What to look for in a dry needler & the 13% rule

Have you heard of dry needling? It is a minimally invasive technique performed by a physical therapist (an in some states chiropractors & osteopaths) that can be quite effective for headaches, radicular pain/ sciatica, chronic hip “weakness,” rotator cuff dysfunction, persistent “knots” & trigger points, as well as a myriad of other orthopedic conditions.

As regulating boards were deciding how much training physical therapists needed to be able to do dry needling, it was determined that 87% of what is needed to safely & effectively perform functional dry needling, it already known by physical therapists. The structure palpation (knowing what anatomical piece can be felt by touch) is a big part of it, but also the clinical decision making. There’s a lot more that goes into it than just hurt here, poke here- which I refer to as the caveman approach.

The 13% is the actual handling of the needle, & education of all of the precautions and contraindications (reasons it shouldn’t be done). Yes, we practice everything on real people & have it done to us.

Just in case you don’t believe that I (or any physical therapist that does dry needling) can, in fact, palpate the correct structure, the process of functional dry needling through Evidence in Motion (formerly Kineticore) was validated through fluoroscopy, which is like a video under x-ray.

Why does all of this matter?

Some people will have success with me, after they did not have success elsewhere with dry needling; this is because my process at Oconomowoc Physical Therapy may be up to 87% different than another physical therapist’s process. Some people price shop & often run into that “Caveman approach” of hurt here, poke here, vs OPT’s 87% approach of finding root sources. I will also say that sometimes there are direct muscle injuries, in which case there is quick, near full resolution of symptoms, but often times, muscles are just splinting the pain area & needling just reveals other deeper tissue issues.

I hope this helps you make a more informed decision about who to trust with the care of your whole body.

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