Dry needling is a treatment modality that tends to be used for painful conditions.
When you’re in pain the idea of someone sticking needles into your body may understandably seem unappealing. Many might think this might increase their pain, but according to most practitioners of dry needling, the needling of myofascial trigger points can be beneficial in managing a range of painful conditions such as tight muscles, non-specific low back pain, osteoarthritis, headaches and migraines.
Dry needling involves practitioners inserting fine needles into tender or painful points, and rotating and/or “pistoning” the needles for therapeutic purposes and in many cases trying to elicit a twitch response (an involuntary contraction of the muscle that tends to lead to a decrease in muscle tone and nerve sensitivity).
As already mentioned, dry needling stimulates trigger points – these are hyper-irritable/tender spots that lie within the connective tissue or fascia that often contribute to musculosketal pain disorders.
During a dry needling treatment a practitioner may either leave the needle in the muscle or tissue for a period of time or continue to rotate and piston the needle as referred to above.
While the needling techniques are similar, Acupuncture forms part of the Oriental system of Chinese Medicine (now a recognised allied health profession), while dry needling has a Western Medicine basis and is generally practised by musculoskeletal physicians along with other allied health practitioners including several of the physiotherapists at this practice.
What to expect during your treatment
Dry Needling is generally suitable for clients of all ages but most practitioners will not choose needle techniques for babies or children at pre-verbal stages of development, as a fear of needles can be quite common in these age groups and it is important that clients fully grasp what the needling treatment involves including any potential side-effects.
Side-effects may include: temporary fatigue, light-headedness, bruising or short term aggravation of symptoms. Some clients who are more sensitive to needling may experience a drop in blood pressure that can lead to fainting. However, in our clinical experience this is generally due to needle-phobia, anxiety, hunger or fatigue. Other clients by contrast, report feeling comfortably relaxed and sleepy.
Needle hygiene of course is crucial – at this practice we use only single-use, sterilised disposable needles taken from a packet at the time of treatment.
Dry Needling vs Acupuncture
This is a commonly-asked question and sometimes difficult to answer as there are many similarities and overlaps, particularly in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders.
While needling of myofascial trigger points with needles forms the basis of both musculoskeletal treatment modalities, it is common for Physiotherapists to combine needling with a range of manual therapy techniques such as stretching, soft tissue massage and gentle articulation and mobilisation of specific joints and soft tissues.
In Acupuncture needling is generally a stand-alone treatment along with the possible prescription of herbal remedies and/or cupping. Acupuncture treatments are also commonly sought by members of the public to address a wide range of disorders other than musculoskeletal.
Why Choose Dry Needling
Most practitioners of this modality will report that dry needling tends to release tightened or short muscles. This is due to the twitch response which can help relax a muscle, reduce the pull on adjacent areas and reduce the irritation of a sensitive nerve. Naturally as these responses help our physiotherapists better manage a range of musculoskeletal conditions this modality is frequently used in combination with other physiotherapy approaches such as joint mobilisation, joint manipulation, stretches and other soft tissue release techniques as well as exercise prescription.