Posted on Mar 14, 2016
Posted in: Specialty Treatments
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, we only use sterile disposable needles.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.