The Deets on Dry Needling
What is Dry Needling?
Dry Needling is NOT acupuncture (traditional, Eastern, Chinese Medicine). Although some of the tools and reference points may be the same, they are different in nature and principles.
Dry needling is rooted in Western Medicine with an emphasis on addressing neuromusculoskeletal dysfunctions. Dysfunctions that may be causing you pain, movement impairments, movement compensations, etc. To scratch the surface, dry needling consists of inserting a fine, filament needle through the skin and into the underlying tissues (fascia, ligaments, tendons, muscles, etc.) that have been identified as causes of your pain and dysfunction. The trained practitioner will then perform trigger point dry needling and/or electrical dry needling at those sites.
Trigger Point Dry Needling
To understand the principle behind trigger point dry needling, one must understand the basics of what a trigger point is. A trigger point is a localized tight band in the muscle tissue that can occur as a result of muscle overuse, contracture, overload, and/or trauma. When a trigger point starts to form, there becomes a back up of chemicals at that site, a release of pain producing chemicals at that site, and the localized muscle contraction starts to impede blood flow to the muscle which then reduces oxygen and nutrients to the muscle. Subjectively, your trigger point produces pain, tenderness, and movement pattern dysfunctions. When a needle is inserted into a trigger point, it helps to clear out the back of up chemicals in that area and sends information to the spinal cord in order to centrally mediate your pain. This acts as a "reset" for that site and normalizes the inflammatory response.
Electrical Dry Needling
This is often used in conjunction/after trigger point dry needling where the needles are manually manipulated (spun) and then left in the skin and connected to electric stim to further produce a central mediation of pain via specific information to and from the spinal cord.
All of the above responses together assist in resetting your body's healing and repair processes, improving blood flow to the intended area, reducing your pain, and improving normal muscle function.
Is it Safe?
With proper training and due diligence, dry needling is a very safe treatment method to use in conjunction with other physical therapy techniques! Although, as with everything, the risks are not 0, risks for complications are extremely low as shown by a number of studies on the topic. Not only is it safe, but a number of studies have also shown dry needling to be an effective supplemental treatment for improving mobility, improving muscle function, decreasing pain, promoting blood flow and repair, and improving movement patterns and overall function.
Book your dry needling session with me today!
Written by: Marissa Oxenford, PT, DPT, Cert. DN, Cert. CMFA, CF-L1, CPT