Dry Needling has been adopted by physical therapists and physicians worldwide and is used in conjunction with manual treatments for reducing myofascial pain. It is minimally invasive, low risk and will give you a big bang for your buck when it comes to kicking stubborn pain to the curb
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
We can credit Dr. Janet Travell for a majority of the advancement in Dry Needling. During the 1930s Dr. Janet Travell shifted her focus to musculoskeletal pain after coming across several articles on referred pain from independent studies. Eventually, she would co-author a 2 volume book, Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. This is a review of nearly 150 muscle referred pain patterns. Today, this information serves as criteria to diagnose myofascial pain.
WHO CAN DRY NEEDLE?
Dry needling is a treatment that can be administered by physicians, rheumatologists, orthopedic surgeons and more commonly physical therapists. Dry needling is not part of the Physical Therapy Doctorate Curriculum. To treat patients, physical therapists must take additional certification coursework.
IS DRY NEEDLING A FORM OF ACUPUNCTURE?
No! Dry needling and acupuncture are not the same. Early research used the term interchangeably, however, the only similarity between the two treatments are the tools (needles) being used. The Chinese therapy Acupuncture revolves around energy pathways and meridian points. Dry needling treatments focus on motor points. They target myofascial trigger points in the muscle and their referred pain patterns.
WHAT IS A MYOFASCIAL TRIGGER POINT?
Myofascial trigger points are discrete but palpable nodules in the taut band of skeletal muscle. These nodules are hypersensitive and may be painful under compression.
Trigger points can have both motor and sensory aspects that include but are not limited to:
- muscle weakness
- muscle stiffness
- decreased range of motion
- tenderness and referred pain.
WHAT DOES A TREATMENT CONSIST OF?
Treatment varies from physician to physician depending on their preferred style. All treatments begin with an evaluation to determine areas that need treatment. First, the therapist places a needle through the skin. The needle can sit superficially or go deeper into the muscle using a pistoning motion. Areas that have more trigger points will be more responsive and can produce involuntary muscle contractions. Targeting these discrete but palpable nodules will help alleviate local or referred pain.
ARE THERE ADVERSE EFFECTS?
Dry needling is a safe low-risk treatment. Minor adverse effects include bleeding, hematoma, and potential for pneumothorax. The percentage of patients reported to have adverse effects has been shown to be below 9% in various studies. Physical therapists obtain certification through various courses. These courses are broken up into levels and include needle insertion practices, therefore, reducing the risk of adverse effects.
IS IT EFFECTIVE?
Several clinical studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of dry needling. Organizations such as the Cochrane Collaboration recommend the treatment as an option for those with chronic lower back pain. Research suggests that incorporating dry needling to other adjunct therapies is the best option to relieve pain and improve function.
You should consider treatment if you are experiencing:
- Stubborn pain
- Have a localized area of pain
- Immobility or stiffness
- Low Back pain
- Shoulder Pain or Frozen Shoulder
Dealing with pain is never easy but dry needling is a great option to help manage acute or chronic pain. Physical therapists are using the minimally invasive treatment to optimize pain management. In conjunction with manual treatment, dry needling can help improve range of motion and manage pain to help optimize your workouts.