Dry Needling (Acupuncture)

The word acupuncture comes from the Latin word for needle (acus) and it means “puncturing of bodily tissue for the relief of pain”. Physiotherapy use of acupuncture in the form of dry needling is often confused with the Eastern medicine practise of acupuncture. While Chinese acupuncture is based on healing through correcting the energy flow of a person, dry needling involves relieving muscle trigger points and is practised by physiotherapists based on Western medicine principles. Many physiotherapists have pursued post-graduate training in dry needling and it is becoming an increasingly popular treatment of choice amongst the profession.

Dry needling involves locating myofascial trigger points and aiming to release the spasm in that muscle at the trigger point with the needle. The needle only stays in for a few minutes for optimum results and it can be moved around by the therapist while it is still in the skin to try to locate the exact area of the trigger point. The muscle may sometimes twitch in response to the dry needling technique.

Dry needling is an effective form of treatment for many sports injuries as well as back pain, joint pain and headaches. Dry needling can be performed on most muscular trigger points in the body ranging from the upper trapezius muscle around the shoulder where dry needling may relieve headaches caused by upper trapezius muscle spasm, all the way down to gastrocnemius trigger points below the knee that may be responsible for calf pain and knee and ankle stiffness. With dry needling technique, pain can often be reduced or relieved immediately. It usually takes just a few sessions of treatment for the pain relief to become long-lasting.

The way dry needling works is threefold. Firstly, it works by reducing the toxic levels of pain-causing chemicals that are located in a muscle trigger point when the needle goes into the trigger point. A reaction is caused in the body which helps eliminate the pain-causing chemicals and this helps the muscle to relax and spasm and pain are thus eased. Secondly, dry needling a trigger point immediately increases blood flow to that area which speeds up the healing process. And thirdly, the needle can act as a blocker to the nerves that are sending pain signals from the brain to the trigger point. By blocking the nerves, the needle serves to “trick” the brain into stopping sending the pain signals.

Although dry needling is very effective in many patients at relieving their pain symptoms very quickly, patients have to be screened before beginning this type of therapy. Some medical conditions such as infectious diseases, immune disorders and skin problems can sometimes be contraindicated for this procedure. Patients on blood-thinning medication should seek medical clearance before commencing dry needling therapy. Contact us to discuss the suitability of this treatment for you.