I am often asked many questions about dry needling for example what is it? What does it do? Do I need it to help my condition? Will it hurt? Is it like acupuncture?
These are all really common questions that should be answered before a person receives dry needling. Practitioners should explain every type of treatment technique they use prior to administering it. This way the patient will feel that they are aware and informed of the benefits and any risks associated with it. Below I try and answer the most common questions in regards to myofascial dry needling.
Myofascial Dry Needling or MDN is where a fine solid filament needle is inserted into the muscle. This is done to help relieve muscles from abnormal muscle contraction or tightness and to de-activate trigger points or ‘knots’ within a muscle. It is a technique that I like to turn to when I have not had the results I wanted through manual therapies. I find it is a deeper treatment modality that seems to have more effect after some superficial soft tissue treatment like massage has been provided. Prior to insertion the practitioner will locate these muscular abnormalities through the use of massage and their palpation skills.
The skin is then cleaned with an alcohol swob and then through the use of a guide tube, the needle is inserted into the muscle. Often patients don’t feel the needle insertion at all. Once the needle goes into the trigger point, the muscle “twitches” which feels like a very quick muscle contraction. There can be a cramping feeling that accompanies the twitch. Each practitioner will then have very different techniques to the way they like to needle based on prior experience, results and what they think that patient needs.
The exact mechanisms of dry needling are not known. However what we do know is that inserting a needle into trigger points can cause changes in the bodies physiological/neurological response, which assist in reducing pain. Also inserting a needle into a trigger point stimulates the brain to be aware that there is a foreign object in the body and will therefore increase blood flow and help relax the muscle.
There are many similarities and differences between dry needling and acupuncture. Whilst I am not a trained acupuncturist I can tell you that one school of thought is that MDN is strictly based on Western medicine principles and research and it is increasingly used in the management of musculoskeletal and sports injuries.