What is dry needling and what can it do for me?
Dry Needling is a technique that uses thin monofilament needles. These needles are much smaller than the hypodermic needles you associate with getting a shot and as a result, they tend to be painless or much less painful than the insertion of traditional hypodermic needles. It is known as dry needling because no substances are injected with the insertion of the thin needles.
When performing dry needling we use needles similar to or the same as those used in acupuncture. The difference between dry needling and acupuncture has to do with the goal of the treatment. In acupuncture needles are generally inserted at acupoints meant to change the flow of ‘qi’ or energy consistent with a traditional eastern medicine approach. When using dry needling as part of our treatment we are targeting specific anatomical structures. The needles are inserted into the soft tissues of the body. The needles can be inserted into a variety of different tissues including muscle, tendons, or fascia depending on the patient’s need and desired result. Dry needling can be effective in treating trigger points, the painful “knots” felt in muscle tissue by causing relaxation of the muscle at that specific point, interrupt the pain signals from the nerves in the area, and stimulate new growth of connective tissue. Dry needling can also be effective in treating tendinitis. By using dry needling we can create areas of controlled microtrauma stimulating the body to release healing factors. In this way, we are able to use dry needling to help improve healing in a targeted area of the body.
Dry needling is most effective when used as part of the treatment that may also involve other manual therapies such as soft tissue mobilizations, joint mobilizations, stretching, as well as therapeutic exercise.
Dry Needling is also known as intramuscular stimulation (IMS) and trigger point dry needling (TDN). It is a safe, effective and efficient treatment used to:
- Relax myofascial trigger points, and
- Restore normal muscle tones, muscle length, coordination, function and strength
Dry needling involves insertion and repetitive manipulation of a "dry", solid filament needle in a trigger point in order to produce an involuntary spinal cord reflex, also known as a local twitch response (LTR). This results in lasting muscle relaxation due to the release of shortened bands of muscle fibers for overactive (tight) muscles or the activation of under-active (weak) muscles. Deactivation of the trigger points can bring immediate relief of symptoms, so the therapist can immediately train the muscles to work with the newly gained pain free range of motion (ROM).
Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture
Dry needling is similar to acupuncture in the sense that a dry, solid filament needle is inserted and manipulated under the skin to release endorphins and serum cortisol for pain relief. The difference is that dry needling is based on western neuroanatomy and modern scientific study of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It creates balance in the body by influencing the flow of Qi (energy) in pathways called meridians to achieve pain relief and alleviate inflammation.
Conditions Treated by Dry Needling
Dry needling has successfully been used to treat a variety of conditions including:
- Head and Neck Pain - including whiplash and headaches / migraines, degenerative joint disease, degenerative disc disease or osteoarthritis
- Shoulder Pain - including rotator cuff muscle tears, bursitis, adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder), tendonitis and impingement syndrome
- Elbow Pain - including lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and medial epicondylitis (golfer's elbow)
- Hand and Wrist Pain - including gamekeeper's thumb, DeQuervain's syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis
- Back Pain - including lumbar degenerative disc disease, arthritic changes and herniated discs
- Hip Pain - including iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome), piriformis syndrome, sciatica and arthritis
- Knee Pain - including sprained or strained ligaments, cartilage tears, tendonitis and osteoarthritis
- Shin / Ankle / Foot Pain - including shin splints, gout, metatarsalgia and Morton's neuroma
- Plantar Fasciitis (Heel Pain)
- Acute and Chronic Tendonitis
- Athletic and Sports-related Overuse Injuries
- Post-surgical Pain
- Post-traumatic Injuries, Motor Vehicle Accidents (MVA), and Work-related Injuries
- Other Chronic Pain Conditions - including osteoarthritis and myofascial pain / myofascial pain syndrome (MPS)