Have You Tried Dry Needling?
Though the name may sound a little menacing, Dry needling is a very popular drug-free treatment method alongside Traditional Chinese Acupuncture (TCA).
So, you might ask, Aren’t they the same?
Yes and No. Both these treatments involve using a thin monofilament stainless steel needle to penetrate the skin for therapeutic purposes. But that’s where all the similarity ends.
Traditional Chinese medicine uses acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force (known as ‘qi), which is believed to flow through meridians (aka pathways) in your body. It is based on the concept that an imbalance in Qi can cause disease & illness, this theory has changed little over the centuries.
In contrast, Dry needling (also called Medical Acupuncture or Western Acupuncture) is a modern treatment aimed at treating myofascial trigger points (MTrP) which are hyperirritable spots spot of exquisite tenderness in a nodule in a palpable taut band of muscle tissue. No fluids are injected into the body, hence the term ‘dry’ is used. These trigger points are thought to be created by excessive acetylcholine in the presence of actual or potential muscle damage. Things like sustained poor postures, repetitive low-load stress, or even unfamiliar eccentric or concentric loading of muscles can cause such responses.
Where do trigger points often occur?
Trigger points tend to develop in the myofascial, mainly in the center of a muscle belly. Some of the common spots are the upper back, neck, gluteal muscles, calves, and lower back.
In the head and neck region, these trigger points can manifest as tension-type headache, jaw pain, eye symptoms, non-shoulder pathology-related pain, and more.
Symptoms of trigger points:
- Stiffness & Muscle weakness
- Deep, aching pain in a muscle
- Limited ROM
- Little knot under the skin that is sore with pressure applied
How does Dry Needling work?
- Dry needling can elicit a ‘local twitch response’ which is an involuntary spinal reflex resulting in a localized contraction of the affected muscles. This twitch response can lead to the alteration of muscle fibres and stimulate mechanoreceptors like A Beta fibers that help release opioid peptides that have an analgesic effect.
- Effects on Blood Flow: Sustained contraction of taut muscle bands in trigger points might cause local ischemia and hypoxia. Dry needling causes vasodilation in the small blood vessels leading to increased muscle blood flow and oxygenation.
- Neurophysiological effects: Dry needling may produce local and central nervous responses to restore haemostasis at the site of the trigger point which results in a reduction in both central and peripheral sensitization to pain.
Does the procedure hurt?
Generally no. Some patients might feel a stinging sensation during the insertion of the needle, but this feeling is much less than a vaccination jab or having blood drawn.
Sometimes your muscle twitches when the needle reaches the muscle and it can feel sore if that happens.
Benefits of Dry Needling:
- Reduce pain and muscle stiffness
- Improve range of motion
- Improve flexibility
- Improve blood flow & oxygenation (healing effect)
Side Effects of Dry Needling
Mild Side effects are very common such as bruising, bleeding, or temporary soreness at the injection site. However, serious side effects are rare. Be sure your practitioner uses sterile needles and disposes of them after each use.
Who should not get Dry Needling (DN)?
Generally, DN is safe for patients of all ages. Unless you meet any of the contraindications listed below:
1) Under the age of 12 / Pregnant / Needle Phobia
3) Haemophilia / Blood-clotting disorders / Vitamin-K deficiency
4) Skin conditions (such as Eczema, Psoriasis etc)
6) Intracranial deficits / Epilepsy
7) Immunocompromised diseases (such as HIV, AIDS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Diabetes – in some instances)
9) If you are taking any of these medications – Contraceptive pills, blood thinners (Rivaroxaban, warfarin, etc)
If you think this treatment might help you or you have any questions regarding dry needling, feel free to contact us.
Brittani Cookinham, P. D. (n.d.). DRY NEEDLING IN THE PEDIATRIC POPULATION . Retrieved from https://www.theathletesparent.com/dry-needling-the-pediatric-population
Cagnie B, D. V. (2013). Physiologic effects of dry needling. Current pain and headache reports.
Carr, C. (2020). Pinpointing Your Muscle Pain: Is Dry Needling Right for You? Retrieved from https://healthtalk.unchealthcare.org/pinpointing-your-muscle-pain-is-dry-needling-right-for-you/#:~:text=Does%20dry%20needling%20hurt%3F,you%20worked%20out%20that%20muscle.
Casey Unverzagt, D. D. (2015). DRY NEEDLING FOR MYOFASCIAL TRIGGER POINT PAIN: A CLINICAL COMMENTARY. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458928/
DAVID J. ALVAREZ, D. A. (2002). Trigger Points: Diagnosis and Management. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2002/0215/p653.html
Debra Rose Wilson, P. M.-B. (n.d.). Dry needling vs. acupuncture: What the research says. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321989
Gattie E, C. J. (2017). he effectiveness of trigger point dry needling for musculoskeletal conditions by physical therapists: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Travell, J. &. (1999). Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual Volum. Retrieved from https://thephysiocompany.co.uk/trigger-points/