Have you heard about dry needling or curious about how it can help you?
I have gotten so many questions lately from patients, friends and family about dry needling treatment and how it can help to relieve pain. If you check out my “about me” section, you will see that I have my doctorate degree in Physical Therapy (DPT) and I currently practice in the state of South Carolina. I am a certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist and Functional Dry Needing Practitioner. Trigger point dry needling is a technique I perform in the clinic on a daily basis and I just have to blog about it because I am truly seeing amazing results.Oftentimes, my patients have tried every other treatment under the sun and this seems to be the one method that give them lasting results in terms of pain relief and improved function.
So first things first, what exactly is trigger point dry needling ( TDN)? TDN is a treatment for muscular tightness and spasm which commonly follows injuries and often accompanies the degenerative process as we age. The muscular tightness and spasm will cause compression and irritation of the nerves exiting the spine. When the nerves are irritated, they cause a protective spasm of all the muscles to which they are connected. This may cause peripheral diagnoses such as tendonitis, decreased mobility and chronic pain. With TDN, small monofilament needles are inserted into the muscles at the trigger points causing the pain referral. The muscles then contract and release, improving flexibility of the muscle and decreasing symptoms.
Here are some frequently asked questions
- How does TDN work?
- When a needle tip hits a trigger point, a characteristic local twitch in the muscle is noted by the clinician and the client. This local twitch is involuntary. It has been shown that the elicitation of local twitch responses is the most important aspect in obtaining a successful therapeutic outcome for trigger point deactivation. There are a number of hypotheses as to the reasons why dry needling works. Dry needling and the subsequent local twitch responses may mechanically disrupt the contracted nature of the trigger point. Dry needling stimulates certain neurological sensors in the body which modulate pain signals. This can cause positive biological changes and result in an increase of blood flow.
- What types of problems can be treated?
- Muscle dysfunction can be the primary or secondary contributing factor to many neuro-musculoskeletal conditions. Such conditions may include repetitive stress injuries, tendonitis, headaches, neck pain, rotator cuff impingement, frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatic, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, muscle strains, iliotibial band syndrome, patella-femoral dysfunction, and plantar fasciitis. If active trigger points are found to be causing pain, muscle tightness and/or muscle weakness then they would benefit from TDN.
- Is TDN similar to acupuncture?
- This is a question I get asked all the time. Actually, the only similarity to acupuncture is the use of an acupuncture needle. Traditional acupuncture aims to promote health and restore “energetic balance” by stimulating certain acupuncture points found along certain meridians throughout the body. It is one aspect off of a traditional Chinese medicine approach which includes diagnosis and clinical reasoning using various Chinese medicine assessment methods. Western medical acupuncture also aims to stimulate acupuncture points along meridians, but applies it to western medical reasoning utilizing anatomy and neurophysiology as its basis and not traditional Chinese medicine. TDN is based on anatomy and neurophysiology and its aim is to needle altered or dysfunctional tissues in order to improve or restore function, in most cases specifically myofascial trigger points.
- Are there any contraindications to dry needling?
- Sometimes there are circumstances where dry needling is contraindicated. These conditions include a bleeding disorder, patients on high dose anti-coagulants and those in their first trimester of pregnancy. If a patient has any sort of malignant cancer, dry needling is not performed as to avoid stimulating blood flow to the area. Lastly, the needles have a high percentage of nickel in them, so if you have a nickel allergy, dry needling is not advised.
- Is the procedure painful?
- Most people do not feel the insertion of the needle. The local twitch response elicits a very brief cramping and/or deep aching sensation. TDN may reproduce symptoms directly in the muscle being treated or may refer to other areas of the body. This is a form of referred pain, which is one of the hallmarks of trigger points. This is actually a desirable reaction because it confirms the source of dysfunction.
- Are the needles sterile?
- Yes, we only use the highest quality sterile disposable needles
- How long does it take for the procedure to work?
- In some cases, decreased pain and improved mobility are immediate. Typically, it may take a few treatment sessions for a lasting positive effect.
- What side effects can I expect after the treatment?
- Typically, you will experience muscle soreness ( typical to post workout soreness) in the treated area for about 1-2 days. This soreness can be easily alleviated with cold/heat and gentle stretching.
- What if my doctor is not familiar with TDN?
- In the United States, TDN is a relatively new method for treating myofascial trigger points and not everyone is aware of this effective treatment. Needling therapies are a very common practice for physiotherapists in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and South Africa and is slowly making its way through the US. More and more Physical Therapists are incorporating TDN into their practice. Incorporating this treatment technique with other manual and rehabilitative methods is showing to be very effective in treating common musculoskeletal conditions. Feel free to inform your doctor about this treatment option. It is upon all of us to educate others about new and innovative ways to treat pain!
Check out the video below for a live demonstration of dry needling performed to the upper trapezius muscle of the neck for a co-worker suffering from frequent headaches. https://youtu.be/CLPk2kfo8G8
Interested in learning more? Email your questions to Allie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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