What is dry needling?
– The easiest way to think of this treatment is to relate it to a deep tissue massage. The goal of both treatments is to target deep muscles; however, these structures are often times difficult to treat using only ones hands. Dry needling uses a very fine solid monofilament needle which is inserted into these deep muscles, which causes the muscle to relax. This allows you to move better with decreased pain, ultimately allowing for function to be restored. In addition to using the needle, your therapist may also use electrical stimulation to intramuscularly activate the muscle.
What is a myofascial trigger point?
– A trigger point is an irritable taut band of muscle that has the ability to refer pain to adjacent areas of the body. Many explanations exist as to why trigger points develop and can include unaccustomed muscle force generation, postural faults, or irritability of a nerve supplying the muscle. Most importantly, trigger points can limit the way we move or perform simple tasks such as sitting, standing or lifting.
What can dry needling treat?
– Dry needling treats the myofascial trigger points and pain generated from them. Commonly, this presents as low back pain, sciatica, neck pain, headaches, and even tendinopathies such as Achilles tendonitis and tennis elbow. Indirectly, dry needling will improve how you move and allow you to have less discomfort during your daily tasks.
Do I have to be in pain for dry needling to be effective?
– Absolutely not. Although most commonly, dry needling is associated with pain relief, it is also used to stimulate “turn on” an inhibited muscle. This can result in increased activation of the muscle and great ability to participate in activities.
What will dry needling feel like?
– Most commonly you will not feel the needle enter the skin. Once the needle enters the trigger point, you will feel a deep ache/pressure and most likely a muscle twitch. Additionally, you may feel your referred pain that is caused by the muscle.
What are the risks/side effects?
– The most common side effect associated with dry needling is post treatment soreness for 24 hours or less and bruising. Risks of infection or pneumothorax (when working around the ribs) are estimated to be very rare at .01-.1%.
Is this the same as acupuncture?
– No. Dry needling performed by your physical therapist uses the same needle, but the purpose of dry needling is to relax a hyperirritable taut band of muscle which will decrease your pain and help you move better. Acupuncture, performed by an acupuncturist, attempts to balance life force or energy by inserting the needles along meridians.
How often will I need dry needling?
– This will be patient specific. A successful outcome can be accomplished in as little as 2-3 sessions in less involved situations. In a more involved case, the progress may not be as fast and take multiple sessions to reach the desired outcome. With that said, you will not need weekly or monthly follow-up treatments once your plan of care is completed.
If you have further questions about this treatment, please feel free to contact us. Zachary Dunkle, PT, DPT, OCS