Over the past decades, global clinical and scientific interest in dry needling (DN) therapy has grown exponentially. A number of clinical effects have been attributed to dry needling, but there is still not enough rigorous evidence about its potential physiological mechanisms of actions and effects. Research identifying these exact mechanisms of dry needling action is in short supply and studies performed in an acupuncture setting do not necessarily apply to DN. The studies of potential effects of DN are reviewed in reference to the different aspects involved in the pathophysiology of myofascial triggerpoints: the taut band, local ischemia and hypoxia, peripheral and central sensitization.
The authors’ goal with this article was to supply the physiotherapist with an expanded understanding of the contemporary data available: what effects could be achieved by dry needling and what are their potential underlying mechanisms of action, as well as indicate some directions in which future research could be aimed to make up for current shortcomings.