What is Dry Needling?
Dry Needling is a method where a thin needle penetrates the skin to target surrounding tissue and muscles. This intramuscular manual therapy technique stimulates underlying muscular, neural and connective tissue for the management of neuromuscular conditions or injuries.
The method involves a trained certified Physiotherapist using a thin needle (similar to acupuncture) that is pressed through the patient’s skin. The needle is aimed usually at hyper-irritable spot in skeletal muscle called trigger points. Trigger points are usually associated with hypersensitive nodules in a taut band within muscle. The partitioner can either deliver this method in a superficial or deep tissue level.
There are two types of trigger points that can present within the clinic, active or latent trigger points. Active trigger points can present as local or referred pain which can induce weakness, reduce range of movement and autonomic phenomena. Latent trigger point only produce pain when they are stimulated but can still lead to altered muscle activation and restricted range of movement.
Trigger points are formed by a making of a taut band within a muscle. These bands are thought to be part of a normal protective and physiological process to actual or potential tissue damage. Taut bands can occur in a response to unaccustomed loading to the body such as sustained postures or repetitive low load stress movements.
How is Dry Needling different to Acupuncture?
Although Dry needling uses a similar needle to the ones that are used in acupuncture, it is not considered to be the same. Dry needling is based on western physiological approaches, whereas acupuncture is based on Chinese or Eastern philosophies.
Current research has shown that the combination of dry needling combined with other manual techniques can be very effective in the short to medium term to treat chronic injuries by improving recovery times.
How Does Trigger Point Dry needling Work?
Dry needling works by releasing taut bands within a muscle that is associated with a trigger point. Mechanical stimulation of myofascial trigger points can cause an analgesic effect. This mechanical stimulation can cause a local twitch response which is an involuntary spinal cord reflex contraction of the muscle fibre. When a local twitch response occurs this can reduce the concentration of chemical mediators that are near a myofascial trigger point.
Most individuals experience an immediate improvement in symptoms of pain and tightness after the dry needling treatment. Whereas, some individuals may take up too 24 to 48 hours to feel the effects of the treatment.
Dry needling may be beneficial for low back pain when used in combination with other treatments.
Dry needling can re-activate muscle, increase strength and improve range of movement.
Dry needling can decrease pain in patients with chronic conditions.
Common Conditions that can be treated with Dry Needling
Chronic low back pain
Chronic neck pain
Chronic shoulder conditions
Thigh and knee pain
Greater trochanter syndrome
Lateral and medial elbow syndromes
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Dommerholt, J. Dry-needling-peripheral and central considerations. Journal of manual and manipulative therapy. 2011;19(4), 223-238
Chen JT, Chung KC, Hou CR, Kuan TS, Chen SM, Hong CZ. Inhibitory effect of dry needling on the spontaneous electrical activity recorded from myofascial trigger spots of rabbit skeletal muscle. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2001; 80: 729–35
Ga H, Choi JH, Park CH, Yoon HJ. Dry needling of trigger points with and without paraspinal needling in myofascial pain syndromes in elderly patients. J Altern Complement Med. 2007; 13: 617– 624.