What is Dry Needling?
Dry-needling is a technique that uses very thin, sterile, needles inserted into a muscle or other soft tissues to stimulate a healing or adaptive response. This is referred to as ‘dry’ needling as nothing is being injected. These needles themselves are very similar to the needles used in Chinese Acupuncture, but the principles guiding their use differs. Whereas in Chinese Acupuncture needles are placed along meridians, with the intention of stimulating certain organs, in dry-needling needles are applied into taut bands of muscle, known as ‘“trigger points”. The proper application and use of these needles can release or relieve the pain, or dysfunction associated with these trigger points.
These are several mechanisms through which dry-needling are understood to work. Firstly, by specifically and locally increasing the pressure in an area of muscle a relaxation reflex is initiated leading to less adverse tension within a muscle once the needle is removed. A second key mechanism is how the needle can stimulate a small area of irritation within a tissue to which the body responds with changes to blood flow and local inflammation which together can initiate a healing response.
Because of these mechanisms of action, dry needling can sometimes be a little uncomfortable, either at the time of treatment, or the day after. Often this soreness is a sign that there has been a physiological response – and thus, that the treatment had the desired effect. Any side risks or side effects will be fully discussed with you at the time of treatment.
Dry needling is just a tool used to stimulate change to the body and nervous system – just like any of the other techniques used by Osteopaths, Physiotherapists, or other professionals. Thus there is no definitive list of conditions that it does, or doesn’t treat, who it would or wouldn’t benefit. The skill lies in the specifics of the application.
Those with the following complaints often benefit from the use of dry needling as part of their treatment:
- Muscle pain
- Muscle spasm
- Joint pain
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- knee pain
- TMD (Jaw pain and dysfunction)
What to Expect From Dry Needling?
Dry needling will almost never be used in isolation. As such it will take place as part of your Osteopathy or Physiotherapy appointment, as part of your treatment plan. If your therapist believes that dry needling will be beneficial for you, the pro’s and con’s will be discussed with you and you will be able to decide whether you would like to go ahead.
If you and your therapist agree to try dry needling you will just need to relax. A small sterile needle will be inserted with a slight tap and guided to the desired depth. Some people feel almost nothing throughout, and some may experience a slight pricking or pressure. When a taut muscle or trigger point is being treated a ‘local twitch response’ may occur, in which a small area of muscle twitches. This can be a little more uncomfortable but extremely brief. After a short period of time – from seconds to minutes- the needles will be removed and safely disposed of.
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