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is the science behind dry needling legit?

The impact of scientific research

Scientific research is a very important part of science and serves us to confirm the procedures and techniques of individual sciences.

In physical therapy and medicine, there are numerous scientific studies that confirm and deny certain techniques and types of therapies.  

But are these scientific studies alone sufficient to draw conclusions about a specific technique?

Can we be guided in the rehabilitation process only with science, and without the practical and experiential part of therapy?

We will show you the answers for all of these questions and numerous high quality scientific research in this blog.

At the end of the blog you will be able to read our conclusion. 

In the blog itself, all surveys have the lowest score of 7/10 according to the Pedro grading scale. Most of the research shown is of much higher quality. 

Scientific research
temporomandibular joint

TMJ dysfunctions

TMJ or temporomandibular joint is a joint whose role is to lift the jaw and is very important in the chewing function. 

A study performed on 52 patients with temporomandibular muscle pain showed that Dry needling is efficient seduces pain and sensitivity of the painful spots on the affected area compared to placebo dry needling. 

Another research is a sample of 120 patients with temporomandibular disorder and the aim was to compare the effectiveness of Dry needling and manipulation of the cervical spine versus splint therapy, diclofenac use and temporomandibular joint mobilization.

The aforementioned research showed that Dry needling and spinal manipulation give much better results in reducing pain and restoring active opening of the mouth compared to the use of splints, diclofenac and mobilization. 

Cervical spine and headaches

Disorders and syndromes related to the cervical spine are a very common problem today due to a sedentary lifestyle. 

Systematic review whose aim was to determine the effectiveness of Dry needling on chronic neck pain showed that Dry needling provides better results from placebo therapy in a period of 3 to 6 months after the application. 

Cervicogenic headache is a common chronic headache whose frequent cause is hypertonus of the sternocleidomastoid. 

A study conducted on 29 women with a clinical diagnosis of cervicogenic headache showed that Dry needling reduces the duration, intensity and frequency of the headache.

cervical spine
lumbar spine

Lumbar spine

Randomized controlled trial conducted on 46 patients with chronic lumbar pain showed that the application of the Dry needling technique with exercise program provides significantly better results for a period of 3 months to reduce pain and sensitivity versus an independent exercise program. 

Scientific research conducted on 40 patients with chronic lumbar pain compared the effects of Dry needling and false Dry needling. The results showed that Dry needling results in significantly reduces pain, improves the function and increases mobility of the lumbar spine. 

Piriformis syndrome or "false sciatica" is a common cause of pain in the gluteal area and along the back of the leg. 

Clinical research performed on 32 patients with piriformis syndrome showed that 3 treatments of Dry needling technique clinically significantly reduce pain caused by piriformis syndrome. The results were measured one week after treatment and compared with the control group.

Shoulder joint

Systematic review that included 94 studies and 402 patients with the subacromial syndrome, compared the results of conventional physical therapy with the Dry needling Therapy. 

The results of the cross-sectional research showed that Dry needling is safe and effective technique for pain reduction and increase in function for patients with subacromial syndrome. 

The best and longest-term results were shown in combination of Dry needling with conventional physical therapy.

RCT published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies compared the effects of two types of Dry needling to routine physical therapy.

The results showed that deep Dry needling in combination with routine physical therapy has significantly better results in reducing pain and increasing function from Hong's Dry needling and self-directed routine physical therapy.

Shoulder joint


Systematic review and meta-analysis published in the” American Academy of Pain Medicine " evaluated the effects of Dry needling on spasticity, pain, motor function, and pressure sensitivity in post-stroke patients. 

A total of 7 studies were included, 3 for lower extremities and 4 for upper extremities. 

Moderately strong results showed that Dry needling reduces spasm, pain and pressure sensitivity compared to the control group. 

Multicentre randomized controlled trial was performed on 210 patients divided into 3 groups. Dry needling group (70), fake Dry needling group (70), and control group (70). 

The research proved that Dry needling of the spastic muscles of the wrist, hand and fingers clinically significantly reduces spasm compared to the fake Dry needling and the control group.


Systematic review published in the” Journal of Sport Rehabilitation " investigated the effects of Dry needling on pain and function in tendinopathies. 

