FDN 101: What Is Dry Needling and How Does It Work?

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what is dry needling

There are so many stereotypes about getting older, from losing your hearing to spending your days with aches and pains. Those stereotypes might make for some fun jokes, but the truth is that aches and pains aren’t inevitable.

In fact, it may be easier than you think to relieve the pain you’ve been living with for months or years. It all starts with knowing which treatments can help you.

One of the newer and lesser-known options is dry needling. What is dry needling and how can it help you? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a treatment that works in a simple way but requires in-depth knowledge to perform.

During dry needling, we place tiny, thin needles into precise areas of the muscle. These areas are called myofascial trigger points, but most people would call them knots.

By placing the needles accurately into these trigger points, we can relieve muscle pain and tension.

How Does Functional Dry Needling Work?

The mechanics behind functional dry needling, or FDN, are rather simple. When we place a needle into a myofascial trigger point, it activates a reflex that makes the muscle relax.

The challenging aspect is being able to identify where those muscles need to go. Some trigger points are obvious and are easy to feel, while others are more subtle.

By using FDN in the right places, we can provide patients with extensive relief by relaxing muscle tension they didn’t know they had.

What Problems Can Functional Dry Needling Address?

The beauty of FDN is that the reflex it triggers can be used nearly anywhere in the body. Because of this, the technique can help with a wide range of problems.

Muscle Pain and Tension

One of the most common reasons patients visit us for FDN is for muscle pain and tension. They might have soreness in a particular area or tension from stress or poor posture.

All of this can come down to knots within the muscle, and we can release those knots with functional dry needling.


Sciatica is a painful but general condition of having pain in the sciatic nerve. Your sciatic nerve begins in your lower back but it can shoot pain throughout your lower body.

Sciatica occurs when something is compressing your sciatic nerve. While there are a number of possibilities, the nerve compression often comes from tense muscles pressing on the nerve.

With functional dry needling, we can identify and target the tense muscles around your sciatic nerve, releasing them to relieve your pain.

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is an incredibly common problem. As many as 80% of US adults experience lower back pain at some point. In fact, 25% of US adults have felt it in the past three months.

There are multiple factors that can cause lower back pain, but one of the most frequent culprits is muscle tension. This happens especially often in people who work at a computer all day without practicing good posture.

With functional dry needling, we can release the muscle tension across your lower back to ease your pain.

Range of Motion Limitations

Muscle tightness causes more than pain and discomfort. It can also restrict your motion.

Excessive muscle tension will make your muscles less flexible. It can also prevent your muscles and joints from properly working together, so you don’t have the range of motion you once did.

By identifying and targeting the correct muscles with FDN, our skilled practitioners can give your muscles their freedom to move again.

What Can I Expect from Functional Dry Needling Treatments?

If you suffer from any of the conditions above or a variety of less widespread issues, functional dry needling may be the next step in relieving your pain and limitations.

When you schedule your appointment with us, we begin with a personal consultation. We discuss your symptoms and what you hope to gain from your treatment.

We also examine and assess the areas you want to treat. With these observations combined with our providers’ extensive expertise, we can determine whether FDN is the best way to get the results you want.

If it isn’t, don’t worry. We offer a wide range of other physiotherapy treatments as well, so we’ll likely be able to meet your needs with other methods.

The Functional Dry Needling Treatment

If you are a candidate for functional dry needling, we will proceed with the treatment. One by one, your provider will feel around to identify the myofascial trigger points and place needles within them.

Patients tend to tolerate the treatment well and don’t experience significant discomfort throughout the session. The amount of time this process takes will vary depending on your needs and your treatment area.

You may start feeling relief right away from your treatment. Afterward, you can go back to work and your other daily activities. There is no need for downtime.

Some patients do have soreness or tenderness after their FDN session. However, it tends to fade within a day or two.

What’s the Difference Between Acupuncture and Dry Needling?

In many cases, we explain dry needling to a patient and they say, “That sounds like acupuncture.” While it sounds and looks similar, FDN and acupuncture function in two different ways.

Acupuncture uses the idea of rearranging the way energy, or Qi, moves throughout your body. An acupuncturist places needles based on how they want to direct that energy flow.

Functional dry needling, on the other hand, targets a specific biological reflex in a precise area.

How to Try Functional Dry Needling for Yourself

Now that you know the answers to the basic questions, like “what is dry needling and how does it work,” it’s time to see if it can help you. That all begins with a one-on-one consultation.

To get started, schedule an appointment with us today.

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