Dry Needling Explained

Dry needling is a treatment modality used by suitably trained physiotherapists to assist with pain, tightness and function. Dry needling is based on western medicine and the knowledge of anatomy and neurophysiology. It targets muscle, nerve connections, tendons and other soft tissues. Dry needling is beneficial for a number of musculoskeletal and sports injuries including neck and back pain, headaches, shoulder and knee conditions, tennis elbow, shin pain and many more. The most common form of dry needling targets trigger points in muscle (hypersensitive lumps or ‘knots’ that can be felt in muscle). Dry needling is different from acupuncture in a number of ways: acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine and energy channels and needles are often left in place for a certain amount of time. Dry needling uses the same fine needles, however needles are often inserted and moved slightly aiming to achieve a small muscle twitch which usually results in a reflex relaxation of the muscle. During dry needling, patients often experience an aching or a sharp twitch when the needle is altered. It is common after dry needling to experience an ache and/or be tired for a day, like you have done a heavy gym workout. Some patients feel relief straight away while others feel better a day or two later once the ache has settled. Dry needling works by relaxing trigger points/tension in muscle as well as reducing pain and improving tissue repair by regulating chemical and nerve signals. Dry needling is very safe for most people (pregnant women and those with medical conditions should discuss the risks with their physiotherapist first) and is best used in conjunction with manual therapy and an exercise program.

By Jessica Norton

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