Dry needling is a safe and effective Western medicine technique where sterile acupuncture needles are used to reliever tight bands of tension in over-active muscles. The very fine single filament needles are inserted into the muscle targeting these “triggers points” or “knots”.
Trigger points have been shown to be a large source of local pain, referred pain and movement restriction. Trigger points can be caused by overuse and increased stress on the muscle. Things like strengthening with incorrect form and poor posture can cause muscle overuse. Continued activity with trigger points may lead to further tissue damage and increased pain. In combination with conventional treatment options, dry needling can be an influential method to accelerate pain reduction, healing and the restoration of normal tissue function.
Sounds good! But how does it work?
The exact mechanisms of dry needling are complex and not fully known. However, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the positive effect dry needling has on the electrical and chemical communications that take place in our nervous system.
• inhibiting the transmission of pain signals in our spinal cord
• increasing the release of our own pain relieving chemicals within our brains.
Through dry needling, a very fine, solid filament needle is inserted to cause a small, precise injury or “lesion” in the tissue. The tiny needle activates injury signals that the brain uses to begin a sequence of events to replace or repair the damaged tissue with new, healthy tissue. Needling in a painful ‘trigger point’ or muscular knot frequently provokes a “twitch” response from the muscle.
Once a “twitch” response has been elicited:
• the muscle fibers in that area relax,
• ‘inflammation’ is reduced
• circulation improves.
Is it sore?
Most of the time, the actual needle insertion is not felt. Should a local twitch response or sudden slight contraction of the muscle occur, then there may be a very brief pain response.
People have described the local twitch as an electric shock or a cramping sensation. A therapeutic response occurs with the elicitation of local twitch responses and that is a good and desirable reaction.
During treatment, patients often experience heaviness in the limbs or a feeling of muscle relaxation. Following this technique some muscle soreness may be felt for up to 48 hrs. The application of heat or ice depending of the needling site and drinking plenty of fluids usually reduces the soreness.
So whats the difference between Dry Needling and Acupuncture?
The main similarity between dry needling and acupuncture is the fact that the same type of needles are used. Generally dry needling is based on Western anatomical and neurophysiological principles, whereas acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique. Acupuncture is inserted into acupoints which are based on the meridian pathways.
Modern dry needling is based on current medical science and research known and accepted by today’s primary care, orthopaedic, neurologic and pain management physicians. However, the positive effect on pain of inserting a needle is likely to be similar, whether administered as part of a dry needling or acupuncture treatment.
What kind of conditions can it help?
Conditions that dry needling have been found to help include;
• Neck Pain (Chronic and Acute)
• Lower Back Pain
• Cervicogenic Headaches
• Shoulder Impingement
• Knee Pain; including Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
• General Muscular Tightness
Feel free to drop into us at IFC clinic to see if dry needling can benefit your condition or any niggles that you’ve been having!
Sinead is an Irish trained physiotherapist who has been living in Singapore for the past few years. While she has been here, she has gained experience in a range of different settings. This includes; private practice, acute hospital, rehabilitation centre and pitch-side for Gaelic football and rugby teams. She specialises in acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries with particular interest in shoulder, lower back and hip injuries. She focuses not only on the relieving her patients pain, but also on finding the cause of why it happened and preventing reoccurrence. In her spare time, Sinead likes to keep as active as possible through bootcamps, running and Gaelic football.