What is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a therapeutic treatment technique that utilizes thin, solid filament needles to release and desensitize trigger points in skeletal muscle. Myofascial trigger points are highly irritable localised taut bands of fibres within muscles that can cause pain, decreased flexibility and overall decreased muscle function. As osteopathic practitioners, Martha and Angela use Dry Needling in conjunction with osteopathic manual therapy. They find it to be an effective alternative when other manual soft tissue techniques are unsuccessful at directly releasing trigger points. Likewise, they find it a more efficient method for treating multiple trigger points in a treatment session. Dry Needling offers a more accurate and concentrated approach to increasing blood flow to the dysfunctional muscle tissue and reducing pain associated with trigger points.
How is it different to Acupuncture?
Traditional Chinese Acupuncture uses needle insertion into specific acupuncture points found along meridians or energy lines through which “qi” flows to promote health and restore optimal energy flow to the body. Dry needling is based on Western neuroanatomy and physiology rather than Chinese meridians and its aim is to improve or restore function to muscle tissue altered by myofascial trigger points. The only similarity between Traditional Chinese Acupuncture and Dry Needling is the use of the highest quality sterile disposable acupuncture needles!
How does Dry Needling improve function and reduce pain?
Dry Needling a trigger point causes a local twitch response (LTR) of the muscle. LTR is an involuntary spinal cord reflex where the muscle contracts upon needling the trigger point and then relaxes through disruption of the muscles motor endplate. The needle insertion stimulates sensory nerves in the tissue causing the release of biochemical mediators that dilate local blood vessels thereby increasing blood flow to the area. Furthermore, the insertion of the needle stimulates neural pathways supplying the area to block pain by suppressing the transmission of pain signals being sent to the central nervous system. The overall aim of Dry Needling is to create a local healing response in the dysfunctional tissue that helps restore normal function through the body’s natural healing process.
What types of problems can Dry Needling treat?
Dry Needling aims to treat muscle dysfunction that is caused by active trigger points, which produce pain, muscle tightness and/or muscle weakness. Because muscle dysfunction can be a primary or secondary contributing factor to many neuromusculoskeletal conditions, its range of conditions include muscle strains, repetitive strain injuries (RSI), neck pain including headaches and whiplash, back pain (thoracic and lumbar), rotator cuff impingement, frozen shoulder, muscle tendonitis (tennis elbow and golfers elbow), carpal tunnel syndrome, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, sciatica, hip and lateral thigh and hamstring pain (iliotibial band syndrome), knee pain (patellofemoral dysfunction), leg and calf pain and plantar fasciitis. Above all, Dry Needling does not treat everything and therefore each treatment is focused on the specific requirements of the patient.
Is the procedure painful?
The majority of patients do not feel pain upon the needles insertion. However, the local twitch response of the muscle can elicit a very brief cramping and/or aching sensation. Dry Needling may reproduce symptoms in the muscle being treated or may refer pain to another area of the body. Referred pain is pain that is perceived at a site other than the location of the painful stimulus and is a hallmark of trigger points. Both the local twitch response and recognizable referred pain are desirable reactions with Dry Needling because they confirm a possible source of the muscle’s dysfunction.
Are there possible side effects to treatment?
It is not uncommon to experience soreness in the treated area within the first 24 hours. However, most patients find the soreness quite tolerable and easily alleviated with cold/heat application and stretching. The possibility of the transference of infection is avoided by the use of sterile single use disposable needles. Tiredness, bruising (hematoma), nausea and dizziness can occur. There is a theoretical increased risk of Pneumothorax with smokers, active cancer, cortisone treatment and emphysema. This risk is posed only in the treatment of the trapezius muscle due to the proximity of the lung and results from incorrect needle length or angle of insertion.