.” The twitch response is a localized involuntary muscle contraction that occurs when the needle stimulates the trigger point. It can cause a brief intense sensation, similar to a muscle cramp or spasm. While this can be uncomfortable, it is often a sign that the needle is effectively targeting the trigger point.

It’s important to note that everyone’s pain tolerance is different, so the level of discomfort experienced during dry needling can vary from person to person. Some people may find the process relatively painless, while others may find it more uncomfortable. It’s always a good idea to communicate with your provider during the procedure, letting them know if you’re experiencing any excessive pain or discomfort.

Dry needling can be painful due to the pressure applied to locate trigger points and the insertion of the thin needles into the muscle tissue. The discomfort can also be intensified by the twitch response, which is a localized muscle contraction triggered by the needle. However, the level of pain experienced can vary from person to person.