What is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a procedure where a fine, solid needle is inserted into the skin to treat disorders found in muscle, tendons, and ligaments. The primary goal of dry needling is to reduce pain and restricted range of motion and restore normal physiology. There are many different techniques for dry needling. In our office we utilize trigger point dry needling, myofascial restriction dry needling, and site of pain dry needling.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT) states: “Dry needling is a neurophysiological evidence-based treatment technique that requires effective manual assessment of the neuromuscular system. Research supports that dry needling improves pain control, reduces muscle tension, normalizes biochemical and electrical dysfunction of motor end plates, and facilitates an accelerated return to active rehabilitation.”
What Are the Different Types of Dry Needling?
Trigger Point Dry Needling
A trigger point is essentially a “knot” in the muscle tissue that is tender to the touch. Trigger points can refer pain meaning that when you press on them you feel pain in an area bigger than the size of your finger or in an area other than the one being touched.
An example of this would be pressing on a knot in your neck and you also feel the pain somewhere on your scalp. Trigger point dry needling aims to stimulate a local twitch response. A local twitch response is an involuntary reflex contraction of of the muscle fibers. Producing this response has been shown to reduce the concentration of chemicals in the tissue that cause pain.
Fascial Restriction Dry Needling
Fascia is the thin connective tissue that surrounds and is woven through all muscle tissue. Do you know that slimy and shiny covering on a skinless chicken breast? This is fascia. In fascial restriction dry needling the needle is inserted into the muscle tissue and given a gentle twist, wrapping the fascia around the needle.
You can think about this like stretching the muscle from the inside out. A common area where this technique is utilized would be tight hamstrings that never loosen up no matter how much you stretch them.
Site of Pain Dry Needling
This one is exactly as it sounds. Needles are placed in the area of pain, typically not as deep as the two previous types of dry needling. The goal is to cause micro-trauma to the area, increasing blood flow and lymphatic drainage. We typically utilize this technique for conditions that are too acute to perform trigger point dry needling, or the site of pain cannot be pinpointed to a specific muscle, tendon or ligament.
Is Dry Needling the Same As Acupuncture?
Dry needling and acupuncture are not the same. Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine, performed by acupuncturists. Dry needling performed by chiropractors and physical therapists is based on western neuroanatomy and modern scientific study of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.
Why Is It Called Dry Needling?
Dry needling uses a solid needle. This means that the needle is inserted into the tissue dry, and comes out dry. This is in contrast to an aspirated needle (gauged), which would be used to inject something or pull something out of the skin (biopsy).
Is There Medicine on the Needle?
There is no medicine on the needles. The goal is to stimulate your body’s natural healing processes by aggravating the tissue and causing your immune system to come in and do the work. That’s right, your body does the healing. No medicine involved.
How Big Are the Needles for Dry Needling?
Needles utilized for dry needling are very small. The diameter of needles used in our office range from 0.2-0.3mm. For reference, the standard lead in a mechanical pencil is 0.7mm.
Does Dry Needling Hurt?
Generally the insertion of the needle is not felt. The local “twitch response” may cause a brief pain sensation that has been described as a tingling, aching, or cramping sensation. Soreness may occur after dry needling, typically lasting from as short as an hour to 48 hours.
Recommendations Following Treatment
- Hydrate! Hydrated muscle heals faster. This will help with soreness and remove toxins that your body is trying to flush out.
- Use a heating pad to increase blood flow to the area treated and influence healing.
- Do not use ice. This constricts blood vessels and reduces metabolic activity in the muscle.