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  • Writer's pictureDr. Brandon

Natural Drug-Free Relief For Shoulder Pain, Rotator Cuff, and even “Bone on bone” with Dry Needling

Updated: May 31, 2022

Does it hurt to lift your arms overhead? Are you having shoulder pain pushing up from your chair or when you try to pick something up? Are you looking for a natural and holistic way to fix the problem? Often, most people are told to rest their shoulder or are told to do everything with their other arm(often for six weeks or longer) by their physician and are only given pills, a shot, or offered surgery to “fix” the problem. But, did you know that there are natural and holistic ways to treat shoulder pain? One of the more powerful ways that we’ve found at Body Mechanix Physiotherapy is using Dry Needling to ease those tight, tender parts of the shoulder, stimulate healing, and reduce stiffness even if you’ve been told you are “bone on bone” and there is nothing to be done about it.

What is Dry Needling?

At Body Mechanix Physiotherapy, we use Dry Needling every day to treat many conditions. From frozen shoulders to rotator cuff issues, dry needling is a pretty effective way to help get back your strength and free up your shoulders to be able to lift overhead, carry things pain free, and even be able to get back to exercising. So, what exactly is dry needling? At Body Mechanix, after we’ve determined what the true source of your shoulder pain is (and sometimes the shoulder is just the victim), we use dry needling as part of our overall holistic healing plan often alongside gentle movements to get back what was lost including strength and mobility. Dry needling uses acupuncture needles that are about one fifth the size of your flu shot needle and insert them directly into trigger points (which are the tight and tender spots in your muscles). These trigger points are often in hard to reach areas such as between your shoulder blades, on top of your shoulders (like the trapezius muscle), around your collar bone, and in your rotator cuff. Sometimes if the neck is responsible for the shoulder pain, we’ll also target those areas as well. We couple the dry needling with the use of electrical muscle stimulation for maximum relief. Once in, many compare it to the most targeted massage they ever had and they are often able to see immediate relief.

Is Dry Needling the same as Acupuncture?

One of the main questions I get about Dry Needling is asking whether it is the same as acupuncture. The simple answer is, no, dry needling is not the same as acupuncture. While we use the same tools ( the acupuncture needle) and often place them in similar positions (ninety-four percent of mapped acupuncture points are often places where trigger points happen), dry needling is not the same as acupuncture. The main difference is how we use the acupuncture needles. For somebody receiving acupuncture, they often have a different type of exam and are treating syndromes associated with energy flow(chi) and will often have points needled very far away from where they actually hurt. With dry needling, we focus exclusively on where you hurt, are stiff, or what is causing pain(like areas that keep your shoulder from moving correctly) as well as targeting the joint and sometimes the nerves around the joint for maximum relief without the nasty side effects of painkillers, injections, or surgery.

What does Dry Needling Treat?

There are many conditions around the shoulder that dry needling does a great job easing. People suffering from frozen shoulder (also known as adhesive capsulitis), rotator cuff tears, tendinitis, myofascial pain, bursitis (including subdeltoid bursitis), as well as nerve pain from pinched nerves and neuropathy. Again, before we do anything, we will do a thorough exam to get to the source of your pain(so that dry needling has the best chance of helping you get back to normal)

How Does Dry Needling Work?

Dry needling works through a couple of different ways depending on what is being targeted. For those suffering from rotator cuff tears, myofascial pain, or muscle strains, dry needling works through unlocking those tight, tender, knotted up muscles which are called trigger points. There are two types of trigger points. The active ones are the ones that are already causing you pain and limiting your motion. The other kind of trigger point is a latent one. This is a tight area that is causing your shoulder to move differently. Both can put stress on other parts of your shoulder and neck and make them move differently and setting you up for the kind of pain that seems to spread or even go to the other side of your shoulder. When these areas are unlocked, they are then able to relax and work normally which takes the stress of your shoulder and eases the pain there by letting it move correctly.

