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Dry Needling For Athletic Injuries

Dry needling is a therapeutic technique used by chiropractors, physical therapists and

other healthcare professionals to treat various musculoskeletal conditions, including

athletic injuries. It involves the insertion of thin, solid filiform needles into trigger points

or tight bands within muscles, tendons, or connective tissues. Here's an overview of the

benefits and evidence surrounding dry needling for athletic injuries:

Benefits of Dry Needling for Athletes

1. Pain Relief: Dry needling can help alleviate pain associated with muscle strains,

tendinitis, and other sports-related injuries by targeting trigger points and

reducing muscle tension.

2. Improved Range of Motion: By releasing tight muscle fibers and fascia, dry

needling can increase flexibility and improve range of motion, which is crucial for

athletes' performance and injury prevention.

3. Faster Recovery: Several studies suggest that dry needling can accelerate the

recovery process after an injury by reducing inflammation, promoting blood flow,

and facilitating the healing process.

4. Injury Prevention: Dry needling can be used as a preventative measure to address

muscle imbalances, tightness, and trigger points, which can contribute to the

development of injuries.

5. Performance Enhancement: Some research indicates that dry needling may

improve muscle strength, power, and endurance, potentially enhancing athletic


Evidence and Research

While the evidence surrounding dry needling for athletic injuries is still emerging, several

studies have demonstrated its potential benefits:

1. A randomized controlled trial found that dry needling combined with physical

therapy was more effective than physical therapy alone in reducing pain and

improving shoulder function in athletes with rotator cuff disease.

2. A case report showed that dry needling improved range of motion, decreased

pain, and increased grip strength in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athlete with proximal

interphalangeal inflammation.

3. A study on college students found that dry needling improved vertical jump

height immediately after the intervention.

4. Research on elite handball athletes revealed that dry needling in the teres major

muscle led to improvements in shoulder range of motion and pain reduction.

5. A systematic review concluded that dry needling could be an effective adjunct

treatment for various musculoskeletal conditions, including tendinopathies and

muscle strains.

It's important to note that while the available evidence is promising, more high-quality

research is needed to fully understand the efficacy and optimal protocols for dry

needling in the athletic population.

How Dry Needling Works

The proposed mechanisms of action for dry needling include:

1. Local Twitch Response: Dry needling can elicit an involuntary spinal reflex,

resulting in a localized contraction of the affected muscles, altering muscle fiber

length and tension, and stimulating mechanoreceptors.

2. Increased Blood Flow: Dry needling causes vasodilation in small blood vessels,

leading to increased muscle blood flow and oxygenation.

3. Neurophysiological Effects: Dry needling can promote homeostasis at the trigger

point site, decreasing central and peripheral sensitization to pain.

4. Remote Effects: Dry needling of distal trigger points can have an analgesic effect

on proximal trigger points.

Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture

While both techniques involve the insertion of thin needles, there are significant


● Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine, aiming to balance

the flow of energy (chi or qi) through meridians in the body.

● Dry needling is based on Western neuroanatomy and scientific understanding,

targeting dysfunctional muscle trigger points to reduce pain and restore function.

● Acupuncture typically involves multiple needles during treatment, while dry

needling uses fewer needles.

● Dry needling is often combined with electrical stimulation to enhance the effects.

Who Benefits from Dry Needling?

Dry needling can be beneficial for individuals suffering from various musculoskeletal

conditions, including:

1. Athletic injuries (muscle strains, tendinitis, etc.)

2. Chronic pain conditions (low back pain, neck pain, headaches)

3. Osteoarthritis

4. Fibromyalgia

5. Tendinopathies

6. And more!

Athletes and individuals engaged in regular physical activity may benefit from dry

needling as it can help alleviate pain, improve range of motion, and accelerate recovery

from injuries.

Experience the power of dry needling at Elevation Spine and Sports Medicine:

At Elevation, we incorporate dry needling into your personalized treatment plan,

harnessing its incredible benefits to help you overcome your pain and get you back to

doing your favorite activities without limitation.

For a comprehensive treatment experience, we can combine dry needling with

adjustments, soft tissue therapies and therapeutic or rehabilitation exercises to enhance the recovery process.

Don’t let pain hold you back any longer. Book your appointment now and take the first

step towards a pain-free life and enhanced athletic performance


Gregory TJ, Rauchwarter SA, Feldman MD. Clinical Commentary: Rehabilitation Using Acute Dry

Needling for Injured Athletes Returning to Sport and Improving Performance. Arthrosc Sports

Med Rehabil. 2022 Jan 28;4(1):e209-e213. doi: 10.1016/j.asmr.2021.09.035. PMID: 35141553;

PMCID: PMC8811490.

Dunning J, Butts R, Mourad F, Young I, Flannagan S, Perreault T. Dry needling: a literature review

with implications for clinical practice guidelines. Phys Ther Rev. 2014 Aug;19(4):252-265. doi:

10.1179/108331913X13844245102034. PMID: 25143704; PMCID: PMC4117383.

Chys M, De Meulemeester K, De Greef I, Murillo C, Kindt W, Kouzouz Y, Lescroart B, Cagnie B.

Clinical Effectiveness of Dry Needling in Patients with Musculoskeletal Pain-An Umbrella

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