Do you have knots in your muscles or aches and pains that just seem to hang around no mater how many stretches you do or massages you get? If so, then you may want to look into dry needling. What is dry needling? Is it acupuncture? And how does it work? These questions are the most frequently asked by patients, physicians, athletes, and physically active individuals. This post is going to describe what dry needling is and how it can alleviate trigger points or “knots” in muscles and the pain they produce.
Dry needling is a broad term for a manual therapeutic technique that involves multiple advances of a filament needle into the muscle region, which produces pain and typically contains a trigger point. Most patients are uneasy with the idea of a needle puncturing the skin, but most will not even feel the needle penetrate the skin. Once the needle is in the muscle, the feeling of discomfort can vary considerably from patient to patient. Usually a healthy muscle will produce very little discomfort with the insertion of the needle, however, if the muscle is sensitive and has an active trigger point the patient may feel the sensation of a muscle cramp. This response is commonly referred as a “twitch response”. Besides the muscle cramp sensation or an active twitch of the muscle, the patient may feel referral of pain or reproduction of the symptoms they are seeking to relive.
So how does dry needling differ from acupuncture? After reading the procedure of dry needling it does sounds like acupuncture. However, acupuncturists utilize needles to correct the energy flow of the body or “chi”, chronic health and neurological conditions through the guidance of meridian lines, tongue and pule examination, and acupuncture points. Dry needling addresses purely the dysfunction of the muscle through extensive palpation to identify the unhealthy muscle tissue. So the only similarity is the use of needles, but the theory behind the treatments are very different.
Dry needling is an effective treatment for acute and chronic pain, rehabilitation from injury, and even pain and injury prevention, with very few side effects. Most common side effect is muscle soreness 1-2 days after treatment, which can be alleviated by drinking plenty of fluids and the application of heat. Besides the treatment of dry needling the practitioner will provide corrective exercises. These corrective exercises are specifically designed to provide a positive environment to allow for correction of the unhealthy muscle tissue habits. This technique is unequaled in finding and eliminating muscular dysfunction that leads to pain and functional deficits. Typically positive results are apparent within 2-4 treatment sessions, but also depend on the severity of the condition, overall health of the patient, and the experience level of the practitioner.
So the next time you are finding lingering symptoms from knotted muscles and lack of results from a deep tissue massage or stretching. Maybe you should address the issue further through dry needling. Elite Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy will be providing this manual treatment technique when its doors open at the end of April.