What is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a treatment using a thin filament needle to puncture skin and create tiny lesions in a muscle, tendon, or ligament to help restore normal physiology, function, and reduce pain.
Needling has many applications for a long list of diagnoses to treat what is referred to as myofascial pain. It has been shown to help with chronic pain, headaches, neck and low back pain, medial epicodylitis (tennis elbow), plantar fasciitis, muscle strain and tension, hip and knee pain, shoulder blade and shoulder pain.
How does it work?
In a muscle that is symptomatic there is often a change in normal physiology where metabolism and blood flow has been altered, as well as an increase of inflammatory chemicals. Since needling actually creates a tiny new injury, the body creates a new healing process that disrupts abnormal metabolism and helps restore normal physiology to the area.
Part of the assessment for needling is feeling for tight bands of muscle that possess high tone due to overuse and compensation. One indication of a good treatment effect for trigger point dry needling is eliciting what's known as a twitch response. A twitch response is actually an involuntary muscle contraction that occurs in response to the needle insertion and can cause a rapid change in pain and muscle tone.
What makes Integrative Dry Needling different from Trigger Point Dry Needling?
Where trigger point needling focuses on mainly symptomatic areas as mentioned above, integrative dry needling looks to have a larger effect on the body as a whole by having a treatment effect on the nervous system. If the nervous system is in overdrive and feels threatened, more things on our body will be tender, not just that one spot you've been massaging. With integrative dry needling, treatment is expanded to regions both close and farther away from the painful area based on the mapping of our sensory nerves and relation to the spine.
Is Dry Needling Painful?
Unlike when receiving a vaccination or injection, there is no medication is being injected, so we can use a really thin flexible needle. Any discomfort felt during treatment is not a sharp stabbing pain from the needle, but rather a deep ache or brief cramping sensation from the muscle. Most people don't even feel the needle stick while penetrating the skin. The health of the tissue being treated also plays a role in the sensation a person might feel. There are multiple ways to change the dosage of treatment, as well as techniques to minimize pain during treatment based on a clients comfort with dry needling.
Is it safe?
In regards to adverse reactions and side effects, needling can be safer than taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen. We use clean single use needles and necessary precautions. There may be some slight skin bruising and soreness after treatment. It is normal to experience some soreness for the next 12-24 hours, sometimes up to 48 hours, which is preferable to prior pain levels.
Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture
Though dry needling and acupuncture use the same needles, dry needling is based on western medicine principles and used to treat orthopedic (muscle and joint) conditions. Acupuncture is based on eastern medicine philosophy and is generally used to treat medical conditions. People who are receiving acupuncture treatment can benefit from dry needling and the opposite is also true, as long as you coordinate care with your providers.
How long does it take?
Dry needling is not a magical pill, but clients often experience benefits after the first treatment. Typically, by the 3rd or 4th session there is notable improvement from where they started.
Can Dry Needling help me?
Speak to a trained medical professional to find out if dry needling is right for you. Ultimately, an evaluation will have to be performed to inform the clinician about your best treatment options. Dry needling is often used in conjunction with other treatment methods to enhance its overall effect.
Click here for more on dry needling and see what the American Physical Therapy Association has to say with some discussion and success stories.