What is Dry Needling and how is it different from Acupuncture?
Dry needling is the use of a solid filament needle, inserted into various tissues in the body, as implicated by a thorough client evaluation including history, behavior of symptoms, pain patterns, posture and movement assessment, muscular and articular function and a selection of orthopedic tests. This technique is rooted in western philosophy and based upon a knowledge of the muscular, articular and nervous systems and an understanding of orthopedic conditions in general.
Acupuncture is an eastern medical practice requiring training in Traditional Chinese Medicine and involves a very different evaluative process including assessment of pulses, the tongue, the meridians and the flow of energy in the body. This directs their needle placements in a very different way with a different end goal in place.
The similarities between dry needling and Acupuncture start and end at the tool; they differ greatly with regard to the evaluative process and the application and assessment of findings.
What are the potential risks of Dry Needling?
The most common complications of dry needling is pain upon needle insertion, muscle soreness, general fatigue and bruising. Occasionally, a patient may feel an aggravation of symptoms- this is not the intention and if experienced, discuss with your provider to make changes to your treatment plan. Vasovagal responses such as increased pulse rate, light-headedness and sweating can occur if you are particularly sensitive to needles but it rarely a concern for most people.
How does it work?
Here’s the science:
There are several physiological effects of dry needling that can be observed:
- Increased Blood Flow: You can visibly see the increased redness around the needles once placed into the muscle and this has been scientifically confirmed with laser Doppler flowmetry in studies
- Decreased “Banding”: Dry needling attacks local “trigger points;” what we can feel as taut bands within a muscle which are released through penetration with the needle as the muscles return to normal sarcomere (individual contractile property within the muscle) length
- Decreased Spontaneous Electrical Activity (SEA): SEA is a feature of dysfunctional muscle tissue, similar to what you would see in a muscle ‘cramp’. It is as though your muscle is stuck somewhere between being relaxed and actively contracting to cause motion. This can be observed with needle EMG studies. This decreased in SEA is also associated with lower pain thresholds.
- Biochemical Changes in the Tissue: Decreases in neuropeptides, neurotransmitters and other chemicals involved in the perception of pain both locally and remotely, which have been observed in the lab via use of a microdialysis needle to assess chemical concentrations pre and post needling
- Central Nervous System Changes: Chemical changes observed systemically in the blood serum, decreased pain threshold in muscles near the treatment area and sympathetic responses may be induced including sweating, goosebumps, or circulatory changes
What can it do for me?
1- Increased Range of Motion
2- Decreased Pain
3- Restore Function
4- Get you back to being YOU!
One study showed the effectiveness of a single dry needling session into trigger finger patients in decreasing pain and improving hand function by reducing the A1 pulley thickness and tendon volume (1).
Another evaluated the effects of a single session on chronic golfers elbow and also found significant improvements in pain and motion 1 week after which allowed him to progress with rehab program (2)