Dry needling therapy is a relatively new and very effective therapeutic treatment for pain and movement dysfunction. The technique has a very broad application in the relief of pain and muscle spasm. Dry Needling can be used by professional athletes to relieve pain caused by training, people with chronic back pain and patients with neurogical problems like MS, to name a few examples.
Dry needling therapy involves the release of the physical trigger points in the muscle tissue, or “muscle knots”, by directly engaging the affected muscle fibers with a small needle.
When applying dry needling therapy, the Therapist will insert thin, filiform needles into the trigger points. The Therapist may also apply a low level, electrical current through the needle to directly stimulate the affected muscle.
What Is a Myofascial Trigger Point?
A trigger point is a sensitive or painful nodule or knot in your muscle which causes a specific effect, or “trigger” either locally or in another part of the body. There are two kinds of myofascial trigger points:
- Active Trigger Point – painful all the time
- Latent Trigger Point – painful when touched
For example, an active trigger point might be an aggravating knot in your shoulder that gets better and worse but never goes away completely. A latent myofascial trigger point in a back muscle might be the cause of cause intermittent low back pain after heavy or repetitive activity. Trigger points in the muscles around the spine can also be responsible for referred pain such as sciatica, hip pain or leg pain.
What Causes Trigger Points?
While there are a variety of reasons trigger points may be formed, they are most commonly associated with:
- Back and neck injuries
- Joint problems such as arthritis
- Muscle sprains and strains
- Poor posture or working position
- Repetitive motions
- Persistent pain following surgery
- Chronic pain syndromes, such as fibromyalgia
How Does Dry Needling Work?
Your body’s musculoskeletal and nervous systems have unique physical and biomechanical processes designed to naturally create and reduce pain. However, your nerves can become “sensitized” and continue to create pain in your extremities, spinal cord and brain. This sets up a pain pathway that may persist even after the original injury has healed. Dry needling works to disrupt the pain pathway by relaxing the trigger point and deactivating the “sensitized” nerves.
Dry needling stimulates your body’s natural healing processes. When the Therapist inserts the needle into your trigger point, it creates a muscle spasm in that location. This generated muscle spasm is called a “local twitch” response. The local twitch response helps to interrupt the cycle of pain.
What Conditions Respond to Dry Needling Therapy?
- Back Pain
- Neck pain
- Frozen shoulder
- Sports Injuries
- Regional Pain syndromes
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Plantar fasciitis
Is Dry Needling the Same as Acupuncture?
Although both techniques involve the use of needles, Dry Needling and Acupuncture are not the same. Acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine’s manipulation of the energy flow in the body. Jones Physical Therapy’s Functional Dry Needling techniques are based on Western medical practices and modern scientific study of the musculoskeletal and nervous system.