Dry Needling Therapy (DNT) is a treatment technique that utilizes thin, solid filament needles to deactivate and desensitize trigger points in muscles. Myofascial trigger points are knots in muscles that can contribute to pain, decreased flexibility and decreased muscle function. DNT is an effective and efficient method of releasing trigger points, especially when other manual soft tissue techniques are unable to directly release or release as many trigger points. DNT is also known as Intramuscular Manual Therapy (IMT) to release Myofascial Trigger Points (MTrPs)
How does DNT work?
Dr. Janet Travell first described trigger point injections in the early 1940s. Injections are performed by injecting trigger points primarily with analgesics (wet needling). Over the years it has been shown that it is not the substance that is being injected that is providing the long-term therapeutic benefit, but rather the mechanical stimulus of the needle itself. 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. Dry needling and the subsequent local twitch responses can cause positive local biochemical changes and result in an increase of blood flow.
What type of problems can be treated?
Muscle dysfunction can be the primary or secondary contributing factor to many neuro-musculoskeletal conditions. Such conditions would include repetitive stress injuries, muscle tendonitis, neck pain, headaches, rotator cuff impingement, frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, sciatica, muscle strains, iliotibial band syndrome, patello-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 being treated by DNT. Here are some examples:
- Headaches and neck pain caused by the upper trapezius muscle
- Sciatica like leg pain caused by the gluteus medius or minimus muscle (see picture)
- Front shoulder/biceps pain caused by the infraspinatus muscle (see picture)
- Thumb pain caused by the brachialis muscle
- Lower back pain caused by the gluteus medius muscle
- Hip pain and tightness caused by the Tensor Fasciae Latae muscle (TFL)
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. DNT 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 hallmark s of trigger points. Elicitation of local twitch responses and recognisable referred pain is a good and desirable reaction because it confirms a possible 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 is immediate. Typically, it may take a few treatment sessions for a lasting positive effect. Again we are trying to cause mechanical, biochemical and neurological changes without any pharmacological means. Therefore, we are looking for a cumulative response to deactivate trigger points, disrupt pain and to restore optimal muscle function.
It is typical to experience soreness in the area treated for 1-2 days. The soreness is quite tolerable for most and is easily alleviated with cold/heat and stretching.
What’s the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?
Dry needling and acupuncture both involve puncturing the skin with thin needles for therapeutic purposes. While a shared aim is to provide relief from pain, the practices are otherwise very different.
Practitioners of dry needling attempt to release tension from knots and pressure points in muscles. Acupuncturists insert needles to release endorphins and affect the nervous system. Traditionally, acupuncture was used to align a person’s energy, or chi.