Dry Needling

Does dry needling for low back pain work?

Dry needling is an intervention physical therapists perform using very thin needles like acupuncturists use. Dry needling can be quite helpful for low back pain and effects last for a week or two. How does it work?

It works through a neurophysiologic effect. This is a fancy way of saying it’s not simple and there’s a number of things it does. It increases the ability of the multifidi (small muscles that stabilize your vertebrae) to work properly when needed and relax when needed. It can also change the physiology of the muscles- nitric oxide, beta-endorphins, increased blood flow.

Do I just need dry needling? Dry needling is used as an adjunct to other treatments. Sometimes other manual therapies and always exercises are used for long lasting significant improvement in low back pain.


  1. Koppenhaver, Shane L., et al. “Changes in lumbar multifidus muscle function and nociceptive sensitivity in low back pain patient responders versus non-responders after dry needling treatment.” Manual therapy 20.6 (2015): 769-776.
  2. Chen, Jo-Tong, et al. “Inhibitory effect of dry needling on the spontaneous electrical activity recorded from myofascial trigger spots of rabbit skeletal muscle.” American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation 80.10 (2001): 729-735.
  3. Cagnie, Barbara, et al. “Physiologic effects of dry needling.” Current pain and headache reports 17.8 (2013): 348.
  4. Lee, Si-Huei, et al. “Effects of needle electrical intramuscular stimulation on shoulder and cervical myofascial pain syndrome and microcirculation.” Journal of the Chinese Medical Association 71.4 (2008): 200-206.

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