Dry Needling (also known as intramuscular stimulation or medical acupuncture) is a therapeutic treatment that utilizes very short, thin, stainless steel needles inserted into hypertonic (spasmed) muscle fibers and/or trigger point areas. Trigger points are localized areas of spasm that are often 1-3cm in diameter that can be painful to pressure. This pain in the trigger points can often “refer” to other areas of the body.
Dry needling has been shown to relax tight muscles, improve blood flow, decreased pain and increased release of neurotransmitters. It helps with increased range of motion.
This can be used to treat chronic (longer term) or acute (injuries, condition that transpired recently) musculoskeletal issues.
In certain areas where muscles are more superficial (closer to the skin) or in areas that have increased inflammation, there may be a slight, TEMPORARY discomfort with insertion. To be clear, pain almost always goes off in less than a second. If it doesn’t, the needle is removed. Almost every insertion patients do not feel any sensation at all.
There may also be a “twitch response” which is one way to know that the trigger point is being isolated. This may produce a dull ache or brief shock sensation.
Dry needling is appropriate for nearly all patients. People who have a significant needle phobia or other anxiety about being treated with needles may still be okay with treatment if treatment area is not visualized.
Like any type of therapy, dry needling may deliver unintended side effects, such as pain at the stop of needle insertion, muscle soreness, fatigue and bruising. In the hands of a skilled therapist, dry needling is a safe and effective treatment option and the patient will most often see benefits in range of motion and joint use right away.
Caution is warranted with younger patients; strictly based on empirical evidence, dry needling is not recommended for children younger than 12 years of age. If a child is undergoing dry needling, parent and child’s consent is needed and the child should fully understand the procedure before treatment begins.
Each session is either 10-15 minutes (usually if used in conjuction with other forms of treatment) or upwards of 20-30 minutes if multiple areas needed. Usually less treatment on a given day is preferred to over stimulating a patient with too many areas of treatment.
It’s normal that it may take several dry needling therapy sessions before maximum function in the muscle or maximum relief is restored (maximum function/relief is dependent on each individual). This is because trigger points are located under deep layers of muscles, so it typically takes several sessions for the changes to take full effect. In general, patients will notice a difference usually after the first visit.
- Slipped disc pain
- Tension-type headaches
- Carpal tunnel
- Computer-related disorders
- Whiplash associated disorders
- Muscle pain
- Muscle strain/sprain
- Low back pain
- Phantom pain
- Joint dysfunction/loss of range of motion