Dry Needling Services
Many people have heard of acupuncture, but may not understand it’s distant cousin, dry needling. In fact, dry needling is becoming more popular and more common in the modern world. Everybody from elite athletes to people recovering from surgery can enjoy the benefits of dry needling services.
If you’ve heard about this practice but you’re not sure what it’s all about, we’re here to help. Today we’re going to explain what dry needling is, and answer some of the most common questions we get from patients.
What is dry needling?
Dry needling is a technique that uses Acupuncture needles to target Myofascial trigger points. Sometimes it’s referred to as Intramuscular Stimulation or Myofascial Trigger Point Dry Needling, or even clinical acupuncture. The term dry needling refers to the fact that needles are introduced to the skin and tissue below, but nothing is injected into the body. Hence, it’s dry. Dry needling is commonly used to treat muscle pain, particularly pain related to myofascial pain syndrome.
Dry needling uses either solid filiform needles or hollow-core hypodermic needles, which isn’t as scary as it sounds. The procedure aims to restore and improve muscle function, with an emphasis on promoting muscle tissue healing.
In very simple terms, a myofascial trigger point might be commonly known as a muscle knot. The area is often sensitive to touch, and may show a small lump. Dry needling services are effective in relieving pain associated with these knots, while also restoring normal muscle function. The technique has actually been around since the 1940’s, but has only really been popular since the early 2000’s.
Is it the same as acupuncture?
Many people confuse dry needling with acupuncture, because in many ways the process is quite similar. The needles used for both techniques are almost identical, however the goal and application is quite different.
In more traditional Chinese acupuncture, needles are inserted all over the body. This technique focuses on specific points, and is designed to allow a free flow of energy through the body. This energy is known as Qi. In this sense, acupuncture is considered more spiritual.
Dry needling, on the other hand, is based on anatomical and neurophysiological principles. Essentially, it’s a more scientific adoption of the acupuncture process. While the physical act of inserting a needle into the skin and tissue provides a similar sense of pain relief, dry needling is more targeted toward actual pain points.
What conditions are dry needling services used for?
There are many different uses for dry needling services. We commonly refer to it as a method to treat pain, however it goes a little deeper than that. There’s an emphasis on restoring tissue and muscle function and improved healing from injury. Because of this, dry needling can be used to treat a wide variety of issues such as:
- Direct blows to muscles
- Sudden strain injuries
- Prolonged immobilisation, such as being in a cast or sling
- Using muscles you haven’t used for a while
- Excessive cold or heat
- Prolonged time in damp or draughty conditions
- Referred pain
Dry needling treats any type of muscle pain, however it’s usually not the only technique prescribed. Your physiotherapist may include dry needling as part of your rehabilitation plan, but it will rarely be the only treatment you receive.
How is dry needling performed?
The insertion of needles into the skin and tissue has a significant effect on the electrical and chemical communications between the brain and body. For example, the fine needle creates a small injury upon entering the body. This in turn alerts the brain to an injury, which starts off a series of events aimed at repairing the injured tissue, or replacing it with new healthy tissue.
In more targeted use, when working with specific myofascial trigger points, the body’s reaction is slightly different. As these areas are already painful and inflamed, the needles help to reduce this pain. When the needle enters the muscle knot, it can often provoke a twitch. Following this twitching sensation, the muscle relaxes and inflammation is reduced. This also improves circulation to promote faster healing.
Does it hurt?
Most people don’t feel any pain associated with the needle insertion itself. The needles are extremely fine and barely noticeable. However, during the twitch response we mentioned above, there can be a very short feeling of pain. It might feel a bit like a cramp or an electric shock. Overall, most people feel very relaxed during the procedure, and you may even notice your limbs feeling heavy.
For 24-48 hours after dry needling, patients may experience some soreness around the needling site. This is nothing to be concerned about, and is a natural reaction to the procedure.
Are dry needling services safe?
When performed by professional physiotherapists, dry needling services are very safe. Precautions need to be taken, of course, which is why you should only receive dry needling from trained professionals. For example, individually packaged, sterile needles should be used to remove the risk of infectious disease.
It’s also important to only work with professionals who have a deep understanding of anatomy. Simply inserting needles into painful muscles won’t just be ineffective – it may cause unnecessary damage. For those who are a little squeamish, the good news is there will rarely be any blood or bruising as a result of the technique. As we touched on before, the only side effect is usually some soreness for 24-48 hours afterwards, but this is perfectly normal.
How does it fit in with my rehabilitation plan?
Dry needling services are useful in the treatment of all types of muscle pain. Your physiotherapist may recommend it as part of your treatment, along with other methods to assist in your rehabilitation. Ultimately, it depends on the injury or condition you’re being treated for. If your physio thinks dry needling would be beneficial, they’ll discuss this with you. If not, there are many other pain treatments available too. If you’re nervous about the technique, we always recommend discussing with your physio who can allay any fears you may have.