Can Trigger Point Dry Needling Help Me? Arizona Physical Therapy Explains


Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy is a leader in Arizona physical therapy because of its commitment to high quality, individualized treatments and cutting edge techniques like Trigger Point Dry Needling. Foothills Sports Medicine also offers a free assessment of your needs, which you can schedule online here. For more information about Arizona physical therapy, visit our blog.

Stacy Scherzer obtained her masters in physical therapy from Mizzou and has a Certification in Orthopedic Manual Therapy. She is here to explain what Trigger Point Dry Needling is, and how it can be used to effectively treat pain.

What is TDN?

Trigger point dry needling (TDN) is a technique that aims to improve muscle or soft tissue’s mobility and length through myofascial release. Other forms of myofascial release you might be more familiar with include massage, cupping, and foam rolling. These therapeutic techniques can help to release tension and decrease pain.

Trigger point dry needling is unique because it requires a certified physical therapist’s in-depth knowledge of anatomy. It involves inserting a monofilament needle into a “trigger point,” or a tense area in the muscle, which elicits a twitch response. This twitch response decreases muscle restriction, which effectively lengthens the muscle to a small degree. This slight increase in length releases tension at each end of the muscle where it attaches to the bone. The resolution of a trigger point also allows the muscle to contract more effectively and efficiently, improving its function.

What can conditions can be treated with TDN?

TDN treatment technique is highly effective in treating musculoskeletal conditions, which includes pain or injury in joints, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and muscles. Myofascial pain comes from irritation in the muscles, and its contribution to musculoskeletal conditions is substantial. Pain in the body causes muscles to become automatically tight as a protective response. This causes further pain as portions of the muscle become restricted, leading to accumulation of waste products and reduced blood flow. This process becomes a vicious cycle and worsens without skilled intervention.

Low back pain is a common condition that could be treated with TDN. There are many causes of low back pain, including injury from heavy lifting, poor body mechanics, or even inactivity. The pain can cause the muscles in the spine to tighten and become restricted, compressing the vertebrae and increasing pressure on the discs. All of these factors contribute to back pain and can lead to limited motion and altered body mechanics, or movement patterns. While some myofascial release techniques, such as soft tissue massage, can alleviate some pain, TDN is able to reach the deep stabilizing muscles (called multifidi). These are too deep to address with massage alone, and release through TDN allows for more rapid recovery and pain reduction.

Muscle restrictions can occur in all parts of the body. These restrictions increase tension and pressure not only on the muscles, but on the tendons, joints, and other tissues as well. Without treatment early on this pressure could develop into tendonitis, causing conditions such as tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, and rotator cuff tendonitis. Trigger point dry needling can be used on nearly every muscle in the body to prevent further injury and resolve pain more effectively and rapidly than any other myofascial release technique.


Stacy Scherzer

MPT, COMT | Arrowhead Location