‘Dry Needling’ is a technique that involves inserting a thin and flexible needle into a muscle to that elicits a response to help it relax. This is often referred to as a ‘twitch’. There are changes to the muscle fibres, electrical activity, chemical releases, and a nervous system response that contributes to this response in the muscle.
The technique is aimed at treating ‘Myofascial Trigger Points’ which are considered hypersensitive parts of a muscle (myo) or it’s fascia (fascial). Commonly our clients will refer to these areas as ‘knots’, however that is probably not the best description of what it is. Trigger points are tender to touch and can create local or referred pain to different areas of the body. They are generally associated with muscle pain, loss of strength, and loss of range of movement.
Dry Needling is a technique that physiotherapists (and other health care providers) can undertake specific training in that is outside of their usual practice. This involves studying in depth anatomy and needling techniques so that it can be administered in a safe manner.
As with a lot of techniques that physiotherapist’s use, Dry Needling does not help everybody, nor does it solve all issues. But it can be extremely helpful to people in pain and who are recovering from injury. Any research that demonstrates its benefit always includes a multimodal approach that includes rehabilitation exercises as well as other treatments (eg activity changes, education, etc).
A comprehensive physiotherapy assessment and treatment plan discussion will precede any Dry Needling treatment, and it’s risks, benefits and alternatives discussed with the client.
Does it hurt?
There is usually some discomfort with Dry Needling and often there is a period of soreness afterwards in the muscle. This dissipates naturally and we often describe it like having a very deep intense massage.
The application of the needle itself should not be particularly painful, and is often described as achy and sore. If there is any sharpness, pinching, or other increased sensation then the technique can be changed to help it feel better.
How long does it take?
With Dry Needling the needle is inserted and removed instantly. The technique is very quick, and often a treatment session will involve dry needling of multiple muscle groups. The amount that is done depends on the individual and the specific injury. Usually the dry needling treatment takes up only a portion of a treatment session, with the rest used for other parts of the treatment plan (eg exercise)
Is it better than acupuncture?
It is different to acupuncture, not necessarily better. There are different situations and different people that will respond to each technique. This is where discussion and comprehensive evaluation from your physiotherapist is important.
How often can I get it done?
Again, this depends on the person, the injury and the overall dosage of dry needling that is performed. Everyone responds differently. Often we will not needle the same muscle group with 5 days, but it also has been done to good effect. Discuss this with your therapist.
Will it help with my (insert injury here) injury?
This is the most common question that we get asked and it is difficult to answer. There is research that supports the use of Dry Needling as part of a treatment plan for many different injuries, and we see that it is helpful in clinic on a regular basis. It is not best suited towards a specific injury, but more towards the person. It can be used all over the body, so in theory any injury may well be treated using some dry needling.
For any further questions please reach out to us.