What is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a therapeutic approach in which fine filament needles are inserted in to specific points on the body to relieve pain and improve function. The needles used are the same as acupuncture needles but a different treatment technique is used.
What is a Myofascial Trigger Point?
Myofascial trigger points (MTrP) are described as knotted/taut bands of muscles that give characteristic referred pain on pressure. These points can be the source of acute/chronic pain and also lead to other dysfunctions. There are several reasons why MTrPs develop in muscles. The most common are overuse, over stretch, over loading and trauma to muscles. Pain is produced due to muscle spasm which is a protective mechanism of the body. Some muscle fibres develop stubborn spasm, become tangled and do not allow normal muscle function. This causes the reduction of blood flow to the area, bad chemicals build up at the site and the body can’t flush them out due to the poor circulation in the area. These chemicals irritate surrounding nerve fibres and hence cause pain.
How does it help?
Dry needling causes a series of processes to occur at the site of the needling helping to reduce pain and aid healing processes. Twitch responses cause the muscle fibres to untangle and restores normal function. Increased blood flow to the area after needling, flushes out the pain producing chemicals and helps with the healing process.
Is dry needling safe? / What can I expect from the treatment?
Dry needling is generally safe and serious side effects are very rare. The most common side effect is when people experience soreness at the needle site which may last for a few hours, you may also notice a little bruise near the needle site which will fade within a few days.
There is no fixed pattern of effects after needling. Some report initial increase in symptoms followed by great relief, while other report immediate or gradual relief of pain. On rare occasions, people may feel very happy, tearful, sweaty or cold for some time. Drowsiness is also reported in a few cases. If it is your first treatment it is not advised to drive long distances immediately after as it is not possible to predict how one will react. Fainting may occur in a very small minority of people. There are no lasting ill effects of these side effects.
What if it doesn’t help?
Dry needling can give excellent results in appropriate cases. It is a great treatment tool but only one component of your overall therapeutic regimen. Your therapist will explore other treatment options if you fail to recover.
Catherine Simpson MISCP