Person grabbing painful area of shoulder that can be helped with acupuncture and dry needling

Acupuncture has been used for treating trigger points for a long time. Dry needling is a common practice now, and we’re happy to provide dry needling at Absolute Health and Wellness. You may also know of dry needling as trigger-point acupuncture.

A Review of Trigger Points

For a more in-depth look at trigger points, please click here.

A trigger point is a hypersensitive area within a muscle that can cause varieties of pain. Pain can be described deep, distant, dull, tingling or burning [9].

Picture of trigger point in muscle, which is a hyperirritable or tense spot in a band of tissue

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling refers to the insertion of a solid needle into a trigger point, without the use of any other substance. Wet needling is similar, except the needle usually involves injecting a substance into the trigger point.

Dry needling can also be combined with electrical current, known as electrostimulation.

How to Dry Needle a Trigger Point

Dry needling a trigger point must be performed by a registered healthcare provider.

Our objective is to locate a trigger point, and then insert a needle into that trigger point. This form of acupuncture involves rapid, short term needling to alter the dysfunctional tissue in order to improve or restore function.

Picture showing a trigger point in the muscle and how dry needling involves inserting an acupuncture needle into the trigger point

The Local Twitch Response

When inserting the needle into a trigger point, we are looking for a local twitch, meaning the muscle will have a sudden, brief contraction. The twitch is believed to be a spinal cord reflex. Research has shown the twitch is related to the subsequent pain relief [9].

The twitch is perceived to be an uncomfortable sensation during the treatment. The twitch will often have a sharp, contractile sensation. Common side effects of dry needling include pain during treatment, and soreness and bruising after treatment. Most people fully recover within 24-72 hrs. To accelerate recovery, we recommend light stretching, ischemic compression or low-load eccentric exercise [9].

Dry Needling for Trigger Points is Effective

Various studies have been carried out to test the prevalence of trigger points and effectiveness of dry needling in a wide range of conditions, including tension type headaches, [1] migraines [2], TMJ pain [2], neck pain [3], whip lash injury  [4], shoulder pain [5], back pain [7] and elbow pain [6].

In a nutshell: dry needling is clearly helpful for short term relief (1-3 months). There is limited research beyond 6 months [1]. At Absolute Health and Wellness, combine dry needling with multiple therapies such as exercise prescription and other manual therapies for current symptom relief and preventative treatment.

To learn more about the exact mechanism by which trigger point release works, please here.


Dry needling for trigger point release is effective and commonly assists patients restore strength and function and to live a pain free life. For more information about acupuncture and dry needling, click here.


Interested in learning more?

Read on in our series of articles on Pain Management!

About the Author - Sonia Gashgarian

woman facing camera

Sonia Gashgarian is a registered physiotherapist who graduated with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of Toronto. Prior to this she completed her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with Honours from the University of Waterloo. Sonia has completed courses in sports taping and basic kinesio-taping, as well as the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy and Mulligan Concept. She also has her APTEI Acupuncture and Dry Needling Certification.

Sonia uses a variety of treatment techniques to help clients feel better and return to their regular activities as soon as possible. Her individualized treatments may include the following: education, joint mobilizations, exercise prescription, soft tissue release, trigger point release, taping, acupuncture and dry needling, cupping, and Gua Sha.

To book in please call us at (519) 442-2206 or click here.

Leave a Comment