What is dry needling?
It is sometimes referred to as musculoskeletal acupuncture and it is an excellent way to relieve muscle tension. Not to be confused with conventional acupuncture that targets specific points along the body’s meridians to clear energy blockages, dry needles are inserted into a taut band of muscle called a “trigger point”.
What is a trigger point?
Trigger points are commonly referred to as knots. However in fact they are not knots, they are a small patch of tightly contracted muscle or an isolated area of spasm within the muscle. Due to their nature they choke off their own blood supply leading to pain.
Some trigger points can be present in muscle without causing pain however when pressure is applied to them it “triggers” the pain. Trigger points don’t just create pain at the source but they can project pain to other locations in the body. Below is some examples of common trigger points and the their typical distribution of pain.
Some of those look familiar or have experienced them before? Dry needling has been shown to be effective in relieving the symptoms caused by these trigger points.
Does the needling hurt?
I know some people have a phobia of needles and that’s understandable. Dry needles are completely different to what you experience when getting a flu shot or having a catheter in your arm. Dry needling is essentially painless; the needles are so thin that you can hardly feel their presence. You may feel a small prick initially when the needle is inserted but more often than not the process is painless.
How do they work?
Despite being utilised by a lot of physical therapists around the world, namely chiropractors and physiotherapy the exact mechanism of how they work is still unknown. However anecdotally physical therapists have reported excellent results when treating their patients with dry needles.
Studies have shown that when we insert the needle into trigger points they can cause biomechanical changes, which will assist in reducing your pain. When we needle trigger points it can elicit a local “twitch response” within the muscle (spinal cord reflex). It is believed that creating a local twitch response within a muscle is the first step in breaking the “pain-cycle”.
Common conditions treated with dry needles
Some common conditions treated with dry needles, however not limited to:
- Neck Pain
- Low back pain
- Shoulder pain
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Hip and leg pain
- Tendinopathies (eg. Golfers/Tennis Elbow)
- Sporting injuries
Don’t want needles?
Not a problem. Dry needling is excellent however we can achieve similar results utilising other muscle release techniques!