Dry needling is a technique used to decrease muscle tension, reduce pain, and stimulate the healing process. A treatment involves inserting very thin microfilament acupuncture needles into the body. Occasionally light electric stimulation is applied to the needles, which allows us to achieve quicker results. The entire dry needling session lasts anywhere from 10-20 minutes, after which moist heat is applied to the treatment area followed by gentle massage.
Dry needling is different from acupuncture. Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncturists believe the majority of ailments in the body are caused by a disruption of the natural energy flow (Qi) in the body. The thought is that by inserting needles in specific points in the body (acupuncture points) they can restore balance to that energy flow. Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years, and there is evidence for its effectiveness at treating certain issues.
Dry needling follows a more musculoskeletal approach with the goal of treatment being to decrease muscle tension, reduce pain, and stimulate a healing response.
How does sticking a needle in someone do those three things?
Reduce Muscle Tension.¬† One common cause of muscle tension is muscle knots also known as trigger points. These are taut bands of muscle fibers that can cause local or referred pain. If you poke around on the muscle between your neck and shoulder you are bound to find a couple.
Dry needling in or around these areas causes a neurologic response to reduce their associated pain and tension. We will often get a ‚Äútwitch response‚ÄĚ where the muscle involuntarily twitches once or twice. We call this ‚Äúhitting the reset button‚ÄĚ on the muscle.
Reduce Pain. ¬†Muscle tension is a common contributor to pain. Oftentimes muscle tension comes in the form of trigger points as mentioned above. Trigger points can cause local pain (where they are) or referred pain (where they are not). A common example if this is the trigger points in your trapezius muscle (the one running from your neck to your shoulder). They will frequently refer pain to the base of your skull and behind your eye making it feel like you have a headache.
Stimulate Healing.¬† Injured tissue will frequently become ‚Äústagnant,‚ÄĚ meaning it does not perform like normal healthy tissue. Dry needling ‚Äúwakes the tissue up‚ÄĚ by creating a tiny microtrauma. The small, acute trauma causes a minor inflammatory response which kickstarts the natural healing process. Exercising follows a similar process. We lightly break muscle down just to build it back up again.
Conditions successfully managed with dry needling at our office:
- Tension Headaches
- Piriformis Syndrome
- Shoulder Pain
- Hip Pain
- IT Band Syndrome
- Runner‚Äôs Knee
- Neck Pain
If you are experiencing any of the above conditions or are curious if dry needling is right for you, please give us a call.