The PRISMA guidelines were used to assess the results and the inclusion criteria consisted of the use of Dry needling in combination with therapeutic exercises, human participants and active pathology of tendinopathy. 

7 research papers were included in the intersection and it was concluded that there is Level B evidence to confirm that Dry needling technique in combination with eccentric exercises significantly reduces pain and increases the function for patients with tendinopathy.


Hip and knee

Double-blind RCT which was performed on 40 patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knee joint, sought to investigate the impact of using the Dry needling technique on the hip and knee muscles 

The test group received 3 treatments of the Dry needling technique while the control group received 3 treatments of the fake Dry needling technique without applying a needle. 

The results showed that Dry needling significantly increases functional activity and balance and seduces pain and sensitivity in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. 

A study conducted on 30 patients with mild to medium osteoarthritis of the hip joint sought to investigate the effect of Dry needling on the hip muscles. 

Pain, intensity, the main area of pain, pressure pain threshold, psychological distress, and self-observed improvement were measured. 

The results showed that 3 treatments of the Dry needling technique results in significantly seduce pain, increase the pain threshold at the palpation, and reduce psychological distress in patients with osteoarthritis of the hip. 

The results of both studies were measured within a relatively short period of time after therapy and additional studies on long-term effects need to be done. 


A study published in the” Journal of Sport Rehabilitation " compared the effects of Dry needling technique and static stretching on hamstring flexibility in healthy patients with muscular hypertonus. 

The 40 healthy subjects with significant hamstring muscle tension were randomly distributed into 2 groups. The group that received Dry needling and the group that did static stretching.

The dry needling group received one treatment at 3 points on the hamstrings for one minute per application site. The second group performed static muscle stretching in the position of active knee extension in 3 sets lasting 30 seconds per set. 

The results showed that the Dry needling technique results in significantly moremuscle lexibility rear lodges compared to static stretching.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome

RCT published in the Journal of Medical and Biological Sciences studied the effects of the Dry needling technique on pain in patients diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. 

The study evaluated 50 affected hands with a clinical diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome. Patients were randomly divided into intervention and control groups. 

In the intervention group, 1 Dry needling treatment of hypertonic muscles of the affected forearm was performed and splints were used. Then pain and function were assessed using the VAS pain scale and BCTQ questionnaire at baseline, one week and six weeks after the intervention. 

Dry needling technique has helped to significantly reduce pain and increase the function of the hand within a week after the application of the technique.

Menstrual pain

The medical term for menstrual pain is dysmenorrhea. Symptoms can be anything from blunt and painful cramps to intense unbearable pain which seems uncontrollable and cannot be easily mitigated. 

A study published 2018. wanted to compare the use of the Dry needling technique and the placebo Dry needling technique on pain and quality of life in primary dysmenorrhea. 

There were 56 patients with primary dysmenorrhea who were divided into 3 groups. Dry needling group, placebo Dry needling group and control group. 

The first group received a Dry needling technique in the rectus abdominis with stretching. The second group received a placebo Dry needling with stretching. And the third group did nothing but stretching. 

The results of the survey showed that Dry needling technique in combination with stretching is more efficient from placebo technique and self-stretching in sain reduction and reducing the use of medication in patients with primary dysmenorrhea. 

Menstrual pain

Should we blindly follow the research?

Congratulations that you have come to the end of this exhaustive blog and we hope you have learned a lot through it. 

As you may have noticed, part of the research has shown long-term results of the Dry needling technique while part of the research showed short-term results of the Dry needling technique. 

As with most other techniques in physical therapy and medicine in general, larger and more extensive scientific research is needed to determine the correct protocols for applying the technique. But that in itself does not mean that this technique should not be used. 

Always try to combine science, practice and experience to get maximum and long-term results in the treatment of your patients. 

Također pogledajte isječak s predavanja na Kineziološkom fakultetu u Zagrebu u kojem detaljno objašnjavam znanost iza Dry needling tehnike.

Picture of Bsc. PT. Toni Marić

Bsc. PT. Toni Marić

Toni is bacc. physical therapist and the owner of the Ad Sacrum clinic who has been treating top athletes for years and also teaches at the Dry needling courses for physiotherapists.

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