What is Dry Needling?
Dry Needling is a specific treatment technique used on muscle trigger points that are creating pain and discomfort. The treatment uses a thin, sterile, solid filament needle inserted into the skin to stimulate the underlying myofascial trigger points. The procedure is called Dry Needling because no liquid or medication is injected into the patient.
A muscle trigger point is a highly localized, hyper-irritable spot in a palpable, taut band of skeletal muscle fibers. Located throughout the body, trigger points have been shown to be the primary source of pain in as many as 85 percent of pain-related visits to primary care doctors.
They develop for a variety of reasons, including referred or local pain, inflammation, and tissue injury.
How It Works?
When the muscle is stimulated with the needle, a twitch or rapid depolarization of the fibers takes place. This removes the compression on the joint, nerve, or vascular tissue. As a result, the muscle activity reduces dramatically, allowing it to relax and the pain and dysfunction to decrease.
Occasionally, when the needle is inserted a patient will feel “referred pain.” This is usually a positive sign confirming the trigger point as the cause of the patient’s pain.
There are a number of theories that believe Dry Needling also stimulates the release of the body’s endogenous opiates, initiating a new healing process.
Is It Similar To Acupuncture?
While Dry Needling uses the same tool as acupuncture, the theory behind it is different. Acupuncture follows Eastern Medicine’s key principles of holistic treatment and normalizing the body’s energy imbalance.
Dry Needling is based on Western Medicine’s scientific, tested practices to restore normal muscle function.
Dry Needling Vs. Trigger Point Injection
Unlike Trigger Point Injection, Dry Needling does not deliver any medications. Therefore, the treatments can be done more frequently with no adverse side effects.
Traditional trigger point injections use a hollow, hypodermic needle to inject substances such as saline, Botox or corticosteroids. When the two treatments are compared, the literature reports numerous randomized clinical trials and one systematic review, where no difference was found between injections of different substances and dry needling in the treatment of muscle trigger point symptoms. The theory suggests that the “needling effect” is the most important part of the process rather than the chemicals injected. This does not mean that certain patients will not have greater indications or benefits with injections rather than Dry Needling and vice-versa.