What is Dry needling?

Dry needling is a physical therapy specialization. Muscles are stimulated with a special technique, which leads to long term relaxation. Dry needling uses a ‘dry’ acupuncture needle, without medication. Dry needling is based on Western anatomical and neurophysiological principles, rather than Eastern medicine, like acupuncture. Acupuncture applies multiple needles to the body, where they remain for a time period. This treatment is based on the energy meridians in the body, the flow of yin and yang. Dry needling uses only one needle and is applied to the muscle for a very short time. Dry needling is applied at specific points (pressure points) and is not an energy treatment.

Trigger point

A trigger point is painful pressure point (muscle hardening) in the muscles that causes local, but often also remote pains. The physical therapist looks for these points because they are often the main cause of your complaints.

Trigger points can manifest themselves as:

  • Pain/stiffness in the muscle, either locally or remote (radiation pain)
  • Movement limitations in associated joints
  • Decreased strength in associated muscle(s)
  • Pain avoidant behavior; one moves differently
  • Warmth, shivering, headaches, dizziness, and others


What causes trigger points?

  • Acute; through sudden movement or trauma (accident)
  • Chronic; through poor posture or movement
  • Long term overuse by athletes
  • Damaged tissue such as a hernia or meniscus
  • Long term immobility through cast or brace use
  • Psychological factors such as stress, depression, fatigue
  • Foot deformations or different leg lengths
  • Chronic infections and allergies
  • Headaches

Treatment is focused on deactivating (relaxing) the muscle hardening through dry needling. Through pricking the hardenings will relax.

What does dry needling feel like?

You will not feel the initial needle injection, but afterwards you may feel a deep, nagging pressure. You might also experience temporary twitching. This feels like an involuntary muscle tension, a sort of cramp. The needle is moved up and down repeatedly within a square centimeter until all the cramped fibers relax. You might experience some local pain, but sometimes the pain can radiate out as well.

The effect

After treatment the muscle might feel bruised, heavy, or sore. Sometimes there are other symptoms like sweating, fatigue, or dizziness. These are vegetative reactions of the nervous system. Though uncomfortable, they will quickly disappear. Dry needling works for 72 hours, thus the effect will be experienced later.

Recognized treatment method in the Netherlands

According to the BIG law dry needling is not a restricted treatment. Physical therapists in the Netherlands who have received dry needling education are allowed to offer this treatment. This education is recognized and accredited by the Royal Dutch Association for Physical Therapy (KNGF). Dry needling is part of the regular physical therapy compensation package. If you have physical therapy as part of your insurance package, your insurance company will cover the treatments. There is no separate rate for dry needling treatments.