Dry Needling is a treatment technique whereby a sterile, single-use, fine filament needle (acupuncture needle) is inserted into the muscle to assist with decreasing pain and improving function through the release of myofascial trigger points (knots in the muscle).
What is the Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture?
Dry Needling is a not the same as acupuncture, although there are similarities between the two techniques. The main difference between Dry Needling and Acupuncture is the theory behind why the techniques work. Dry Needling is primarily focused on the reduction of pain and restoration of function through the release of myofascial trigger points in muscle. In comparison, acupuncture focuses on the treatment of medical conditions by restoring the flow of energy (Qi) through key points in the body (meridians) to restore balance.
What Causes a Myofascial Trigger Point?
A myofascial trigger point develops as part of the body’s protective response following:
- Injury - the muscle will tighten in an attempt to reduce the severity of an injury
- Unexpected movements e.g. descending a step that is lower than originally anticipated
- Quick movements e.g. looking over your shoulder while driving
- Change in regular activity or muscle loading e.g. an increase in the number or intensity of training sessions for sport
- Sustained postures e.g. prolonged sitting for work or study
- Nerve impingement - the muscle will tighten to protect the nerve
- Illness (bacterial or viral)
- Nutritional deficiencies, or
- Metabolic and endocrine conditions
How does Dry Needling Work?
Dry Needling assists with decreasing local muscular pain and improving function through the restoration of a muscle's ability to lengthen and shorten normally by releasing myofascial trigger points.
When a fine filament needle is inserted into the centre of a myofascial trigger point, blood pools around the needle triggering the contracted muscle fibres to relax by providing those fibres with fresh oxygen and nutrients, as well as by flushing away any additional acidic chemicals. This, in turn, leads to the decompression of the local blood and nerve supply.
When is it Appropriate to Use Dry Needling as a Form of Treatment?
Dry Needling can be used in treatment:
- To help release myofascial trigger points (muscle knots)
- To assist with pain management
- To restore movement at a joint if inhibited by myofascial trigger points
Where Does Dry Needling Fit Within Your Rehabilitation Program?
Dry Needling is one of many techniques that can be utilised by your physiotherapist to assist with your rehabilitation. Dry Needling is often used in combination with other techniques including massage, manual therapy, and exercise prescription.