Dry needling is a tool that is growing in popularity amongst many health professionals in helping to relieve trigger points and aid with pain reduction. I know it sounds bizarre that we’d stick a needle in you to make you feel better, but there is method to the madness!
What is a trigger point?
They are tight bundles of muscle that can be very painful to touch, refer pain elsewhere and can be the reason why you’re not back in the gym when you want to be!
Why would you stick a needle in me!?
Dry needling is the insertion of very fine needles into trigger points found within the muscle. The length of the needle depends on where the muscle is located. This stimulates an inflammatory response in the muscle, ultimately leading to increased blood flow to the area. As with an injury to any part of out body, blood flow stimulates healing within tissue and helps to make you feel like yourself again.
What does it feel like?
As with many techniques, different people will explain the feeling differently. Typically there will be a pinch when the needle first goes in, followed by a twitch in the muscle once the trigger point has been reached. The needle may be moved in and out of the muscle fairly quickly, or at times may be left in for a short period, it will depend on what your Physiotherapist deems appropriate.
Is it okay for me to have?
There are not many reasons why dry needling would be completely avoided, however these are some cases where it wouldn’t be appropriate:
– over irritated skin (wounds, cuts, rashes etc)
– in patients with severe needle phobia
– areas with lymphodema
Why don’t you just call it acupuncture?
Dry needling and Traditional Chinese Accupuncture (TCA) are different in distinctive ways. TCA works on the theory that the body is controlled by one’s energy force known as our ‘Qi’ (pronounced ‘chee’), which works it’s way through our body along channels called meridians.
There are a few models developed that explain why dry needing is effective in reducing symptoms, however the most common is the trigger point model. This means that when a needle is inserted into a trigger point within a muscle, the nerves responsible for stimulating a pain response are switched off. There may also be a mild inflammatory response, promoting a flush of blood flow and healing cells to the area.
Will the needle work like magic?
Unfortunately there is no miracle cure we can provide for pain relief (otherwise we would all be very rich!), so dry needling won’t have you doing cartwheels straight away. However it is found to be extremely effective in reducing pain and improving function when combined with strengthening, stretching, joint mobilisations and education. Recent studies have found that dry needling combined with stretching was more effective than stretching alone in reducing muscular pain.
Dry needling in action
AFL star Brett Deledio used to suffer cramps for around 50 minutes of an AFL game (torture!). The team Physiotherapists then performed dry needling with good effect, leading Brett and the GWS Giants to continue on to further success (not the same success as my home team, but good enough!)
So come and feel for yourself how dry needling can help with your aches and pains!