Dry needling involves the insertion of fine needles into myofascial trigger points in order to relax contracted muscles. The purpose of dry needling is to stimulate the nervous system and provide feedback to the muscles to inhibit or stop their spasm.
Muscle spasm is often a significant contributing factor to pain and dysfunction experienced by patients, so by eliciting a response by the nervous system, dry needling can aid in pain management and recovery.
What are the benefits of Dry Needling?
When performed by an experienced practitioner, dry needling may have numerous health benefits including:
Common conditions that can benefit from dry needling include, but are not limited to; neck, upper and lower back pain, shoulder and arm pain (rotator cuff, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, golfer’s elbow), headaches ( including migraines and tension-type headaches), jaw (TMJ) pain, and hip, buttock and leg pain (sciatica, quadriceps and hamstrings strains, calf tightness/spasms).
- Relaxing taut bands of muscle fibres (myofascial trigger points)
- Decreasing pain and reliance on pain medications
- Improving muscle function and performance
- Improving joint range and flexibility
Although it may sound scary, dry needling is relatively pain free! Most patients do not feel the needles while they are in and some barely even feel them being inserted (in many cases, patients will report that deep tissue massage is far worse in terms of pain than dry needling). Dry needling may elicit a local twitch response in the muscle which may result in a very brief painful response; some patients describe this as a little electric shock while others describe it as more of a cramping sensation. There is a therapeutic response that occurs with the production of these local twitch responses and they are considered a beneficial and desirable reaction.
Dry Needling vs Acupuncture
There are many similarities and differences between dry needling and acupuncture. Physiotherapists at Physio Fit are not acupuncturists and do not practice acupuncture.
Dry needling is based on western medicine principles and research and is increasingly used in the management of musculoskeletal and sports injuries.
Acupuncture in contrast, is the needling of points on meridians in the the body to boost, harmonise and remove blockages in the flow of energy (qi) throughout the body.