Dry needling is a technique that therapists at Epic Life Physio in Mona Vale use on a regular basis to reduce muscle spasm and pain, back pain, headaches and more – read on below for more details on what dry needling is and how it works. We will also try to answer all the questions that people ask regarding dry needling.
So what exactly is dry needling?
Dry needling is a modern treatment that uses very fine, short needles which are first inserted into the skin and then into a trigger point in your muscle or tendon or fascia to ease muscular spasm and pain caused from:
- Sporting injuries
- Muscle strain tear injuries
- Work related injuries
More specifically dry needling is used for the following musculoskeletal conditions:
- Shoulder pain – including rotator cuff pain
- Biceps tendinitis
- Tennis and Golfer’s elbow
- Iliotibial band (aka ITB) syndrome
- Piriformis Syndrome
- Achilles tendinitis
- Low back pain
- Neck pain and whiplash injury
- Muscle strains
- Hip pain
- And more!
Trigger points are a band of tight and irritable muscle tissue that is not working effectively, usually due to injury, overuse or stiffness. These trigger points can result in pain, tenderness, restriction in the range of movement of your muscles or in how the muscle contracts and moves.
Dry needling, when applied to the trigger point, can decrease muscle tightness / spasm, increase blood flow and reduce pain and our patients regularly report immediate relief following treatment.
Dry Needling has three techniques, each with its own benefit
• Trigger point technique: the needles are placed in the ‘trigger points’ of the muscle or tissue where the pain is most apparent. They remain in the skin for a short period of time – up to about 20 minutes.
• Non-trigger point technique: needles are inserted around the area of pain to treat a broader area of the central nervous system, as the pain may be a result of a greater nerve or muscle, not just the main area of pain.
• In-and-out techniques: the needles don’t stay in for long, merely desensitizing the trigger point and then they are removed
Dry needling is often paired with other physiotherapy techniques such as massage, shockwave therapy, laser therapy, exercise and more. The reason that it is called dry needling is that the needle does not inject any fluids into your body – and in fact the needles are solid, sterile stainless steel.
So what is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?
There are a lot of similarities between dry needling and acupuncture – starting with the fact that they both use thin needles inserted at various depths to treat various symptoms.
Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years, it is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine and aims to remove blockages and return the body to its state of balance by balancing the flow of energy (or life force known as “chi”) which are believed to flow via pathways called meridians which are throughout your body.
Acupuncture treats a wide variety of symptoms including (but not limited to):
Dry needling on the other hand is a newer treatment that has evolved in the last 20 to 30 years or so and focuses on treating muscular pain as per all of the details further above.
What will I feel when treated with dry needling?
During the treatment you may feel a slight sting as the needle is inserted and may also experience a muscle twitch when the needle hits the trigger point. It is also normal to sometimes feel an ache either around where the needle was inserted or in another location as the trigger point can refer pain to other body locations. This response usually settles within 1-2 minutes.
Are there any side effects?
After the treatment most people respond well with a decrease in pain and an increase in movement but as with other physio treatments you can also feel some soreness in the area for up to 24 hours. Some patients can have a very small amount of bruising around where the needle was inserted whilst some also feel tired or drowsy following treatment and so we will make sure that you are ok before you leave the clinic.
Is dry needling safe?
Dry needling is a safe and effective treatment for treating many musculoskeletal conditions when it is performed by a trained physiotherapist like Trish at Epic Life Physio. Our Physios will ensure that they understand any conditions that you have that may contra-indicate dry needling and that these are taken into account. Remember if you are uncomfortable with dry needling there are other treatment options and it is ok to say that you would prefer not to have it done!