What is Dry Needling and How Can it Help Me?


What is Dry Needling?

Many of you have heard we have integrated Dry Needling (DN) into our practice in the last 1-2 years. You might have heard it from us or another patient talking about the benefits of our “evil needles.” What you might not have heard is exactly what DN is and what it does.

DN is a technique used to treat neuromusculoskeletal (nerve, muscle, and bone) problems. This is done by deactivating trigger points and loosening shortened muscles. Trigger points are small hyperactive bundles of muscle fibers (knots) that can cause local pain, referred pain throughout the body, muscle spasm, or muscle inactivity. DN involves using a small monofilament needle to directly affect a trigger point. Through the deactivation of these trigger points, we can lessen local or referred pain, calm down muscles spasm, activate dormant muscles, or loosen surgical scar tissue from previous surgeries or C-sections.

DN isn’t the only therapy that can treat trigger points. We have multiple soft tissue techniques to do just that. Active Release and Graston are two we frequently use in conjunction or in lieu of DN. These two techniques work well for trigger points, but are more indirect methods. Both are applied on top of the skin and have to work through layers of skin, fatty tissue, fascia, and muscle before reaching a trigger point. DN allows us to directly affect a trigger point in a muscle giving quicker and better results on average. We have had numerous cases of long standing problems that were treated and failed with other techniques, only to have quick resolution with DN.

So how does this work?

DN a trigger point mechanically disrupts the integrity of a dysfunctional motor end plate (communication between the nerve and muscle). This is similar to restarting your computer when it isn’t responding correctly. Through this disruption the muscle will regrow a new connection within a week. It will also help neutralize the acidity of a muscle caused by a trigger point, along with removing neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, cytokines, and chemokines (chemicals in the body that cause and exacerbate pain).

Trigger points harbor these chemicals causing long standing pain and dysfunction. Interestingly enough, the increased acidity and pain generators in a trigger point can cause the rest of the body to have increased levels of the same chemicals and put the body in a more inflamed state. Lastly, DN will increase blood flow and tissue repair in the dysfunctional part of the tissue.

Many people ask if it will hurt. As with anything, that depends on your pain tolerance. It generally is less painful that a tetanus or lidocaine shot. It tends to be the same if not less painful that Active Release or Graston end up being. The duration of any discomfort tends to my much shorter during treatment than Active Release and Graston.

What you do feel is the quick initial prick of the needle being inserted in the skin. After that there is little to no discomfort until the needle reaches the trigger point. Slight discomfort and usually a twitch of the muscle are generated at this point. While the initial treatment can be uncomfortable, DN also activates A-nerve fibers for as long as 72 hrs. This translates to pain inhibition for us to 3 days. If you can tolerate the short discomfort of the treatment, it tends to be a very therapeutic option for many people.