The origin of the term “dry needling” is attributed to Janet Travell, M.D. In her very famous book, Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: Trigger Point Manual. Which even though was released in 1984, was being heavily researched by Dr. Travell in the 1940’s.
Dr. Travell was utilizing needles thicker than those commonly used in traditional acupuncture to target trigger points, hyper-irritable regions of muscle activity. These trigger points commonly were the cause of some patients pain and the stimulation of the point by a needle caused the pain to diminish with repeated needling.
Dry needling for the treatment of trigger points is based on theories similar, but not exclusive, to traditional acupuncture; however, dry needling targets the trigger points, which is the direct and palpable source of patient pain, rather than the traditional “meridians”, accessed via acupuncture. The distinction between trigger points and acupuncture points for the relief of pain is blurred.