There are chances that you may or you may not have heard of dry needling therapy. Sticking needles in your body for pain relief may sound weird but don’t ignore it until you give it a try. Many people suffering from low back pain, or muscle injuries use dry needling to relieve pain.
Trigger point dry needling therapy is a method that patients can use to try and relieve their pain. Dry needling works together with manual therapy to retrain tissue. It also improves flexibility and function. This is a new therapy that actually works and does wonders.
Dry needling is fairly new in the field of physical therapy. It is intended to improve your quality of life, so be sure that you begin treatment knowing what it can and cannot do. Many people confuse it with acupuncture.
Here, we present how this new therapy is working wonders in pain management. So, having dry needles stuck in various parts of your body is not a weird thought.
What is Dry Needling Therapy?
Dry needling is a therapy in which a very thin needle is pricked through the skin and muscle. The target is to hit the tight knots of muscle. These tight knots are called trigger points. These trigger points can make it difficult to perform simple daily tasks. Every time the inflamed area is touched, there is pain that can even radiate to nearby body areas.
It is also known as trigger point dry needling (TDN) or intramuscular manual therapy. The two types of dry needling therapy are deep method and superficial method.
Dry needling therapy is used for relieving muscular pain and improving joint range of motion. It can cause side effects like soreness, bruising, bleeding, and fatigue. The procedure involves the insertion of a needle into myofascial trigger points.
The effectiveness of this treatment depends greatly on the skill of the therapist to accurately identify and stimulate myofascial trigger points.
Dry Needling Therapy vs Acupuncture
Both dry needling and acupuncture use needles. So the obvious question arises, are they the same? Well, the use of needles in both is the only similarity. Dry needling therapy is quite different from acupuncture in many aspects.
1 Acupuncture helps in increasing the flow of energy around your body and organs. Dry needling helps treat specific neuromuscular issues. These neuromuscular issues cause pain and hinder your mobility.
2 Acupuncture is based on a system of meridians. Along the meridians lie acupoints or acupuncture points. The needling process simulates these acupuncture points in your body. This thereby resolving a clinical problem. But dry needling therapy stimulates specific trigger points. These trigger points lead to pain and block your disability.
3 In acupuncture, needles remain in the body for some time. In dry needling, the needles are slowly inserted into the body. They gently stimulate the muscles. After a short period, the needles are removed. The process repeats many times.
4 In acupuncture, needles are inserted into established meridian points on your body. In case of dry needling, needles are inserted in detected trigger points.
5 In acupuncture, energy flows through the meridians. Inserting needles into these points helps to bring proper balance of energy flow back. In dry needling, needles release tension, inflammation, or pressure. This is done on specific trigger points, causing pain.
6 Acupuncture has roots in traditional Chinese medicine. Whereas dry needling therapy has roots in Western neurophysiology and anatomy principles.
Dry needling involves the insertion of a needle without injecting any chemical. This is done into the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and scar tissue. Wet needling involves hollow bore needles that deliver corticosteroids, sclerosants and other agents. Wet needling is also effective in pain management and several research studies are ongoing in this subject.
Working of Dry Needling
In this method, the needle is placed just slightly into your muscle in the vicinity of a trigger point. But in this case the local twitch response is not induced instantly. The needle remains in the place for 30 seconds and then withdrawn. If your trigger point still appears to be sensitive, the needles placement is done in the same area again for two minutes.
During dry needling therapy, your therapist will try to ease trigger point sensitivity with these shorter therapy intervals. Until you notice a difference, there is repetition of the whole process. Dry needling technique is the best for patients who cannot tolerate deep dry needling or who become stiff easily.
Benefits of Dry Needling Therapy
1 Reduces Pain
Studies show immediate or short-term improvements in pain if dry needling targets these trigger points. Another study published that dry needling significantly reduces shoulder pain by targeting a trigger point.
Dry needling therapy increases both active and passive range of motion of your shoulder and surrounding muscles. You can notice a significant reduction in the pain intensity of your shoulder after the treatment. A study also proved that dry needling a specific myofascial trigger point can reduce pain and sensitivity in that area.
2 Improves Movement
With dry needling therapy and movement-based therapy, you can experience more fluid movement in the affected area. It is especially helpful for athletes in case of shoulder injury.
Studies proved that athletes were able to continue with overhead activities after the dry needling therapy. This shows that the treatment does not cause functional weakness and has an immediate effect post session.
3 Speeds Up the Recovery Process
If you undergo dry needling therapy, you experience less pain in the affected area. You can feel the benefits immediately after your first treatment.
Physical therapists add dry needling to the treatment plan, in order to enhance the treatment outcomes of patients. The treatment not only speeds up the healing process but also minimizes pain and disability.
Dry Needling Therapy Aftercare
Following a dry needling session, you need to drink extra water and stay hydrated. You may also experience muscle soreness after a dry needle therapy session. You can have a complete rest, a warm bath with epsom salts, heat or ice therapy, or other at-home medicines.
In the morning after your treatment session, the soreness of muscle may be worse. The bruises usually will last for a week. You must inform your doctor if you experience any side effects.
Contact emergency services immediately, if you experience severe side effects. These side effects can be in the form of shortness of breath or major bleeding. Though rare, this could be a sign of an infection or organ damage due to puncture.
Risks and Contraindications
Dry needling therapy should be avoided in patients under the following circumstances
- Patient has a phobia of needles.
- Patient is unwilling due to either fear or his belief.
- People are unable to give consent due to communication, cognitive, age-related factors.
- Patients have a medical emergency or acute medical condition.
- People with an area or limb with lymphedema as this may increase the risk of infection/cellulitis and the difficulty of fighting the infection if it relapses.
- Pregnant women.
- Patients are taking blood thinners.
- Additionally, patients with bleeding disorders, diabetes, epilepsy, lymphedema, vascular diseases or compromised immune systems must consult their doctor before opting for therapy.
Is the Dry Needling Therapy Safe?
Dry needling therapy is a great option for you if you do not have a significant needle phobia or other anxiety related to needles. Like any other therapy, you might have some unintended side effects after a dry needling therapy.
Such as muscle soreness, pain at the point of needle insertion, fatigue and bruising. If you are in the hands of a skilled physical therapist, it is a safe and effective treatment option. You can expect to see benefits in your range of motion and joint use right away.
It’s normal if you need to take several sessions of dry needling before your muscle is fully functional again. The location of trigger points are in the deeper layers of your skeleton muscles.
Hence it will take typically several sessions for the changes to take full effect. But you can notice the difference right after your first therapy session.
Dry needling is relatively known to be less painless. Generally, the needle insertion is not felt and the local twitch response on your skin only provokes a very brief pain response.
You will feel more like a cramping sensation or a shock. The local twitch response is your therapeutic response that indicates that the needle has hit the trigger point. Hence it is actually a good and desirable reaction.
Therapist will not recommend this therapy for children below 2 years of age. For a child undergoing dry needling, both parent and child’s consent is necessary. And the child should fully understand the therapy before treatment begins.
Quick Facts About Dry Needling
> Dry needling is a popular treatment technique categorized under orthopedic manual physical therapy.
> It involves a very thin needle pushed through your skin in order to stimulate a trigger point. The trigger point is responsible for pain and disability.
> During a dry needling session, the needle penetrates the trigger point, resulting in a local twitch response. This response indicates that the trigger point is being stimulated.
> If you are not afraid of needles, this is an effective and safe treatment option.
> Once you undergo the needling procedure you can see immediate benefits in your range of motion and joint use. At times you might need several sessions to fully eliminate the trigger point.