Specialty Treatments: Dry Needling

Posted on Mar 14, 2016

Posted in: Specialty Treatments

Specialty Treatments: Dry Needling

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is a specialty treatment in which a needle is inserted into the skin and muscle directly at a myofascial trigger point.  A myofascial trigger point consists of contraction “knots”, which causes pain.

Is dry needling similar to acupuncture?

There are many similarities and differences between dry needling and acupuncture.  Licensed physical therapists can use dry needling under the scope of their practice.  Dry needling also falls within the scope of acupuncture practice.  We are not licensed acupuncturists and do not practice acupuncture.  We are, however, specially trained to perform dry needling.  In contrast to most schools of acupuncture, dry needling is strictly based on Western medicine principles and research.

How does dry needling work?

The exact mechanisms of dry needling are not known.  There are mechanical and biochemical effects.  Based on the pioneering studies at the National Institutes of Health, we know that inserting a needle into trigger points can assist in reducing pain.  It is essential to elicit so-called local twitch responses, which are spinal cord reflexes.  Getting local twitch responses with dry needling is the first step in breaking the pain cycle.

What type of problems can be treated with dry needling?

Dry needling can be used for a variety of problems.  Muscles are thought to be a primary contributing factor to the symptoms.  Such conditions include, but are not limited to neck, back and shoulder pain, arm pain (tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, golfer’s elbow), headache to include migraines and tension-type headaches, jaw pain, buttock pain and leg pain (sciatica, hamstrings strains, calf tightness/spasms).  The treatment of muscles has the greatest effect on reducing pain in the nervous system.

Is the procedure painful?

Most patients do not feel the insertion of the needle.  The local twitch response produces a very brief (less than a second) painful response.  Some patients describe this as a little electrical shock; others feel it more like a cramping sensation.

Are the needles sterile?

Yes, we only use sterile disposable needles.

What side effects can I expect after the treatment?

Most patients report being sore after the procedure.  The soreness is described as muscle soreness over the area treated and into the areas of referred symptoms.  Typically, the soreness lasts between a few hours and two days.

What should I do after having the procedure done?

Our recommendations vary depending on the amount of soreness you have and on the individual response to the treatment.  Recommendations may include applying heat or ice over the area, gentle stretches and modifications of activities.

How long does it take for the procedure to work?

Typically, it takes several visits for a positive reaction to take place.  Again, we are trying alleviate pain without medication.  Therefore, we are looking for a cumulative response to achieve a certain threshold after which the pain cycle is broken.

Why is my doctor not familiar with dry needling?

In the U.S., dry needling is a relatively new method for treating pain and not everyone is aware of it.  Feel free to inform your doctor about this treatment option.

Once I am feeling better, how often do I need to come back to maintain my progress?

Your body is under constant pressure from gravity, stress, work etc.  A regular exercise program combined with good posture can prevent many problems.  If the pain comes back, “tune-ups” are recommended to treat and prevent serious injuries.

How do I learn more?

Feel free to call our office at 920-738-0671 or email Miles Weber, DPT, [email protected] for more information.

dry needling

Specialty Treatments: Dry Needling