Dry Needling

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is a therapeutic technique in which a trained physical therapist inserts small, sterile solid filament needles into the skin and muscle directly at a trigger point. This generates a twitch response, helping release muscle tension and pain. The goal is to release or inactivate the trigger points and relieve pain.

What is a trigger point?

Trigger points consist of multiple contraction knots within a muscle, and they can develop due to injury, dysfunction, and overuse. Active trigger points impair a person’s ability to lengthen, strengthen, or contract the muscle. As a result, the muscle shortens and compresses the structure around it, causing pain.

How does dry needling work?

The exact mechanisms of dry needling are not known; however, we do know that there are both mechanical and biochemical effects. Pioneering studies by Dr. Jay Shah and his colleagues at the National Institutes of Health have shown that inserting a needle into trigger points can cause favorable change that can assist in reducing chronic pain issues. It is essential to elicit local twitch responses, which are spinal cord reflexes. Getting local twitch responses with dry needling is the first step in breaking the pain cycle.

Is dry needling and acupuncture the same type of treatment?

Dry needling and acupuncture, while they use the same needle types, are two very different treatments. Dry needling is a therapeutic technique where a trained physical therapist inserts small, sterile, solid filament needles into the skin and muscle directly at a trigger point. The ultimate goal is to generate a “twitch response” which helps release the tension and pain located in the muscles. On the other hand, acupuncture involves the insertion of these thin needles through the skin at strategic points of the body. It is a key component of Traditional Chinese medicine that is believed to adjust and alter the body’s energy flow into healthier patterns.

What types of problems can be treated with dry needling?

Dry needling can be used to treat a variety of musculoskeletal issues. Muscles are thought to be a primary contributing factor to the symptoms. Such conditions include, but are not limited to, neck, back and shoulder pain, arm pain (tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, and golfer’s elbow), headaches (migraines and tension-type), jaw and dental pain, buttock and leg pain (sciatica, hamstring strains, calf tightness/spasms). The treatment of muscles has the greatest effect on reducing pain mechanisms in the nervous system.

Are the needles sterile?

Yes, we only use sterile disposable needles.

Is dry needling painful?

The needle used in the procedure is very thin and most patients do not feel the insertion of the needle. The local twitch response elicits a very brief (less than a second) painful response. Some patients describe this as a little electrical shock or a cramping sensation. This twitch response is a positive and desirable reaction.

How long does it usually take to notice results?

Typically, it takes from one to a few visits for a positive reaction to take place.

Are there any side effects?

Patients may report feeling sore following the procedure. The soreness is described as muscle soreness over the area treated and into the areas of referred symptoms. Typically, the soreness lasts a few hours. Stretching and ice are recommended after treatment for 2 days afterward.

Once I am feeling better, how often do I need to come back to maintain my progress?

The musculoskeletal system is under constant pressure from gravity, stress, work…etc. A regular exercise program combined with good posture can prevent many problems. If the pain comes back, “tune-ups” are recommended to treat and prevent serious injuries.

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