Dry Needling

What Is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a therapeutic technique used by trained therapists to treat muscle pain and dysfunction. It involves inserting fine, sterile, single use needles into specific points in the muscles, known as trigger points or myofascial trigger points.  The therapy usually forms part of an overall remedial massage treatment – with an assessment, massage and other soft tissue techniques, the needling therapy, and a review.

If there is Dry Needling, then what is Wet Needling? Wet Needling involves injecting saline, glucose or other substances into the muscle – Wet Needling is done by a physician – not by a massage therapist!

Dry Needling can be likened to acupuncture – we use a very similar tool, in fact the needles that I use are often acupuncture needles.  Dry Needling is grounded in a Western understanding of the human body, where as acupuncture follows the Traditional Chinese Medicine model and is used to treat much more than muscular conditions.

How Does Dry Needling Work?

There are a few theories into how Dry Needling works.  That shouldn’t sound scary because a lot of medical practices work without a clear understanding of why, but the results are repeatable. “We still don’t know how anaesthetic works, but we know how to use it safely.”

We use a fine, shard, sterile single use needle to stimulate and irritate a trigger point.  When the needle enters the skin a couple of things happen – the body registers a foreign body, triggers an immune response and subsequent inflammation – there is often tell-tale red streaks signifying local inflammation.  In this case, inflammation is good. 

Some theorise that there is also an interaction between the minute electrical field of your body and the metal of the needle. 

What Is Dry Needling Used to Help?

Dry needling is commonly used to treat a variety of musculoskeletal issues, including:

  • Chronic muscle pain
  • Neck and back pain
  • Shoulder pain and impingements
  • Tennis and golfer’s elbow
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Sciatica
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Muscle strains and sports injuries

By targeting and releasing trigger points, dry needling can help reduce pain, improve range of motion, and enhance muscle performance.

Person receiving acupuncture created by DALLE 2024-06-13

Who Can’t Receive Dry Needling?

While dry needling is generally safe, it may not be suitable for everyone. People who should avoid dry needling include:

  • People who have a fear of needles
  • People who have an allergy to metals
  • People who have epilepsy
  • People with a clotting disorder or who are on blood thinners
  • People with lymphedema and lipedema
  • People with pacemakers
  • Where there is a rash, infection, ulcer or broken skin in the area requiring treatment
  • People experiencing extreme emotional stress and anxiety

Does Dry Needling Hurt?

The sensation experienced during dry needling can vary. Some people feel a slight prick when the needle is inserted, followed by a twitch or cramping sensation as the needle stimulates the trigger point. This discomfort is usually brief and subsides quickly. Sometimes, if a muscle is hyper irritable, then the initial sensation of the needle can be quite strong, but would usually ebb away. Many clients report feeling significant relief and muscle relaxation following the session. The overall goal of dry needling is to alleviate pain and improve function, making any temporary discomfort worthwhile for the long-term benefits.

What are the Benefits of Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a powerful tool in the management of muscle pain and dysfunction, offering both immediate and long-term benefits. If you’re struggling with muscle pain or restricted movement, dry needling at could an effective therapy for you. 

Are there risks in Dry Needling?

Dry Needling is not a compulsory therapy – I might recommend it to you, however you have the right to refuse any therapeutic recommendation.  There are some risks involved in Dry Needling.  The therapy involves puncturing the skin with a sharp, single use needle and using it to stimulate a reaction.

Some of the risks include:

  • fainting, fear and anxiousness
  • muscle bruising
  • feeling of being “kicked by a horse” – or a very strong reaction followed by acute muscle soreness
  • a needle might agitate a nerve or a blood vessel
  • in some cases, pain might actually increase
  • while all due care is taken to reduce infection, there is still a slight chance of infection.

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