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Dry Needling: Pointing Out Theory, Evidence, and Outcomes is a Course

Dry Needling: Pointing Out Theory, Evidence, and Outcomes

Time limit: 30 days
1 credit

$26 Enroll

Full course description

Target Audience: Physical therapists and athletic trainers who work with patients with musculoskeletal disorders that result in myofascial trigger points. Trigger points may be due to either an acute or chronic condition.


Myofascial trigger points (MTrPs), which are commonly found in the athletic population, are hyperirritable spots in a palpable taut band of muscle fibers that cause local and referred pain, muscle weakness, and restricted mobility. Typically, MTrPs are painful on compression and can give rise to referred pain and/or tenderness. The trigger point model advocates that inactivation of the MTrPs is the most effective method to reduce pain and improve function. Although methods to manage trigger points, such as soft-tissue mobilization, cupping and stretching exist, dry needling has recently been shown to be an effective strategy to address MTrPs. While the actual mechanism of dry needling continues to be debated, one theory is that the localized twitch response commonly evoked with dry needling may interrupt motor end-plate noise, thus inducing an analgesic effect. In addition, dry needling helps to normalize muscle tone. As such, the use of dry needling, in addition to a multi-faceted rehabilitation program, has proven to be efficacious in the treatment of various musculoskeletal conditions commonly seen in athletes.

Because dry needling is a relatively new intervention, the health care professional must understand the role of dry needling in a multi-faceted plan of care. The purpose of this lecture session is to explain the background and current evidence for the use of dry needling in the treatment of myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) in the athletic population, and to summarize indications and contraindications for the use of dry needling in the injured athlete. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it is imperative that the other components of a multi-faceted plan of care, such as the corrective exercises, be emphasized. Dry needling may serve as a “catalyst” to accelerate the process of improved movement or normalization of joint mechanics, but the mobility and strengthening exercises serve as the foundation of any well-rounded rehabilitation program. As such, a case example, with utilization of dry needling as a component of a rehabilitation program, will be discussed.    

  Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (BOC AP# P8509) is approved by the Board of Certification, Inc. to provide continuing education to Athletic Trainers. This program is eligible for a maximum of 1 EBP Category hours/CEUs. ATs should claim only those hours actually spent in the educational program.


  1. Critique the latest evidence regarding the efficacy of dry needling for musculoskeletal pathology.
  2. Distinguish between the absolute and relative contraindications of dry needling.
  3. Provide rationale and support for the role of dry needling in a multifaceted intervention program.
  4. Design a rehabilitation program for a patient with a musculoskeletal pathology, incorporating dry needling. 


   Jill Thein-Nissenbaum, PT, DSc, SCS, ATC

Jill Thein-Nissenbaum, PT, DSc, SCS, ATC is an Associate Professor in the Physical Therapy Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her bachelor's degree in physical education from Iowa State University, her Masters in Physical Therapy from the University of Iowa, and her Doctorate of Science in Orthopaedic and Sports Science from Rocky Mountain University in Provo, Utah. In addition, Dr. Thein-Nissenbaum has been a board-certified Sports Clinical Specialist (SCS) through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties since 2001, and has been a certified athletic trainer since 1990.

Dr. Thein-Nissenbaum has served in numerous capacities since joining the DPT program faculty in 1995. In her current role, she teaches 2 5-credit courses in the musculoskeletal track. Dr. Thein-Nissenbaum’s clinical appointment is with the Department of Athletics as the staff physical therapist for Badger Sportsmedicine. She is the first physical therapist to be contracted into the athletic training room and is currently in her 13th season with the Badgers. She provides rehabilitation services and consultation for all 23 sports, working directly with the athletic trainers and team physicians. She was the first individual to perform dry needling in the athletic training room; today, it is a valued component in the care and rehabilitation of UW athletes. She has taken numerous dry needling courses and has spoken on the topic.

She is actively involved in professional organizations and serves as the treasurer of the American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy (AASPT). In addition, she hosts a monthly call-in show through Wisconsin Public Radio, where listeners can call in with musculoskeletal-related conditions and receive recommendations regarding treatment and/or management. Her co-host is her sister, Lori Thein Brody, PT, PhD, SCS, ATC.           

Her research interests include the adolescent female athlete, bone-related injury, dry needling and prevention of anterior cruciate ligament injuries. She has numerous presentations and publications related to these and other sports-related topics.