When Dry Needling Can Help

As we slowly introduce dry needling to more patients at Precision Athletica, we continue to be asked the same common questions.

What is it? Does it hurt? What does it actually do? Is it the same as acupuncture? Does it feel like a vaccine shot?

So, here are five key points to help you better understand this treatment option.

Dry Needling

1. What is Dry Needling

It is a skilled technique performed by a physician aimed at managing musculoskeletal pain and movement dysfunctions.

The technique uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin fascia and muscles to address the adhesions, trigger points, and connective tissue.

The research shows that it speeds healing and relieves pain involving both the analgesic and autonomic reflexes. The research shows the effect of the stimuli on analgesia, mood effects as well as anti-inflammatory and healing responses following needle stimulation.

2. What Does the Research Say

Acupuncture and dry needling have clinically relevant treatment outcomes for neck pain disorders (Mejuto-Vazquez et al 2014, Vickers et al 2018) due to the effects on multiple systems of the body (Gattie et al 2017).

Centrally, acupuncture and dry needling activate descending modulatory pain mechanisms in the brain and spinal cord (Dougherty et al 2009).

Locally, they influence chemical mediators associated with pain and inflammation (Sánchez-Infante et al 2021). The effectiveness appears to be higher for musculoskeletal pain in the upper body and the effects are superior to sham treatment (Vickers et al 2018).

Improvements in muscle contractile properties and neck range of motion have also been noted after as little as two treatments (Llamas-ramos et al 2014, Mejuto-Vazquez et al 2014). Dry needling has been shown to improve joint position error and range of motion in patients with neck pain after just one treatment and may be an important part of a multimodal treatment approach in this patient population (Murillo et al 2021).

3. Trigger Points and Twitch Responses

A trigger point is a spot of muscle/fascia that is hypersensitive and composed of taut muscle/fascia bands that restrict oxygenated blood flow, and cause pain and tenderness which affect movement impairments.

Trigger points may develop when muscle usage exceeds the muscles capacity to handle stress, disturbing normal recovery.

Dry needling focuses on stimulating these trigger points and releasing the tension to alleviate pain. When the needle stimulates the trigger point a twitch response can occur.  Twitch response is a localised reflex resulting from a dry needle to a taut are of muscle/fascia.

When needling a trigger point, this is one of our goals as it leads to a rapid release of a taut muscle band, decreasing tightness and sensitivity of the surrounding area. This twitch response returns the muscle to a normal state by releasing inflammatory chemicals from the trigger point and restoring blood flow to the area by increasing blood vessel size.

4. Does It Hurt?

Often, patients will experience a mild, dull ache during treatment and up to 24 hours post treatment.  Some discomfort is experienced during the rapid ‘twitch response’ but this discomfort is minimal and last only a few seconds.  It is normal to have mild to moderate muscle soreness after dry needling treatment.

5. Common Areas You Can Treat

Dry needling can be used for a variety of different reason including:

  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Knee Pain (Osteoarthritis)
  • Shoulder Dysfunction (adhesive capsulitis, impingement, rotator cuff strain)
  • Tennis & Thrower’s Elbow
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Hip Pain
  • IT Band Syndrome
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee)
  • Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (Shin Splints)
  • Achilles Tendinopathy
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Ankle Sprains
  • Muscle Strains

Want To Know More

If you would like to know more about dry needling or how it might benefit you, we’d recommend booking a session with one of our Physio, such as Lale Kassem who wrote this article.

How Do I Book An Appointment with Precision Athletica for Help?

We’re taking the health of our clients, members and staff very seriously and our preference would be for you to call to book an appointment so that we can make sure to explain our approach to keeping you safe. You can call our bookings team to schedule a session:

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