Home Health What is Dry needling and what does it do?

What is Dry needling and what does it do?

by Sharon Butcher

You may have heard about dry needling and wondered what it is or whether it is something that will be beneficial to you.

Though the procedure’s name may sound daunting, dry needling is a discreet, minimally invasive, and often successful technique for patients with some musculoskeletal presentations. Dry needling is a therapy administered by experienced, qualified, and licensed physical therapists. For the treatment of neuro-musculoskeletal pain and mobility impairments, a small monofilament needle penetrates the skin and treats underlying muscle trigger points.

A trigger point is a tight band or local contracture in a muscle fiber that can interrupt activity, limit range of motion, refer pain, or induce local tenderness. Dry needling to a dysfunctional muscle or trigger point will minimize banding or tightness, improve blood flow, and reduce local and referred discomfort.

Dry needling is not the same as acupuncture. It employs comparable instruments, but that is where the parallels cease. Dry needling is practiced by a variety of physicians with varying levels of experience. Acupuncture is focused on Eastern medicine, while dry needling is based on Western medicine and involves the treatment of pain patterns, posture, mobility impairments, function, and orthopedic examinations.



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What is Dry Needling Used For?

Dry needling is used to treat muscle tissue, with the intention of reducing discomfort, inactivating trigger points, and restoring function. It is seldom used as a stand-alone technique. Rather, it is often seen as part of a wider physical therapy approach that includes most conventional physical therapy interventions in care.

Dry needling should be used to treat a wide range of musculoskeletal problems, including elbow, spine, heel, hip, and back pain. Although literature suggests that dry needling is a safe and efficient method of treating and handling pain.


How Does Dry Needling Work?

It activates a skeletal muscle trigger point. It’s known as a knot, and it can inflict discomfort that extends beyond the muscle in which it’s located. Myofascial pain syndrome is another term for a trigger point. A trigger point is a tight band of skeletal muscle within a wider muscle group that is tender when touched and can cause discomfort in other parts of the body.

Your practitioner is using dry needling as part of a broader therapy package to attempt to release the stress point, relieve discomfort, and/or improve the movement. Dry needling can help to relieve muscle stress and discomfort. When the needle is inserted into the trigger point, a twitch may occur, which may indicate that the treatment is successful.  Common areas on the body where trigger points occur include:

  • Neck
  • Back
  • Arms
  • Shoulders
  • Knees
  • Hips
  • Glutes

Dry needling can also commonly treat other ailments such as:

  • Headaches
  • Sciatica pain
  • Planter fasciitis
  • Tendonitis


What is the Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture?

The application of small needles into specific areas of the body is similar in both dry needling and acupuncture, but the similarities end there. The distinction between dry needling and traditional acupuncture is that needles are placed into points around meridian lines during an acupuncture session. These lines depict the organs of the body and are based on ancient Chinese medicine. Acupuncture is based on the concept of restoring optimal energy transfer in the body.

Acupuncture needles are usually left in place for 15 to 30 minutes. It is often used to treat internal illnesses such as intestinal issues, fatigue, depression, and chronic pain.

Dry needle therapy is a comparatively recent Western medicine-based treatment. This therapy was established in the 1980s, and needles are implanted into trigger points, or tender bands of muscle found inside larger muscles, during treatment.

When needles are placed into trigger points, they evoke a reaction that causes the trigger point to be released and normal operation to be restored. The distinction between dry needling and acupuncture is that dry needling is used to relieve chronic and acute pain without the use of drugs, surgical operations, or other invasive procedures.






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