What is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a technique that physical therapists use for the treatment of pain and movement impairments. It involves a very thin needle being pushed through the skin to stimulate a trigger point. The goal is to release tightened muscles that are associated with trigger points, or hard “knots,” within a muscle that can cause pain. A trigger point is a taut band of skeletal muscle located within a larger muscle group. Trigger points can be tender to the touch and touching a trigger point may cause pain to other parts of the body. When a needle tip hits a trigger point, a characteristic local twitch in the muscle is noted by the clinician and the client. This local twitch is involuntary. It has been shown that the elicitation of local twitch responses is the most important aspect in obtaining a successful therapeutic outcome for trigger point deactivation.
Major Benefits of Dry Needling
There are three major benefits to dry needling: pain relief, better movement, and faster healing. Studies have shown that this technique can provide immediate or short-term pain relief by stimulating certain neurological sensors in the body which modulate pain
signals. Another study done with elite volleyball players showed signs of significantly improved range of motion. Trigger points can effect a large area, causing functional weakness and referred pain. By stimulating the trigger points and increasing blood flow to that area, tension begins to release, opening up the muscles to greater movement. In addition, dry needling can speed up the healing process, even in injuries that do not typically respond well to physical therapy.
What Dry Needling Isn’t
A lot of people wonder if dry needling is the same thing as acupuncture; well, it’s not. The two techniques may use the same tool (needles), but the method and goals are different. Acupuncture is a needling technique based in Traditional Chinese Medicine that aims at clearing the flow of energy (chi) through your body. The thought is that this energy flows through specific meridians (channels) in your body to provide balance and that when one of these meridians is
blocked, it causes pain and discomfort of a physical and spiritual nature. During an acupuncture session, needles are applied to specific, set points in your body and are left still for some time.
Dry needling, on the other hand, is founded on Western anatomical and neurophysiological principles, looking to release tension, inflammation, or pressure on specific trigger points that cause muscle pain. During a session, the physical therapist will slowly insert and gently manipulate the needles, removing them after a short time.
Wet needling involves hollow-bore needles that deliver anesthetics and other medication to the site of injection. These needles can vary in size, but their hollow nature automatically means that they will be larger than the filiform needles used in dry needling. Dry needling does not use an injection of any kind and the length of the needle allows a physical therapist to target tissues that are not manually palpable. Because of its thinness, most patients do not even feel the needles penetrating the skin.
If you are ready to learn more about dry needling and how it can help you on your road to recovery, visit our website or call the office to make an appointment.