Our skilled physical therapists at Parkview Therapy Services and Parkview Athletic Rehabilitation are trained in dry needling techniques, which helps reduce pain and tightness to treat a wide variety of painful conditions.
What is dry needling and how does it work?
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, dry needling is an intervention that uses small needles to penetrate through the skin and fascia, into a specific muscle region. The purpose of dry needling is to stimulate myofascial trigger points, muscles or other connective tissues for the management of neuromuscular and musculoskeletal disorders.
Dry needling is used most frequently to reduce easily-irritable trigger points. A trigger point is a contracted or taut band of muscle fiber that causes pain.
Dry needling has been shown to reduce or quiet trigger points through a mechanism called the local twitch response. This twitch response is something that is controlled by the central nervous system. Often when penetrated or manipulated by the needle, the muscle undergoes an involuntary reaction in the form of a twitch or brief spasm. This reaction has been shown to reduce pain and muscle fiber tautness through a cascade of intramuscular and chemical reactions. Other associated benefits include range of motion improvements, normalized muscle pH, increased circulation, and decreased trigger point irritability.
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What conditions or injuries can be treated with dry needling?
Dry needling can be incorporated into any treatment plan when muscle dysfunction or trigger points have been identified. This includes:
- nerve pain in the neck and lower back
- carpal tunnel
- tennis elbow
- rotator cuff dysfunction
- migraines and headache disorders
- pelvic pain
- complex regional pain syndrome
- muscle strains
- whiplash syndrome
- any other joint dysfunction in the spine, knee, hip, shoulder, ankle or foot
Is dry needling safe?
Dry needling is very safe, with serious side effects identified in less than one-tenth of a percent (0.01) according to research. Symptoms following routine exercise or massage are similar to what one might experience after a dry needling session. These may include dehydration, tiredness, discomfort and muscle aches.
Is dry needling painful?
The diameter of the monofilament needles is much smaller than needles that are used in injections or to draw blood. Therefore, the pain from the needle penetration is generally minimal and temporary. Dry needling is intended to stimulate at the muscular level, so bleeding or bruising rarely occur.
What’s the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?
Similarities do exist between these two interventions. Both utilize the same tool - a solid monofilament needle - to penetrate through the skin and dermal tissues to a desired depth. Dry needling has both local and regional therapeutic effects.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, the practice of dry needling by physical therapists and acupuncture by acupuncturists are different in terms of their historical, philosophical, indicative and practical content.
Functional dry needling was developed and is practiced based on our modern understanding of the scientific study of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. It is evidence-based and considered a western treatment approach. Physical therapists that perform dry needling do not use traditional (eastern) Chinese medicinal theory or principles for application, nor acupuncture terminology.
Is dry needling used on its own or with other therapy techniques?
Dry Needling is simply another tool physical therapists can use to assist one through their rehabilitation process. It is not a stand-alone session. Instead, it’s used in combination with other traditional interventions including manual therapy, stretching and exercise. Needling to one body region can generally can be performed in 15 minutes.