Karle KotzeFollow

Publication Date

Spring 2019


School of Health Sciences


Exercise Science: Pre-Professional


literature review, trigger points, dry needling, physical therapy, myofascial pain syndrome, musculoskeletal pain, multimodal therapy


Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Musculoskeletal System | Other Rehabilitation and Therapy | Physical Therapy


Trigger point dry needling is a manual treatment modality used for individuals experiencing tightness, pain, and inhibited range of motion in any region of the body. Dry needling can be described as the insertion of a blunt, microfilament non-medicated needle into the skin for the purpose of targeting specific muscles, which contain tight bands known as trigger points. When the needle is inserted into the trigger point the muscle contracts, holds tight to the needle, and elicits a neural twitch response. This ultimately causes the muscle to relax, allowing for reduction in pain and improvements in range of motion. Although the use of dry needling is rising in popularity in the United States, knowledge of its use and effects is limited. Fortunately, more research is being conducted on this form of treatment. In this thesis, the purpose and physiological effects of dry needling will be discussed in detail, along with a comparison between other alternate medical modalities of treatment which target trigger points. In addition, current research on the effectiveness of incorporating dry needling with other manual therapeutic modalities will be discussed. Dry needling has been shown to be very effective in treating trigger points by improving range of motion, decreasing pain, reducing muscle tightness, and increasing muscle oxygenation. Positive effects of dry needling are even more likely to occur when paired with other modes of therapeutic treatment, often in a physical therapy setting but may also be performed by other health professionals including chiropractors, athletic trainers, occupational therapists, and physicians.