Getting to the Point About Dry Needling

Dry needling seems like something out of a horror film.  However, dry needling is one of the most powerful modalities in treating soft tissue dysfunction.  Let’s clear up any differences or misconceptions you might have about dry needling and get right to the point.

What is dry needling?

Dry needling involves the insertion of small needles into specific trigger points to relieve muscle pain. The needles are introduced into the skin and tissues, being threaded in and out of your muscles for relief.  Dry needling is a unique procedure intended to explicitly target and rebuild muscle function, with an emphasis on improving tissue repair and reestablishing normal tissue function.  Therapists do one of two things:  leave the needles in for up to 15 minutes or “thread” them in and out of the trigger point.  Typically, the therapy protocol is around four to six visits over the course of two to three weeks.

How big are the needles?

Dry needling requires thin filiform needles.  They are remarkably thin, similar to what you might expect to see used in acupuncture.

Does it hurt?  

Although it doesn’t sound like it, dry needling is an in effect non-invasive procedure that is very low risk and any discomfort will be fleeting.  Generally, the insertion of the needle is not felt.  There may be a local twitch response or an immediate slight contraction of the muscle that may provoke a very brief pain response.  Dry needling is commonly described as an aching, tingling or cramping sensation with some muscle tenderness may be felt up to 24-48 hours after the procedure.  Applying heat or ice and drinking plenty of fluids ordinarily reduces any soreness.

What is the difference between acupuncture and dry needling?  

To keep the explanation simple, acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine that involves needles that are inserted at certain acupuncture points, predominantly found along meridian lines.  The basic treatment philosophy is based on the concept of balance and maintaining the free flow of electricity within the body.  Needles are inserted and retained for around 15 to 30 minutes.  Acupuncture may elicit a slight achy sensation on insertion which swiftly goes away right after treatment and is often defined as calming.

While acupuncture is around 2,000 years old, dry needling although new, having only been developed into the form we use today in the 1980s.  A twitch response invoked by a needle releases the trigger point and restores normal function to the muscle..  Dry needling can produce quite a strong sensation which can cause a twitch and/or a cramp sensation.

The last thing you wish is to prolong your time on the sidelines due to incorrect treatment.  If you’re at the end of your injury or lingering pain rope and are considering all of your options, make sure you contact DHT Physical Therapy to understand if dry needling would be the best choice for you.  

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