In this blog we answer some of the prickly questions associated with dry needling, such as exactly what it is and can it be useful for you! Without further ado, lets get stuck in (puns intended 😆).
What is dry needling?
Dry needling is a manual therapy technique that consists of briefly inserting a small acupuncture like needle into a trigger point within a muscle (and by small we mean really small! They are 0.3mm thick!). Trigger points may develop in a muscle following an injury or over time as a result of repeated stress to the muscle, for example in repetitive strain injuries. The needle can be gently manipulated, which may produce a brief “twitch response.” This twitch response is can be a little uncomfortable, but is usually described as more of a ‘weird’ sensation than painful.
How does dry needling work?
The exact mechanisms of how dry needling works are complex and not fully known. The needle is inserted into the tight bands of the muscle belly, often referred to as trigger points. This causes the muscle to contract briefly, known as a “twitch response”. The tight muscle then relaxes more effectively causing a reduction in pain and tension. Dry needling can also be beneficial without producing the twitch response by stimulating blood flow and by affecting the nervous system to reduce the tension in the targeted muscle.
What conditions are dry needling be useful for?
- Acute and chronic back pain.
- Sciatic pain.
- Neck pain or neck related headaches.
- Tennis or golfers elbow.
- Gluteal or piriformis issues.
- Shoulder issues.
- Hip and knee pain.
- Shin splints or plantar fasciitis.
- A range of other conditions!
What does dry needling feel like?
Dry needling typically isn’t painful. There may be a small pinprick sensation but most frequently you don’t feel the needle go in at all. If the muscle is particularly tight or there is a trigger point, it can feel quite achey and may cause a ‘local twitch response’. This twitch response can feel like a cramp in the muscle, which is a great sign that we have had the desired impact on the muscle!
Is dry needling suitable for everyone?
Generally dry needling is safe and suitable for the majority of the population. There are a number of specific conditions or clients who may not be suitable for needling including children or clients that are pregnant, as well as those taking strong blood thinning medication or have had a past history of infection. Your physiotherapist will take a thorough history prior to administering dry needling, to ensure that is completely safe to do so.
After your needling session what will I feel?
It is very common to feel local tenderness in the area needled in following 24-48 hours. The majority of the time, after a good night’s rest the side effects of dry needling have significantly reduced.
Some helpful tips post dry needling:
- Keep the body moving! (for example, going for a light walk around the block can help reduce the soreness post needling)
- Maintain good fluid intake for 1-2 days post needling.
- Application of a heat pack can alleviate post needling soreness.
Like most manual therapy techniques (e.g. massage), dry needling provides a window of opportunity to allow your body to move and exercise with reduced pain and stiffness. Whilst dry needling can be very useful in relieving pain and improving function in the short term, it doesn’t necessarily address the root cause of your pain. Your Physiotherapist will undertake a thorough assessment to determine the role dry needling can have in your treatment plan.
Dry needling can be a very effective technique to get you past pain and improving your ability to function in the short term but is best incorporated in a treatment plan which also includes appropriate strength and mobility work. This ensures that you return to doing what you love with confidence your body can perform!
If you’d like to know how dry needling can help you, give the clinic a call on 8490 0777 and have a no obligation chat to one of our friendly Physiotherapists. Alternatively, book a time online here. We love to help 🙂