Well let me tell you, I was in the same boat. I hate needles of any kind.
I can’t watch during blood draws, and I passed out in 7th grade during in-school immunizations (no lie, it was in the office of our library and I still remember it clear as day over 20 years later.) I just don’t like needles!
When I was asked if I would train to be able to provide dry needling treatment, I really had to think about it FOR A FEW DAYS before I agreed. Why you may ask? Well, in any physical therapy training to learn new techniques, we practice on each other. This meant I would have dry needling practiced on me, multiple times. The thought of that made me nervous! However, I knew how helpful the treatment can be and that if I could offer dry needling to a new patient population, as no one else in the area is needling the pelvic floor, I reluctantly said yes.
The ”traditional” needles that we think of, such as in blood draws or immunizations, are really pretty large, at least in comparison to dry needles. The needles used for these procedures need to be larger to allow fluid in our out (for example, blood). Because these needles are larger, they cause more pain when they puncture the skin. I know I sure don’t like pain, particularly the pain from a very sharp object going into my body. However, the needles used in dry needling are extremely thin. Think of placing a few strands of hair together thin. The dry needles are so thin because we are not taking any fluid out or putting any fluid in, so they can be small! Because these needles are so thin, you rarely feel them entering the skin. I’m not kidding about that; the first time I had dry needling done, I didn’t even feel the needle at all. I had to ask if anything had even been done yet!
The dry needling procedure in its entirety really is not painful. Sure, you may have some discomfort when the needle enters the muscle belly, but it is nothing compared to other needle procedures. Once the needle enters the muscle (which is my goal during treatment), you typically feel a deep ache. It may be intense depending on how tight your muscle is, but it still isn’t painful. To me, it feels similar to having a deep tissue massage over a tight muscle. I bet if you didn’t know it was caused by a needle, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference!
My body has also learned to love dry needling. I have had dry needling done on myself for back pain and headaches with great results! I think our bodies know when discomfort is for therapeutic purposes as compared to actual pain, and the more input our body gets with pain relief, the more our bodies learn to like it. When I have a headache (mine originate from tight muscles in my neck), I can almost feel my neck muscles wanting the release provided by dry needling. This may be because when I have dry needling done during a headache, it is gone once the treatment is over. Do you really think someone who doesn’t like needles would want them placed in their muscles if it wasn’t beneficial? I doubt it!
If you hate needles, it doesn’t mean you can’t tolerate dry needling. I’ve had multiple patients who, just like me, get anxious during needle procedures, but tolerate dry needling extremely well and have seen great results. Dry needling feels quite different from other needle procedures, and the relief we experience after the procedure makes the discomfort completely worth it.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to one of our dry needling physical therapists!
We would be more than happy to discuss our own experiences with dry needling and can help determine if it is the right treatment for you!