What Is the Difference Between Dry Needling and Trigger Point Injections?

July 8, 2022

When someone’s muscle is damaged or incurs tremendous stress, the muscle often forms tiny, painful knots called trigger points. Dry needling and trigger point injections are routine outpatient pain relief therapies to relieve trigger points. However, they’re not the same treatment and their efficacy varies. Awareness of each treatment’s process and likely outcome can help patients make informed decisions about their medical care.

What Is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is typically one component of a greater treatment plan. Many patients notice better results by using dry needling in conjunction with physical therapy. Dry needling involves inserting a small needle into the trigger point to reduce pain. The needle will remain inserted for a couple of minutes. Based on your symptoms, the provider may manipulate the needle after insertion. Muscle tightness is allegedly reduced when the needle makes the muscle twitch.

The efficacy of dry needling is still disputed, with some studies suggesting it doesn’t enhance trigger point relief even when combined with physical therapy.

How Often Should Patients Receive Dry Needle Therapy?

The number and frequency of dry needling appointments will depend on factors like pain level and the severity of the injury that caused the trigger points. Milder trigger point pain may only undergo three rounds of needling, while those with severe pain may require twice as many appointments. Recommendations are generally made by practitioners who offer that type of trigger point therapy.

What Are the Benefits of Dry Needling?

Dry needling is intended to provide pain relief, but the jury is still out on its efficacy. Some patients find it to be an effective way to relax muscles, while others become frustrated by the lack of results or the need to undergo several treatments to find temporary relief.

What Are Trigger Point Injections?

During a trigger point injection, the knot is injected with an anesthetic and corticosteroid. At the start of the appointment, the injection site will be disinfected and numbed before the injection is administered. Trigger point injection appointments are short, and most patients notice quick relief. The anesthetic eases the pain, and the corticosteroid reduces the inflammation so the muscle can heal.

How Often Should Patients Receive Trigger Point Injections?

Many patients notice complete relief after one trigger point injection. If the pain returns, the patient may need another injection. Patients with chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, headaches or myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) often receive routine trigger point injections as part of their pain management plan.

What Are the Risks of Trigger Point Injections?

Trigger point injections are not very risky. The most common risks include temporary pain or numbness at the injection site and, in some cases, skin discoloration or bleeding.

What Are the Benefits of Trigger Point Injections?

The best thing about trigger point injections is the rapid pain relief. One injection and 15 to 30 minutes of their time is often all the patient needs to eliminate the knot. The combination of anesthetic and corticosteroid offers a faster path to long-term relief than dry needling can provide.

Trigger point injections allow patients to reclaim control of their lives.

Which Treatment Should I Choose?

Dry needling and trigger point injections are both advertised as options for treating trigger point pain. Trigger point injections tend to be preferred by patients with severe pain because they take effect so quickly and are backed up with many years of effective clinical use.


Do you have headaches or chronic body pain? If you do, then consider speaking with your primary care physician about how trigger point injections can play a role in your treatment plan. Georgians who are looking for a pain relief solution can schedule an appointment at Non-Surgical Orthopaedics’ Marietta or Carrollton offices. You can contact us by calling 770-421-1420 today.

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