Anyone looking to quickly improve their pain can benefit from dry needling. Dry needling is a great supplement to traditional forms of physical therapy such as exercise, manual therapy, stretching, and education on daily and work-related postures. The key is that it creates very quick, but long-lasting improvements in pain. As a result, our clients get back to being healthy and active sooner.
What is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a highly effective technique that’s used to treat patients who are suffering from pain generated from myofascial trigger points (tight knots in a muscle). It is a form of therapy in which fine needles are inserted in myofascial trigger points, tendons, ligaments or near nerves in order to stimulate a healing response in painful musculoskeletal conditions. When stimulated by a needle, the trigger point knots are released in the muscle thereby eliminating the source of pain.
Is Dry Needling similar to Acupuncture?
Dry needling is not acupuncture or Oriental Medicine; that is, it does not have the purpose of altering the flow of energy (“Qi”) along traditional Chinese meridians for the treatment of diseases. In fact, dry-needling is a modern, scientific-based intervention for the treatment of pain and dysfunction in musculoskeletal conditions such as neck pain, shoulder impingement, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, knee pain, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, or low back pain.
What is a Trigger Point?
Trigger points or muscle “knots” are sensitive spots in soft tissue. These contracted sensitive knots restrict blood flow, causing a drop in oxygen and pH; this causes chemicals to be released which stimulates pain receptors. Trigger points are painful to pressure and over time can refer to other areas of the body. When pain is felt in a part of the body other than its actual source, it is called referred pain. This explains why pain such as headaches or sciatica can be felt in the back of the head or down the leg, when the source of pain is actually coming from the spine.
Below is an example of a referred pain pattern. The origin of the problem is in the buttock region, but the pain can be felt down the back of the leg instead.
How Does Dry Needling Work?
Based on the pioneering studies by Dr. Jay Shah and colleagues at the National Institute of Health, the goal of dry needling is to insert a thin needle into the trigger point causing a twitch response. This helps to restore blood flow and oxygen causing favorable biochemical changes in the area. By getting rid of these trigger points, we can break the pain cycle and improve muscle function.
Below are some conditions that Dry Needling works well for:
- Neck pain
- Low back pain
- Shoulder tendinitis
- Tennis elbow
- Knee pain
- Shin splints
- Plantar fasciitis