Dry Needling is a treatment technique whereby a fine filament needle (similar to Acupuncture) is inserted into the muscle to release myofascial trigger points, assisting with a decrease in pain and an improvement of function in almost any part of the body.
So what’s the difference between Dry Needling and Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese Medicine focusing on the treatment of medical conditions by restoring the flow of energy (Qi) through key “organ” points in the body along what are known as meridians or energy channels, using fine filament needles to restore balance.
Dry Needling, although using the same fine filament single-use, sterile needles – is primarily focused on the reduction of pain and a restoration of function through the release of myofascial trigger points in the muscles.
The approach is completely unrelated and both have different outcomes.
Dry Needling is best suited to injury management and rehabilitation and easing general muscle tension in an effective way. It is one of many expert techniques utilized by your Myotherapist or trained Remedial Massage Therapist to assist with your rehab – often used in combination with other manual therapy techniques and exercise prescription.
What is a Myofascial Trigger Point?
In our recent Trigger Point Therapy article we explained what a myofascial trigger point is and you can read all about it there, however to give you the gist, they are those sore and stiff spots in muscles that is most often described as a “knot” where a group of muscle fibres which have shortened when activated but have not been able to lengthen back to a relaxed state.
How does Dry Needling Work?
When a fine filament needle is inserted at a site of a myofascial trigger point, blood pools around the needle triggering the contracted muscle fibers to relax by activating the body’s natural ability to provide those fibers with fresh oxygen and nutrients, as well as to flush away any additional acidic chemicals.
This in turn leads to the decompression of the local blood and nerve supply, thus decreasing local muscular pain and improving overall function through the restoration of a muscle’s ability to lengthen and shorten normally during use.
Is Dry Needling Safe?
Dry Needling is deemed very safe especially when performed by a well trained practitioner. Even so, everybody is different and can respond differently to various treatment techniques, including Dry Needling.
In addition to the benefits that Dry Needling can provide, there are a number of side effects that may occur, including spotting or bruising, fainting, nausea, residual discomfort or even altered energy levels. These symptoms should last no longer than 24 to 48 hours after treatment.
There are two main types of dry needling, superficial and deep..
Superficial helps by stimulating blood and oxygen flow to the area, producing endorphins, encourages the healing process, and promotes relaxation.
You may feel a slight sting as the needle is inserted/removed. However, this discomfort should last no longer than a second before settling.
Deep Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) can be a little less comfortable. It comes with all the benefits of superficial needling mentioned above, and works by activating a ‘twitch response’ in the muscle which is a reflexive involuntary spasm where the muscle contracts and relaxes at a deep level.
When a muscle is very tight, the twitching can be quite intense. Most people describe the feeling as ‘unusual’ and ‘aching’ rather than overly painful, and the ache in the muscle can last quite a few hours.
Although as you move around the soreness will subside, but it is recommended you avoid strenuous activities immediately after to allow the body time to recover, and to maximize the benefits of the treatment.
The benefits of TDN are that we can access deeper parts of the muscle and lead to a faster and more complete resolution of symptoms.
Is this an evidence based approach?
There is good scientific evidence that dry needling works. There is still some confusion as to the exact mechanisms on how it works, but most people respond well and report vast improvement from their first treatment and often complete resolve after about 3-4 sessions on average.
Dry needling is extremely effective and worth trying particularly if you have stubborn muscle issues and have tried many other things.
Get in touch with our resident Myotherapist for Dry Needling today!