Dry needling is a well-regarded treatment for trigger points and muscular tension, but how long does it take to work, and how many sessions will a client need to begin seeing a difference? In this article, we discuss how long it can take for dry needling to take effect, whether or not clients receive immediate relief, how many sessions they will need, and how long they can expect the results to last.
So, how long does it take dry needling to work? Dry needling tends to offer immediate relief from muscle tension and pain, however clients tend to notice peak improvement around 48 hours after treatment. Such benefits tend to last around 1 week, but longer-term benefits can be achieved with a minimum of 3 treatments.
Read on to learn more about how long it takes for dry needling to work, and how long benefits last.
How Quickly Does Dry Needling Work?
Many patients experience some level of relief immediately after a dry needling appointment, whereas, for others, results tend to become more noticeable 2-3 days after the treatment, with peak improvement happening around 48 hours after treatment (1).
That being said, how long it takes for dry needling to work can vary on a case-by-case basis, depending on the severity of the client’s condition prior to initial treatment (2).
Does Dry Needling Give Instant Relief?
Whilst some clients report that dry needling can provide relief to some degree during, or immediately after treatment, many find that they notice the most improvement 24-48 hours afterwards (1).
The twitch response that dry needling causes is likely to be responsible for this instant relief. When the needle interrupts the trigger point, the muscle tends to relax immediately, likely resulting in instant relief for the client (3).
What’s more, it is thought that dry needling, like acupuncture, stimulates the release of endorphins, which block pain signals. Arguably, this could be considered instant relief from trigger point pain and tension, even if the treatment hasn’t yet released the trigger point (5).
However, as previously stated, peak relief tends to occur a couple of days after treatment.
How Do You Know if Dry Needling is Working?
In some cases, it will be evident during treatment that dry needling is working; it is generally accepted that the twitch response is a good sign that dry needling treatment is working (4). This twitch indicates that the needle interrupted the tension in the muscle, forcing it to contract and relax as normal, bringing relief to the client, as well as restoring normal muscle function (3).
Whilst one treatment is usually enough to cause the twitch response and bring some level of relief to the client, experts recommend further sessions to prolong the benefit (2).
Another way to determine if dry needling is working is to palpate the client’s trigger points, asking about their level of pain, movement, and stiffness after the treatment ends (2). This will also allow practitioners to gauge the effectiveness of the treatment, allowing them to make tailored recommendations about follow-up sessions.
How Many Sessions of Dry Needling are Needed?
As previously mentioned, instant relief can be gained from just one treatment of dry needling, however, in order to prolong the benefits, particularly for more severe cases, further sessions are recommended. Some suggest a treatment schedule of 1 session per week, for 2-3 weeks to achieve long-term results (2).
How Long Do the Benefits of Dry Needling Last?
The benefits of dry needling can last up to a week from a single session or, with multiple sessions, dry needling can offer long-term results.
A single session of dry needling is enough to cause the twitch response, and stimulate the release of endorphins to offer short-term pain relief. However, this may not be enough to truly encourage the muscle to return to proper functionality (2, 3, 5).
To gain long-term benefits from dry needling, experts recommend that clients have a minimum of 3 sessions, usually 1 session per week for 3 weeks. Some more severe cases may require up to 6 sessions to gain the desired results (2).
Dry needling can offer both immediate short-term, and accumulative long-term benefits. As such, treatments can work immediately, offering some degree of tension relief and pain relief, or it can take a few weeks to begin offering long term benefits, including:
- Pain relief
- Tension relief
- Improved range of motion
- Return to proper muscle function
- Increased activity levels
- Reduction in localised fatigue
Learn more about dry needling in our recent blogs, How Does Dry Needling Release Trigger Points?, How Does Dry Needling Get Rid of Knots?, and What’s the Difference Between Dry Needling and Trigger Point Injections?.
If you’re a healthcare professional interested in offering dry needling as part of your practice, Breeze Academy can help to kick start your journey with our foundation level dry needling courses. Our courses contain everything you need to know to become a qualified dry needling practitioner, as well as giving you the confidence you need to safely and effectively practice. What’s more, our courses are available in all major cities across the UK.
Faye Pattison Physiotherapy - How Long Does it Take for Dry Needling to Work?
Very Well Health - What is Dry Needling?
St Thomas Medical Group - How Dry Needling Provides Instant Relief from Knots
Honor Health - 5 Things You Should Know About Therapeutic Dry Needling
Spine Universe - What You Need to Know About Dry Needling for Low Back Pain