What is Dry Needling?
Dry Needling is a cost effective and efficient technique for the treatment of myofascial or
muscle pain and dysfunction. This is based on Western anatomical and neurophysiological
principles. Acupuncture needles are used for this treatment. The name comes from the initial
research in the treatment of trigger points where they typically use injected medication
compared to a control group where they used dry needles (without medication). It was found
that the dry needling treatment was just as effective as that with medication. Hence, dry
needling as a treatment form for myofascial, muscle related pain was created.
What conditions can benefit with Dry Needling?
There are a variety of conditions that respond well to Dry Needling, such as headaches, neck
pain, rotator cuff injury, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, muscle spasms, fibromyalgia, low back
pain, sciatic pain, hip pain, knee pain, repetitive strain injury and sinusitis.
What is a myofascial trigger point?
A trigger point is a hyper-irritable nodule in a muscle. The trigger point feels like lumps in the muscle and are extremely sensitive to light pressure. Trigger points often become self-perpetuating in a vicious cycle of pain and muscle tension once they have taken hold. Releasing trigger points typically requires active treatment with techniques such as dry needling, manual trigger point therapy and/or myofascial release a trigger point is painful on compression and can give rise to characteristic referred pain, tenderness, motor dysfunction and autonomic phenomena. The referred pain is often felt in a region distance to the actual trigger point. Trigger points can also result in reduced function of the muscle, weakness, and reduced range of motion. Autonomic phenomena can include skin changes, dizziness, and nausea. Myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) are commonly seen in both acute and chronic pain conditions
How does Dry Needling work?
The sustained tightness of the muscle fibers of the trigger points reduces blood flow around the trigger point. This means less oxygen and food can be delivered to the muscle, and less removal of waste products produced by muscle cells. The aim of dry needling is to restore muscle fibers to their normal, healthy state. Inserting a needle into an active trigger point enables the muscle to relax. For maximum effect, a local twitch response is sought. This is an actual twitch of the muscle, due to a complex reflex reaction stimulated by the needle. This causes a micro trauma and physical break down of the trigger point. This triggers the body’s own healing system, whereby the muscle fibers are healed
What does Dry Needling feel like?
Acupuncture needles used in dry needling are exceptionally fine and solid, they are not hollow unlike hypodermic needles. When the needle is inserted the sensation is often described a tingling or a dull ache. Depending on the effect required the needles could be inserted for a few seconds or for several minutes. Patients typically experience a pleasant feeling or relaxation. A stingy sensation can be felt when the needle is inserted. It is not desired for the stingy sensation to be prolonged for several hours (although it is not damaging)
The benefits of needling are more than just pain relief or improved range of motion from a particular condition. Many people find that it can lead to increased energy levels, better appetite, and sleep as well as an enhanced sense of overall well-being.
Are there any side effects?
If the practitioner is professionally trained and understand the anatomy sufficient, dry needling is a safe technique. There are, however, a few possible side effects. Common mild side effects include bruising, and /or soreness at the area of needling and tightness of the muscle like what can be felt after strenuous exercise. The soreness comes from the micro-trauma caused by the needling and this can last for a few hours up to a couple of days. Also, different people react differently to needling. Some may feel drowsy, nauseous, or dizzy post needling. Some people get more energy and can even feel euphoric. Sweating or dryness in the mouth is common during needling. A few people may also experience an onset of their normal pain, which is an indication that the trigger point has been stimulated. This is not a problem; it normally abates and gets better with continued treatment. Serious side effects are very rare but when they do occur, the most frequent and the most serious is that of a pneumothorax. This happens when needling the muscles over the lungs and a needle accidentally pierces the lung, leading to a partial or full collapse. This is, however,
exceptionally rare. Other possible risks include needling of major blood vessel or nerves, but with a professionally trained practitioner, this should not be a concern. Dry Needling can only be carried out by professionals who have gone through dry needling training.
Is Dry Needling the same as Acupuncture?
Essentially, no. Acupuncture comes from traditional Chinese medicine. Needling certain points along ‘meridians’ aids this process. Dry Needling is based on a Western view of the body and has been developed through Western research. However, there are several similarities between the two techniques, even though the reasoning may differ.
Is Dry Needling appropriate for me?
The therapist will perform an assessment on you, depending on your clinical complaint, the state of how sensitive the level of pain you are experiencing as well as other factors are taken into consideration before we decide if Dry Needling is appropriate for you.