Dry Needling for Trigger Points - Your Questions Answered

Is certification was required to do dry needling in the USA?

Yes, certification is required. A quick google search in your state should show you what certification you need – whether you're a LMT, physiotherapist, or other health practitioner. Courses range from 1 to several days, depending on the institution offering the course.

One thing to note – every week we get enquiries from readers looking for someone who can do trigger point needling in their area. If you are the only person in a 100 mile radius who is able to perform this therapy, that's great distinguisher – and a valuable service you're providing.

How is dry needling different from acupuncture?

Dry needling is a modern term describing when needles are inserted into the body and no substance is injected. So, as a strict technical definition, acupuncture is a form of dry needling.

So Acupuncture involves dry needling but follows a system devised over thousands of years in China. In this system certain points are needled and there is the concept of meridians and Qi (sometimes written as 'Chi'.) Most of the traditional acupuncture points are over muscles, and many of these points' locations coincide with trigger point locations. However there are other acupuncture points which are not over muscles.

Acupuncture has a huge tradition in China with its own system of points. There are other traditions using dry needling in Korea and Japan, and these have their own systems.

For dry needling, the needle is very fine and solid. Most modern dry needling involves treating trigger points in the muscle. However there are certain techniques where needles are placed in subcutaneous tissue.

Do you know a practitioner of dry needling of trigger points in my area?

I don't have an extensive network of professionals doing trigger point dry needling outside my home country (New Zealand) however we are working on a solution to that which I'll be unveiling in the near future.

A good place to start is the National Association of Trigger Point Therapists (for the States) and searching [trigger point dry needling] and [your area] online.

I have pain in my abdomen and buttock which I think is caused by trigger points in my psoas. These cause misalignment of my pelvis which then creates back, leg and pelvic pain.

Abdominal pain may come from other causes . You can be confident it's trigger points only if you've excluded other potential causes. It would be prudent to exclude those causes first by going to see a competent gastroenterologist.

Tests to exclude other causes could include a colonoscopy / ultrasound or CT scan. You need to discount other causes before you can be confident the pain is coming from psoas trigger points.

Another point to note - if trigger points are the only problem, treating them stops the pain. If there are other underlying problems then trigger points tend to keep coming back. One persistent problem that's often missed in chronic pain is a malfunction in the central nervous system.

However, if the pain is being caused by trigger points in the psoas, then treating them can cause dramatic pain relief – something that I've certainly seen many times - as have other therapists I've spoken to.

Does the electrical stimulation device come with the course? If not where can it be purchased?

The electrical stimulation device doesn't come with the course. There are, however many forms of electrical stimulation used in dry needling. They are often used in Chinese acupuncture.

What I've used for years and found very effective is a stimulator used in the Japanese system Ryodoraku. These days, it's the only electrical stimulation I do use, and I use it in a specific dynamic fashion to help patients regain mobility in joints. The Ryodoraku machine has a particular type of electrical wave form that I use in very short doses and which allows muscles to relax.

These machines are available in the states and UK and Europe– here are a few links to different sites that stock them:


I can't personally vouch for these sites as I've owned my own Ryodoraku machine since the 80's (or possibly the 70's :) - so you'll have to do your own due diligence if you decide to get one. For me it's been an excellent investment though, and extremely useful for people with restricted movement due to tight muscles.

Is it possible to dry needling on yourself?

It is possible to needle yourself. It's an interesting experience. The things to take into account - if you treat yourself you're limited to treating the parts of your body you can easily reach. And the same rules for safe needling practice also apply.

You have to get over a certain squeamishness / reluctance to penetrate your skin. However many people with diabetes do this every day. It is also a strange sensation to seek for a trigger point once you've penetrated the skin. I've certainly treated myself with acupuncture, and it works very well.So in short – self dry needling is challenging, but doable.

Any more questions? Just email info[@]LifeAfterPain.com if you'd like to know more.