Dry needling is a therapeutic technique used by trained medical professionals to help treat pain and movement impairments. This technique utilizes a thin filiform needle that gets inserted through the skin to a specific target tissue. Although commonly inserted into muscles and tendons to treat pain and tightness, dry needling can also be used to target ligaments, bones, nerves, and other connective tissues. The term “dry” needling means that there is no medication being inserted with the needle.
Dry needling is NOT the same as acupuncture. Although both utilize the same type of filiform needles, the philosophies and needle insertion techniques/target tissues vary quite a bit. Dry needling is focused on a specific depth and specific tissue of the body. Acupuncture utilizes a technique based on traditional Chinese medicine that utilizes flow and energy of the body.
Commonly, dry needling is utilized to address trigger points, or knots, within the muscles. When the needle is inserted, it causes inhibition of the problematic muscle. This may elicit a local twitch response to the muscle which can aid in the reduction of tightness and discomfort, although not necessary for positive outcomes.
The insertion of the needle into muscle tissue causes a reaction within our nervous system. The first reaction is one from the spinal cord, where we get a reflexive relaxation response within the muscle. The second reaction is one from the brain. The signal from the needle travels up the spinal cord into the brain. Our brain registers this signal and then causes changes within the “tone” of the muscle. Basically, it allows the muscle to be in a healthier state after treatment by either relaxing or having improved ability to contract and activate.
Dry needling has been shown to activate both opioid-based pain reduction, mediated by endogenous cannabinoids and the sympathetic nervous system, and non-opioid pain relief via serotonin and norepinephrine. Basically, it stimulates your body’s production of natural pain killers!
Prior to treatment, our therapists will conduct a thorough examination to ensure that dry needling treatment is the best option for you. Then, we will talk you through the treatment including the purpose of dry needling specific areas.
When the needles are inserted, you will feel a slight “prick” sensation followed by pressure as the needle penetrates into the muscle tissue. Once the needle is inserted you may feel very little, but sometimes you can feel an aching, cramping, or sore sensation that is temporary.
We often apply electrical stimulation (e-stim) to the needles to impact the nervous system even more and facilitate an even greater treatment response. Dry needling combined with e-stim has been shown to be more effective than just dry needling alone.
You may feel sore immediately after treatment in the area of the body you were treated, this is normal but does not always occur. It can also take a few hours or the next day before you feel soreness. The soreness may vary depending on the area of the body that was treated as well as varies person to person, but typically it feels like you had an intense workout at the gym. Soreness typically lasts 24-48 hours. Mild bruising may occur, with some areas being more likely than others. It is common to feel tired, fatigued, or somewhat “out of it” after treatment. These are all normal responses and usually do not last very long.
There are times when treatment may actually make your typical symptoms worse. This is normal. The increased soreness usually does not last more than 48 hours. When soreness diminishes, overall discomfort and pain is typically less than before the needling was performed.
Yes, dry needling is safe when performed by a highly trained professional. The most common adverse reactions are bruising, bleeding, and soreness. This occurs in only about 25% of treatments and is considered to be very common and normal. Major adverse events such as fainting or vomiting only occur in less than 0.1% of treatments.
Schedule a complimentary consultation and we can help you decide if dry needling is a good treatment option for you.