What is Dry Needling?

by | Jul 28, 2020

*Photo used with permission of Myopain Seminars

Dry Needling is a revolutionary pain-relieving procedure. Even though it is increasing in popularity, you may not yet be familiar with it. It involves the use of very tiny needles to treat a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. The needles are similar to acupuncture needles but are used with a very different approach, not at all similar to eastern use. It is based on modern scientific study of pain, neuroanatomy, and the musculoskeletal system.

Certified practitioners are highly skilled in the use of these needles, and the treatment is both extremely safe and extremely effective. A sterile, thin, disposable, monofilament needle is inserted through the skin into the painful or problematic area, typically muscle or tendon. Dry needling has been proven to reduce pain and muscle tension, promote healing, and increase range of motion.

Trigger points are one of the most common conditions treated with dry needling. You might be familiar with these if you have ever noticed a knot or painful spot in your upper shoulders (trapezius muscles). A trigger point is a tight band or contracted area in a muscle that can cause pain, restrict mobility, decrease strength in the muscle, and disrupt function. When dry needling is used on trigger points, it causes favorable biomechanical changes including the release of the tightness and a reduction in pain signals. Typically a small muscle twitch, called the “local twitch response,” relaxes the muscle and restores its normal neuromuscular function. The person often notices an immediate restoration of flexibility and muscle strength and a reduction in pain. Blood flow and oxygenation of the area are improved, which leads to healing. For some people, you can have a brief sensation of clammy hands or faintness but that is a rare vagal response and very brief. Even my most needle-phobic patients do quite well because the needles are so small.

After treatment, the surrounding area may be sore, primarily because the pain-causing chemicals (neurotransmitters) are released into the surrounding tissues where they will be removed by your circulatory system. The best way to flush them out is by drinking water throughout the day, and moving your body as the muscle pump action will pump out those chemicals. For example, I love having my upper traps needled, but they will feel a little sore later. 10 shoulder shrugs whenever they feel a little achy makes them feel immediately better. Epsom salt baths can be helpful if needed. In some cases, the soreness lasts for an hour, in some cases for 1-2 days.

Dry needling is quite effective for acute and chronic muscle tightness and pain and is very well tolerated. The research for the effectiveness of dry needling in a wide range of conditions is substantial.

Dry needling is also very useful for tendonitis. In tendon injury, the collagen fibers often heal in a disorganized fashion or heal too slowly. Using a special dry needle technique, we can encourage an increase in collagen-building activity in the cells. Patients often report an immediate improvement in pain and can get back to activity and sport faster using dry needling. The technique may be used over a series of visits along with other manual therapy techniques and specialized exercise prescriptions for tendonitis.

Dry needling is only one tool and is used along with a broader physical therapy approach to treating pain and musculoskeletal dysfunction. Dry needling should only be performed by licensed, trained practitioners. Dr. Shaw was trained and certified by Myopain, the premier dry needling education company. The use of needles might sound intimidating, but dry needling is a very safe, typically non-painful technique with amazing results. If you are interested in trying this technique for pain that just hasn’t gone away, contact us now.

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