Dry needling is a form of physiotherapy treatment which involves using fine solid filament needles to treat tight bands of muscle, active trigger points, and sometimes even stiff and sore joints. It is a distant cousin of acupuncture, in that it uses the same type of needle, but the similarities end there. Where an acupuncturist will use traditional Chinese medicine principles to assess and manipulate the flow of Qi (pronounced “chi”), a type of energy believed to be related to wellbeing, a physio who uses dry needling will follow the western view of medicine, and look for and directly treat sore and tight muscles. Dry needling is often used in combination with massage, joint mobilisation, and a home exercise program of stretches and strengthening exercises.
WHY IS IT CALLED “DRY” NEEDLING?
Because we use this treatment technique inside, safe from the rain.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: We apologise for this attempt at humour, Daniel has recently become a Dad, and is struggling to control his new-found ‘Dad-joke’ powers!)
NO REALLY, WHY IS IT CALLED “DRY NEEDLING”?
Well, back in the 1940s, before these pesky ethics boards that prevent researchers from performing outright torture on their subjects, two scientists injected various substances (saline, pain killers, corticosteroids and more – even glucose, as the story goes!) into the sore, tender trigger points of their apparently willing subjects. What they found, was that all of these substances, when injected into trigger points, hurt like crazy helped relieve the pain associated with these trigger points. About 30 years later, a much more humane version of this experiment was repeated, and with a control group this time, which involved injecting subjects with an empty syringe (i.e. a dry needle), and it was found that the same pain relieving effect was produced in both groups, but without the nasty pain. Thus, dry needling was born!
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Now, this can get complicated. To understand the exact methods by which dry needling works, you need a pretty in-depth knowledge of neuroscience, human physiology and neuroanatomy. I’ll simplify things, by saying it is believed that inserting a needle into a trigger point makes a few different changes, both to the local tissues (muscles, blood vessels, perpheral nerves) and to the central nervous system (spinal cord and the brain); opiods (natural pain killers) are released, chemical changes happen in both the area surrounding the needle, and in the spinal cord that can inhibit pain signals, and it can increase blood flow to flush out inflammatory and immune cells from the trigger point area. All of these things can reduce pain and thus improve movement and promote healing.
BUT DOESN’T IT HURT?
I like to think of it this way – if you came for ‘normal’ physiotherapy treatment, you might be the recipient of some firm massage or trigger point release, both of which can be uncomfortable or painful (yes we are aware of this, and no we don’t do it just to cause you pain… promise!). A normal session can go for 20 minutes, with perhaps 15 minutes of this uncomfortable/painful treatment – that can add up to a lot of total discomfort experienced in one session. If we were to use needles, you might experience some brief stinging pain, and maybe a mild ache, but only for a little bit. In other words, a low total pain experience. Much of the discomfort associated with having dry needling performed on patients who haven’t tried it before seems to come from anxiety and preconceived ideas about needles. In reality, it’s really not so bad (this is coming from a self-confessed wuss when it comes to pain!).
AND DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK?
In my clinical experience – at worst, dry needling tends to work just as well as massage/other physio treatment, and at best, has achieved pain-free range of movement after one session, where months of other treatment had achieved only limited results. I’d like to be clear that this isn’t the norm, but it certainly can happen.
SO DO I NEED A REFERRAL?
No! Just book a physiotherapy appointment at LifeForce health solutions, and make sure you specify that you are interested in dry needling. You will have an initial assessment with one of our experienced physios who will determine whether dry needling is indeed appropriate for you, and off you go!
Call 82892800 today to make an appointment at LifeForce health solutions at Golden Grove!