We will often also needle the tendon either where the muscle is transitioning to tendon(which is often where pain originates) or where the tendon attaches to the bone. These areas are needled to stimulate the body’s natural healing response and jumpstart that process especially if it has stalled.

Last, for those that are dealing with nerve pain, we will also target alongside the nerves to free them up from where they are impinged by tight muscles, fascia, or are for whatever reason just hung up and needing to be released.

Is Dry Needling safe?

While every type of treatment has the possibility of side effects, dry needling overall is a very safe procedure. Our Doctors of Physical Therapy are specifically certified in Dry Needling and receive post-certification supervision by experts in Dry Needling who have completed hundreds of dry needling treatments before practicing. In addition, they have had hundreds of hours of training on anatomy, needling safety, and precautions as part of their certification and licensing. Now, what are the possible side effects? While we try to reduce the possibility of side effects, some do experience light-headedness and dizziness after the treatment while others may notice increased pain during insertion of the needles(which tends to go away within a few minutes). When working on the shoulders, we use much shorter acupuncture needles in order to minimize the risk of damaging structures underneath the shoulders. We advise everyone to be well hydrated and have had a meal to minimize any side effects. And of course, if you are afraid of needles, just let us know and we will work to solve your pain in another way.

Can I drive after Dry Needling?

Yes-driving is completely safe after dry needling and for people dealing with neck or shoulder pain-they often find it easer to look over their shoulder and turn the wheel after their treatment.

Can I go back to work after Dry Needling?

Yes(though many are so relaxed that they would rather a nap). Often people find that their focus is better(because they aren’t dealing with the pain) after their treatment.

Can I exercise after Dry Needling

Yes! Many of our athletes come in for dry needling before practice or competition to get rid of those tough knots or trigger points that foam rolling, lacrosse balls, or massage just can’t seem to get rid of.

Do I have to get dry needling if I come to Body Mechanix?

No!!! While we find that dry needling is very effective, it is just one of the many tools in our toolkit. If you have any fears about needles you will never be forced or expected to just “go along with it” and if at any time you change your mind about dry needling-we are happy to immediately change course for you.

Have more questions or want to see if Dry Needling is right for you?

Reach out to us by clicking on the “call us” button, email me at, or schedule your free dry needling consultation to see if dry needling is right for you. Request your free consultation here and pick the time that works best for you to meet with one of our Dry Needling Expert Doctors of Physiotherapy and they will be happy to sit down with you to help you understand your options and start to get to the source of why you hurt. Availability is limited.

During one of our free consultations, the Total Body Diagnostic, we offer expert advice about the worry and frustration of life-changing aches and pains – for FREE, in under 30 minutes.

If this article describes your story and you are looking for some help with shoulder pain, we offer FREE consultations, which give you the opportunity to come in and meet us and see for yourself how we can help you.

Here are just a few of the things you will learn in one of our free consultation:

  • What is the underlying cause of your pain? (hopefully nothing too serious!)

  • Roughly, how long will it take to fix the problem?

  • What to do to help – which doesn’t include painkillers, resting or surgery etc.

  • What other, natural, drug free methods are there to speed up recovery alongside treatment?

Our consultations are great for anyone that may be “unsure” if physio is right for them, and they give you the opportunity to ask questions and see for yourself if we can help you.

If you’d like one of our limited free consultation sessions, please click here to request your Total Body Diagnostic or CALL us on 850-765-2779 to make a no-obligation enquiry.

About the author

Brandon Alkire, DPT, CSCS, FMS, Cert. DN

Doctor of Physical Therapy and Strength Coach

Dr. Brandon is the owner and a Physio at Body Mechanix Physiotherapy and Fitness. Four of his favorite people call him daddy while he's been married to his other favorite person for over 18 years. He enjoys teaching martial arts and is a Mestrando in Capoeira while in the mornings, he can be found working out with the guys in F3 around town.

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