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  • Writer's pictureAviva Myerson

Intramuscular/Dry Needling

Intramuscular needling, also known as dry needling or trigger point therapy, is a therapeutic technique employed by healthcare professionals to alleviate musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction. This blog aims to provide a scientific exploration of intramuscular needling, its underlying mechanisms, therapeutic effects, and the current body of evidence supporting its use. Understanding Intramuscular Needling: Intramuscular needling involves the insertion of fine, sterile needles into specific areas of the muscle tissue, known as trigger points or myofascial trigger points. These trigger points are characterized by localized areas of increased muscular tension, tenderness, and restricted movement. The aim of needling is to release these trigger points, normalize muscle function, and promote pain relief. Mechanisms of Intramuscular Needling: The exact mechanisms of intramuscular needling are not yet fully understood. However, research suggests several potential mechanisms through which this technique exerts its therapeutic effects: 1. Neurophysiological Effects: Intramuscular needling stimulates sensory nerves, leading to the release of endogenous opioids and activation of descending pain inhibitory pathways. This modulation of pain perception helps reduce pain and promote muscle relaxation. 2. Mechanical Effects: The physical act of needle insertion can mechanically disrupt dysfunctional muscle fibers and stimulate a local healing response. This may trigger the release of growth factors, cytokines, and other biochemical mediators involved in tissue repair and regeneration. 3. Neurochemical Effects: Intramuscular needling has been found to alter the neurochemical environment within the muscle tissue. This includes the modulation of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and glutamate, which play crucial roles in pain transmission and sensory processing. Therapeutic Benefits of Intramuscular Needling: Intramuscular needling has shown promise in the treatment of various musculoskeletal conditions, including: 1. Myofascial Pain Syndrome: Intramuscular needling has been widely used to alleviate myofascial pain syndrome, a condition characterized by the presence of trigger points in skeletal muscles. It has shown effectiveness in reducing pain, improving range of motion, and restoring muscle function. 2. Sports Injuries: Athletes often experience muscular imbalances, overuse injuries, and trigger points. Intramuscular needling can target these areas, promoting faster recovery, reducing pain, and restoring optimal muscle function. 3. Chronic Pain Conditions: Conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic low back pain often involve trigger points. Intramuscular needling has demonstrated positive outcomes in relieving pain and improving quality of life for patients with these chronic pain conditions. Evidence Base and Research: The body of evidence supporting the efficacy of intramuscular needling continues to grow. Further research is needed to optimize treatment protocols, determine long-term effects, and establish its effectiveness compared to other interventions. Conclusion: Intramuscular needling, as a therapeutic technique, holds promise in the management of musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction. The combined neurophysiological, mechanical, and neurochemical effects contribute to its therapeutic benefits. While the evidence supporting its use is growing, ongoing research and continued scientific exploration are essential to better understand its mechanisms and optimize its clinical application. As with any therapeutic intervention, it is recommended that individuals seek the guidance of qualified healthcare professionals for proper assessment and treatment.


1. Dommerholt J, Mayoral Del Moral O, Gröbli C. Trigger Point Dry Needling. J Man Manip Ther. 2006;14(4):E70-E87. doi:10.1179/106698106790819686

2. Kalichman L, Vulfsons S. Dry needling in the management of musculoskeletal pain. J Am Board Fam Med. 2010;23(5):640-646. doi:10.3122/jabfm.2010.05.090376

3. Kietrys DM, Palombaro KM, Mannheimer JS. Dry Needling for Management of Pain in the Upper Quarter and Craniofacial Region. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2014;18(8):437. doi:10.1007/s11916-014-0437-0

4.Sánchez-Infante J, Navarro-Santana MJ, Bravo-Sánchez A, Jiménez-Diaz F, Abián-Vicén J. Is Dry Needling Applied by Physical Therapists Effective for Pain in Musculoskeletal Conditions? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Phys Ther. 2021 Mar 3;101(3):pzab070. doi: 10.1093/ptj/pzab070. PMID: 33609356.

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