Physiological Effects of Dry Needling


The exact mechanisms of action of dry needling (DN) in the deactivation of trigger points (TPs) are currently unknown. Most of our current understanding of the systemic physiologic effects of DN is (in)directly derived from acupuncture literature. There are some similarities between acupuncture and DN, but, more importantly, many significant differences. Not just in the underlying philosophies and explanation models, but also in the technicaldetails. These include:

  1. one of more needles applied,
  2. the movement of the needle,
  3.  the depth of needle insertion,
  4.  the amount and force of stimulation
  5. and the elicitation of a local twitch response(LTR).


Physiological Effects of DN may include:

  1. Mechanical effects on The Taut Band (TB)
  2. Effects on Blood Flow
  3. Neurophysiological Effects: Effects on Peripheral Sensitization
  4. Neurophysiological Effects: Effects on Central Sensitization- Segmental Inhibition/Gate Control, Release of Endogenous Opioids,
  5. Effect on the Release of Neurotransmitters: Serotonin and Noradrenaline, Conditioned Pain Modulation, Remote Effects
  6. Placebo Effects

Dry needling physiology

Fig. 1 Schematic diagram of the potential physiological effects of DN.

LTR= Local Twitch Repsonse, SEA= Spontaneous electrical activity, SP= Substance P , CGRP= calcitonin gene-related peptide , CPM= “conditioned pain modulation”


For a detailed discussion access the excellent article written on the topic by Cagnie et al. 2031



Barbara Cagnie, Vincent Dewitte, Tom Barbe, Frank Timmermans, Nicolas Delrue, Mira Meeus. Physiologic Effects of Dry Needling. Current Pain and Headache Reports. June 2013, 17:348