Dry needling is a treatment option for pain that has been used in the United States since 1984. It is used by various health care professionals such as Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, etc. Dry needling is an invasive procedure in which a dry sterile solid filament needle is inserted into the muscle, ligaments, tendons, subcutaneous fascia, scar tissue, and/or in the vicinity of peripheral nerves and neurovascular bundles to manage a variety of neuromuscular pain syndromes. It is based on Western medicine principles versus the traditional Chinese medicine practices that acupuncturists use to alter the flow of Qi or energy along Chinese meridians. Dry needling alters pain in an array of ways including:
• increasing input to the brain leading to the closing of the gates to pain inputs
• local twitch (contraction) responses of muscle tissue
• improving microcirculation and blood flow
• increasing collagen proliferation
• increased beta-endorphins (endogenous opioid hormone)
• decreased cortisol levels (stress hormone)
The treatment of muscles has been found to have the greatest effect on reducing pain mechanisms in the nervous system. Myofascial restrictions and/or “muscle knots” are related to the production and maintenance of the pain cycle and can cause dysfunction. Dry Needling has been found to be effective for various musculoskeletal diagnoses. It may be an appropriate treatment for you if you have struggled with chronic pain conditions and/or extremity pain such as tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, golfer’s elbow, sciatica, hamstrings strains, calf tightness/spasms. It is also a beneficial treatment for back, jaw, and neck pain including headaches (migraines and tension-type headaches).
Dry needling can be performed in various ways depending on the area that is being targeted. Needles can be left in place and wound fanned through muscle tissue, or pecked at specific location sites. Dry needling treatments typically last around 10-30 minutes and are used in conjunction with other more conservative physical therapy interventions. Electrical stimulation may be added to the treatments for added intensity. As with any invasive procedure, dry needling has precautions/contra-indications and potential but rare and serious complications that can occur. It is important to discuss your health history and concerns with your health care professional to see if you are an appropriate candidate. Dry needling may not be appropriate for individuals who have a fear of needles, have cognitive impairments, are pregnant, have abnormal bleeding tendencies, infections, or have had implants or have had surgery in the past 12 weeks in the area they are wanting to be treated.
~Amy McFadden, Physical Therapist