Dry needling is a technique that uses a small, sterile, solid filament needle to treat trigger points. Trigger points are nodules in a taut band of muscle that cause pain and movement dysfunction. During a dry needling session, the needle is inserted directly into the trigger point, causing it to be released or inactivated. Once the trigger points are released, the muscle will return to normal function and length, which decreases pain and improves mobility.
Dry needling, in conjunction with other physical therapy treatments, is very effective in the treatment of a variety of musculoskeletal issues.
What causes a trigger point?
Trigger points form due to repetitive motion, poor posture, poor body mechanics, and other issues. Trigger points can also form after an acute injury when muscles get excessively loaded/stretched, or as muscles transform to protect an injured joint.
How does dry needling work?
Great question! The exact mechanics behind dry needling’s efficacy are the subject of ongoing research. The current theory is that insertion of the needle initiates a chemical reaction that relaxes the muscle.
What conditions can be treated with dry needling?
Any musculoskeletal problems that have trigger points. These include headaches, neck/lower back pain, joint/muscle pain, and/or limited joint range of motion. Sometimes trigger points can cause pain that mimics tendonitis, bursitis, and plantar fasciitis. Your therapist will perform an evaluation to determine if dry needling can help you.
Is dry needling painful?
Most people do not feel the needle being inserted. Once the needle enters the trigger point, the muscle may twitch, a phenomenon called a local twitch response. This is good, as it means the trigger point is being released.
However, this response can be slightly painful; patients often describe it as a small electric shock or a cramping, achey sensation. There may be soreness post-treatment for hours or a couple of days, similar to what you feel after a vigorous workout.
How long does it take to work?
Most people report some degree of immediate change after one session. If you do not see a change after four treatments, dry needling may not be effective for you, and other treatments will be attempted.
How does dry needling fit in with the rest of the treatment?
If your condition is worsened by trigger points, dry needling is an important method for breaking the pain cycle, improving mobility, and restoring muscle function. It is a component of a comprehensive treatment program.