Knee Osteoarthritis and Dry Needling

Knee Osteoarthritis and Dry Needling

Knee osteoarthritis is a very prevalent injury in the U.S with around 39% of population over 30 years old experiencing some form of it. Because of this, knee OA is a leading cause of disability. Knee OA can be defined as degeneration of the cartilage. The clinical signs and symptoms include joint pain, stiffness in morning less than 30 minutes, limited joint range of motion, night pain and/or joint deformity.

Since knee OA is a very common injury, people are constantly seeking out other alternatives to medication and surgery to treat their pain and functional losses. Exercise and manual therapy have been extensively studied to provide significant improvement in pain levels and function with those with knee OA.

Dry Needling for Knee Osteoarthritis

A great treatment that is very beneficial in improving pain and function is periosteal electrical dry needling. Dry needling includes the insertion of fine needles into myofascial structures to help reduce hypertonicity, pain, inflammation and improve range of motion (ROM). For specific knee OA dry needling, a standardized 9 point protocol is used for up to 20 minutes per session, 1-2 times a week. 3 of the needles are inserted in the inner part of the knee down to level of the bone, with tapping onto the bone, called “periosteal stimulation.”

There may be slight pain with insertion. Most notable sensations are aching, tingling, deep pressure or warmth. Once the needles are in the place, they are attached to electrical stimulation unit to facilitate healing for 10-20 minutes. Some of the side effects include very minimal bleeding, aching, small bruising and soreness that may last a few hours to 1-2 days.

In order to get the best results, dry needling should be used in conjunction with exercise and manual therapy and continued for up to 6-8 weeks.


With the addition of dry needling to exercise and other manual therapy, studies show significant improved with pain, function and range of motion.

Dunning, James; Butts, Raymond; Mourad, Firas; etc. “Periosteal Electrical Dry Needling as an Adjunct to Exercise and Manual Therapy for Knee Osteoarthritis: A multicenter randomized clinical trial.” Clinical Journal of Pain, Vol. 24, Number 12, December 2018.

Dr. Janie Schneider, PT, DPT, Cert. DN, OCS