While you may have heard of acupuncture before and understand what to expect from an acupuncture session, you may not be as familiar with dry needling and how it can help relieve pain and promote recovery.
They may look similar to the untrained eye (for example, both use thin needles inserted into the skin to treat pain), but, unlike acupuncture, which is used to treat hundreds of ailments, from pain to allergies, dry needling is more focused and typically used to stimulate trigger points or areas of your body that are irritated and painful.
If you’re curious to learn more about dry needling and whether it can help alleviate your pain experience, read on!
The Dry Needling Technique
During a dry needling session, a practitioner will insert several filiform needles into bothersome points on your body. These “trigger points” are areas of muscle tension or “knots” that happen, likely due to sensitized nerves.
The needle, when placed in the region of the “muscle knot”, alters the pain experience and sometimes causes the muscles to twitch (contract momentarily) and then relax (or release). The needle can be left in the body for a length of time, or taken out right away depending on your individual situation and the goals of the session.
What’s a Trigger Point?
A trigger point is a clinical finding where we feel a tight band or small muscle contraction that may affect range of motion or local muscle function and occurs with pain and tenderness. It is believed to be an expression of your pain experience rather than a cause. Dry needling targets trigger points because they are areas where you are exhibiting a response to your pain and these areas may be a strategic window into changing your pain experience.
Different Dry Needling Approaches
Like acupuncture, dry needling has a few different approaches to help stimulate your system and relax the muscles. These include:
These forms of needling require the needle to be inserted multiple times using techniques called sparrow pecking or pistoning. The needles won’t stay inserted in the skin for long. Instead, they simply prick the trigger points and are removed.
Non-trigger point techniques
This form of dry needling is directed less specifically in the painful area and is more about giving you a novel stimulus with the goal of altering your sensory experience. Rather than inserting the needles at the point of pain, the practitioner will insert needles around the area instead of directly into it.
Areas Treated with Dry Needling Techniques
While acupuncture treats a wide variety of ailments, dry needling is more focused on helping neuromusculoskeletal issues. This includes pain in the:
Dry needling can help provide relief for pain that feels muscular or for stiffness. The relaxation of trigger points may also help to improve flexibility and the joint range of motion. Because of this, dry needling can sometimes be a useful method when treating sports injuries, and pain that feels as if it arises from muscles.
Are There Side Effects?
There may be minimal side effects after a dry needling session, including bruising, bleeding, and temporary soreness, however, serious side effects are rare and are often related to the use of non-sterile needles. At Achieve Health, our needles are always sterile and never reused.
No matter where you get your dry needling done, always feel comfortable enough to ask about the needles and if the practitioner uses fresh needles for each patient. If the answer is no, it’s best to go to a place that only uses sterilized, unused needles.
How to Use Dry Needling to Heal
As with any therapy, dry needling may be just one aspect of the recovery process. Depending on your situation, dry needling may be combined with physiotherapy, massage, or even chiropractic sessions. When used with a regimen of therapies and suggested exercises, dry needling can help you regain range of motion and lessen “muscular pain”.If you have questions about dry needling and want to know how it can help you, we’re here to help! Our expert practitioners are ready to help you get back to feeling your best. Call us today to set up your next appointment.