Dry needling is a treatment that involves a very thin needle being pushed through the skin to stimulate a trigger point. This form of alternative therapy is used to release tight muscle bands that are associated with trigger point, or hard “knots” within a muscle that can cause pain over a large area. Sometimes these trigger points (or even muscle spasms) can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks because there is pain every time the area is touched, and the pain can even radiate to nearby areas of the body.
While wet needling involves hollow-bore hypodermic needles that deliver corticosteroids, anesthetics, sclerosants and other agents, dry needling involves of the insertion of a needle without the use of injection into muscles, ligaments, tendons, subcutaneous fascia and scar tissue. Dry needling is also referred to as trigger point dry needling (TDN) and intramuscular manual therapy.
Dry needling is also different than acupuncture, which is intended to unblock energy meridians and help create balance within the bodily system. While acupuncture focuses on addressing the flow of energy around the body and bodily organs, dry needling focuses on stimulating a specific trigger point that is leading to pain and disability.
What is Dry Needling Able to Treat?
Dry needling involves using a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular and connective tissues to relieve pain and movement impairments.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, trigger points have been identified in numerous diagnoses, including:
migraines post-herpetic neuralgia
complex regional pain syndrome pelvic pain and other urologic syndromes
nocturnal cramps spinal dysfunction
phantom pain whiplash associated disorders
tendonitis computer-related disorders
disk pathology carpal tunnel
joint dysfunction tension-type headaches
This alternative therapy is also used to treat dysfunctions in skeletal muscle, fascia and connective tissue. It reduces and restores impairments of body structure and function, leading to improved activity and participation.
Dry Needling Benefits
- Reduces Pain
- Improves Movement
- Speeds Up the Recovery Process
Is Dry Needling Safe?
Dry needling is appropriate for nearly all patients who do not have a significant needle phobia or other anxiety about being treated with needles. Like any type of therapy, dry needling may deliver unintended side effects, such as pain at the stop of needle insertion, muscle soreness, fatigue and bruising. In the hands of a skilled physical therapist, dry needling is a safe and effective treatment option and the patient will see benefits in range of motion and joint use right away.
It’s normal that it may take several dry needling therapy sessions before the muscle is fully functional again. This is because trigger points are located under deep layers of muscles, so it typically takes several sessions for the changes to take full effect. But patients will notice the difference right after each treatment.
Dry needling is also known to be relatively painless. Generally, the needle insertion is not felt, and the local twitch response only provokes a very brief pain response, feeling more like a shock or cramping sensation. A local twitch response is a therapeutic response that serves as a sign that the needle has hit the trigger point, so it’s a good and desirable reaction.
Caution is warranted with younger patients; based on empirical evidence, dry needling is not recommended for children younger than 12 years of age. If a child is undergoing dry needling, parent and child’s consent is needed and the child should fully understand the procedure before treatment begins.
Talk to your doctor today about the benefits of Dry needling in combination with physical therapy or contact one of our four locations!