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Frankly Health

By Students for Students

Soreness/Pain Relief

Are Pills the Best Answer?


By: Carina Dillon 


February 8, 2018


Dry needling is a technique used in physical therapy that was first introduced in the 1940’s by Dr. Janet Travell. She discovered that the human body consisted of certain areas which she called trigger points. After this discovery, Travell and Dr. David Simon worked together to find and map out almost all of the trigger points in the human body.1 Originally called “wet needling”, which used a hypodermic needle to insert a medication or substance into the body, dry needling took on a more physical approach to loosen shortened muscles through the newly discovered trigger points.2 Since this discovery, the concept of dry needling has continued to advance and improve the lives of patients. 


This form of treatment targets myofascial trigger points and muscular and connective tissues through the use of a thin, filiform needle. Myofascial trigger points are where there is a band of skeletal muscle among other larger groups of muscles.3 When touched, myofascial trigger points are tender and can cause other spots of the body to feel pain due to the location of the trigger point.1 Dry needling helps patients by releasing pain in the trigger point area, improving the patient's’ range of motion and overall comfort. When applying the needles to the trigger points, the immune system, nervous system, vascular system, and other parts of the body are affected. This gives a patient in physical therapy better results than the standard hands-on soft tissue treatment.3 


A recent study published in 2014 by Physical Therapy focuses on how trigger point dry needling affects plantar heel pain. In “Effectiveness of Trigger Point Dry Needling for Plantar Heel Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” 84 patients were monitored, each with plantar heel pain that had lasted for at least one month prior to the study. Patients received either real trigger point dry needling or sham trigger point dry needling once a week for six weeks. At the end of the study, measurements were taken on the levels of first-step pain and foot pain. Results showed that dry needling had a significant, positive effect in comparison to the effects of sham dry needling. Unfortunately, there is no knowledge of the long-lasting effects of dry needling. These results led to the conclusion that while dry needling is effective for plantar heel pain, more research should be done to discover long-term effects. In the future, other studies can be done where the treatment is over a more extended period of time and long term effects are recorded in other areas of the musculoskeletal system.  

The information provided is intended for factual purposes only, not to suggest or provide medical advice to you, the reader. Consult a medical professional with further questions or concerns regarding the information listed.



(1) Frank Gargano. History of Integrative Dry Needling. Integrative Dry Needling Institute. 2017; September 20, 2017;

(2) Dr. Spencer, J. Dry Needling Is The Next Big Thing In Physical Therapy. Dr. John Rusin - Exercise Science & Injury Prevention.

(3) Dry Needling by a Physical Therapist: What You Should Know. American Physical Therapy Association. 2017;

(4) Cotchett MP, Munteanu SE, Landorf KB. Effectiveness of trigger point dry needling for plantar heel pain: a randomized controlled trial. Physical Therapy. 2014;94: 1083-1094.


About the Author






Carina Dillon is  a first year student at Franklin Pierce University majoring in Health Sciences. After four years at Franklin Pierce, she plans on attending graduate school to receive her Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Her hometown is Rutland, Massachusetts.

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