A treatment method for muscular pain, dry needling is growing in popularity for patients. This type of treatment is typically part of a larger care plan for our patients. Our physical therapists recommend this approach as an adjunct to exercise to reduce pain and improve contractility of dysfunctional muscle.
Recent research states that dry needling reduces muscle pain and tension, and normalizes impaired motor end plates—the area that sends nerve impulses to muscles.1 In turn, this helps patients return to active rehabilitation sooner and speeds up the path to recovery.
Keep reading to learn more about this technique.
What is Dry Needling?
With the use of fine, filament needles, this method focuses on irritable muscle “knots” (trigger points) to relieve pain. It’s earned its name since the needles do not inject any fluid or medication into the body. The relief comes from the insertion of the needle stimulating and releasing trigger points in a muscle. On average, the needle will stay inserted anywhere between ten and thirty minutes.
Why Are Trigger Points Important?
Trigger points are irritated knots that occur within a muscle. This irritation can lead to widespread pain that makes everyday tasks difficult or limiting. Most commonly, trigger points need relief in the neck and leg areas.
What Does It Feel Like?
Trigger points are innately tense, so when they’re stimulated by dry needles, patients will feel a twitching or cramping response as its released. Research has determined that a twitching response indicates the body is reacting positively to the treatment.2 Thankfully, this means the patient will expect muscular pain relief. It is common to experience bruising and soreness at the injection site after a treatment.
Are Dry Needling and Acupuncture the Same?
When comparing images of acupuncture and dry needling, it’s hard to tell the difference between the two. Although they both use thin, stainless steel needles, they have different goals.
Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese alternative practice is used to target a person’s spiritual, physical, and mental ailments. It focuses on the meridian, the body’s “energy highway”. Dry needling, on the other hand, helps relieve pain the by targeting the neuromusculoskeletal system via trigger, homeostatic, or paravertebral points.
Which Patients Benefit from Dry Needling?
For patients suffering from muscular problems and pain, dry needling can help get them on the road to recovery. The following are just a few of the ailments that this technique can improve:
- Neck and back pain
- Hip and knee pain
- Muscle spasms
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Tennis or Golf Elbow
- Frozen Shoulder
- Acute and chronic injuries
- Athletic and overuse injuries
Dry Needling at PT Solutions
Our physical therapists evaluate patients and their injuries to determine if dry needling is an appropriate treatment. This technique will always be used in combination with manual therapies and prescriptive exercises. By combining multiple treatment strategies, we create a care plan that will lead to the most effective and successful outcomes for our patients. At PT Solutions, we want to help you get better, faster.
1 Kalichman L, Vulfsons S. Dry needling in the Management Musculoskeletal Pain.” J Am Board Fam Med. 2010;23(5):640–646.
2 “Painful and Tender Muscles: Dry Needling Can Reduce Myofascial Pain Related to Trigger Points Muscles.” Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, vol. 43, no. 9, 2013, pp. 635–635., doi:10.2519/jospt.2013.0505.